Saturday, September 27, 2014

Varq at the Taj Mahal Delhi

Varq in Taj Mahal Delhi Traditional Indian dining experiences have always been about tastes, flavors, even fragrance and tables laden with a variety of savory and sweet dishes.  You almost always begin with an empty plate where food is served while at the table.  This is true of even Bengali and South Indian festivals where multiple dishes are served at the beginning in quick succession and placed in very specific locations in and around your plate.  Pre-plating is quite an alien concept to Indian cuisine.

Indian food became popular with the West during the colonial period; when they left India they took back some of the food and many of their chefs. As generations of Indian chefs moved up the hierarchy in their Western homes from hole-in-the-wall Chicken Tikka Masala outlets to helming fining dining restaurants, they began combining  ingredients, flavors and tastes of Indian food with French-inspired tradition of serving them as multiple pre-plated courses paired with wine for a fine-dining experience.

Varq in Taj Mahal Delhi

In a full-circle the Indian and Western 'fine-dining' fusion experience finally made its way back to the mother country.  Vineet Bhatia's Ziya is a fine example of this where distinctly Indian ingredients and flavor are melded with a very Western ethos of a fine-dining experience.

Varq in Taj Mahal Delhi

When I had an occasion to stay at the Taj Mahal hotel in Delhi recently, I was spoilt for choice. This hotel is home to some of the best restaurants in Delhi.  I was glad I decided to try Varq, their Indian speciality restaurant I had heard so much about. I was set my expectations high but was still blown away by an unexpected thing -- how truly authentic everything tasted. When I enter high concept restaurants, I don't always get blown away by the food itself!  Amazing but true.

The amuse bouche was a little dahi wada decorated with little drops of chutney.  My waiter, like seems to be true only in Taj properties, was a long-timer who had worked for over 15 years at this hotel.

Amuse Bouche at Varq

For my first course I had ordered the Varqi Crab. Varq is the Hindi word for those thin layers of edible beaten silver you find on Indian sweets that decorate the shelfs of vendors; I have seen them on elaborate savory dishes such as pulao too.

Varqi Crab at Varq Delhi

Delicate layers of crisp rice sheets as thin as phyllo separated spiced crab meat topped with a tandoori shrimp.  The dish tasted as delicious as it looked, its multitude of textures and flavors delightful on the palate.  The crab meat was spiced in a distinctly South Indian manner but was fantastic with the tandoori shrimp on the palate.

A palate cleanser of lemon sorbet was served next in a rather interesting dish that spewed white mist in all directions!

Palate Cleanser at Varq

My next course was the Sunheri Nalli, Hindi for Golden Lamb Shank.  The portion was a large one and held together by a large decorative toothpick.  The lamb was served on a gravy and potato dauphinoise.  The lamb was completely finger-licking goodness and completely true to its Indian roots.  The creative twist with the Western rendition of the potatoes made it even better, without taking away its Indian-ness one little bit!

Finally, my dessert.  I had ordered what they called Different Stroke: a trio of crisp jalebi with saffron, passion fruit reduction, fennel and black pepper crust.  Jalebis are a personal favorite and I was eager to try this one out. The dish arrived looking very regal as you can see below.

Trio of Jalebi at Varq Delhi

On the palate the jalebis were less remarkable.  I prefer them crisp but with some softness inside.  However, the entire dining experience was still one I will remember and want to repeat some day soon.  The decor with its haveli inspiration, the cutlery, waiters who were very down-to-earth and of course the lovely food together makes this place a stand-out for upscale Indian cuisine.


Indian lifestyle blo said...

Food looks sophisticated and the ambience is beautiful.

Indian food blog

anusia said...

The food decoration is really remarkable. The decoration adds beauty to it.

Shantanu said...

@anusia: Thanks.

Unknown said...

Glad you loves this restaurant. I worked on its opening and then few years thereafter.... Totally love the experience of Varq.
You said it looked Haveli like, incidentally there was a restaurant called Haveli at the same place where Varq is now and the wall made by anjolie ela Menon was retained when the whole restaurant was renovated.
Had I would have served at your table , I would have served the same dishes.... Nice choices. :)