By Vishnu Makhijani
New Delhi, June 30 (IANS) What does one say about a fine diner that offers you 14 signature cocktails? Obviously that someone has been working ovetime on innovation - and how!
That's the precise thought that went through my mind as I slipped a Phalsatini in a salt-rimmed glass - the flavours of phalsa juice, chaat masala and line juice seamlessly blending with the vodka base. The salt, in fact, served to heighten the taste buds and smoothen the passage of the drink.
Isn't phalsa a seasonal fruit that's available for only a brief period each year?
"We buy it in bulk and puree it," Santosh Vishal, the business head of the recently opened 100-cover The Finch, spread over three floors in the Greater Kailahs-II M Block market, told IANS.
How do you retain the flavour?
"That's what innovation is all about. That's what makes us stand out," the manager, Amit Gupta, winked.
Then came the perfect accompaniments - Karela Salad comprising crispy bittter gourd rings, shalots and tomatoes tossed in a raw mango relish served in the manner of a pyramid and a Pumpkin and Coconut Puree Soup.
Whatever happened to the bitterness of the karela?
"We made the relish extra tangy," explained Sous Chef Shivjeet Tamang of Nepalese extraction and largely self-taught but with the heart of a gourmet, given the effort he has out into crafting the menu at The Finch.
The soup was pleasantly unusual, given its contrasting ingredients blended with curry leaf butter.
It was now time for the appetizers and they came in quick succession: Murg Neza Kebab - honey and burnt garlic -flavored juicy chicken; Veg Dahi Kabab which was a disappointment as it tasted more like a potatoe tikki; Spinach & Rosemary Brioche with garlic cream cheese, onion marmalade & mushroom tea that was, in fact a takeoff on a Mumbai bus/maska; Tabak Maaz - a Kashmiri delicacy comprising lamb ribs, milk, ghee and variety of spices; and Finch Special Grilled Prawns.
The last named was rather interesting, what with the prawns being orange-flavoured but retaining the original flavour, grilled in mustard oil and spices.
"We're constantly attempting to take food to a new level and that's how ouur patrons keep returning," explained Sunita Kumar, the Head of Sales.
Between them the appetisers would have constituted a meal in itself but Chef Tamang would have none of it but before that, there was another oocktail with a twist - Rhododendron Squash blended with Vodka.
It was quite filling in itself but oddly enough, vetted the appetite for the main course, beginning with Mutton Pepper Fry - two huge pieces of crispy lamb from Chettinad land - served with a moderately flaky Malabar parotta. It was a bit of an effort getting the meat off the bone but it was certainly worth it
Next up was Haleem, a rich combination of meat, whole wheat and lentils cooked for hours for a melt-in-the-mouth experience. Having sampled the Hyderabadi variety, which is transported the world over during ramzan, one can vouch for its authenticity.
The deserts that rounded off the meal were definitely something to go over the moon.
First up was Kheer Gil-e-Firdaus. It was an unusual combination of bottle gourd and rice, flavoured with saffron and cardamum that quickly disappeared down the throatwith the aftertaste of the cardamum lingering for a while and setting the stage for what was surely the highlight of the afternoon: Tender Coconut & Lychee Cream with Crumbles. So well did the ingredients blend that none of them overpowered each other.
Here's a bit of friendly advice For lunch, focus on the cocktails, the appetisers and the deserts; for dinner, go easy on the appetisers and focus on the main course and the deserts.
What: The Finch
Where: M-Block Market, Greater Kailash-II
Timings: 12 noon-1 a.m.
Average cost for two: Rs 2,000 (without alcohol)
(Vishnu Makhijani visited The Finch at its invitation. He can be reached at email@example.com)