Prateek Sadhu of Masque: distilling India on a plate

The nation’s most experimental chef is hitting the street, to have a good time Mumbai’s Masque turning 5 and to share his ingredients-first method with pop-ups in 5 cities

It is a darkish and stormy night time. Traffic on Delhi’s pot-holed roads has been crawling for hours. In the quiet, tree-lined neighbourhood of Friend’s Colony, nonetheless, 35-odd diners at boutique lodge The Manor are preparing for a deal with: a 10-course menu that includes some of the bravest, most avant garde Indian cooking but.

Inside, chef Prateek Sadhu, 34, is readying to roll all of it out. This is the primary day of a three-day pop-up of Masque, his Mumbai restaurant. Tickets offered out inside 48 hours of announcement. Pop-ups in 4 different cities are to observe — Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Leh, the place Sadhu will hold including components to the dishes, constructing newer ones as he finds inspiration in native cuisines and elements.

Also learn | India’s new spice retailers

Unique and common

Before the pandemic hit, Sadhu had been doing exactly this at Masque — a restaurant sans a menu, the place visitors are inspired to take a seat inside a ‘lab’ and expertise how he places collectively ideas and flavours after journeys to totally different areas and farms throughout the nation. The restaurant, which turns 5 this September, lately made it to quantity 32 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants listing of 2021 — the one Indian entry aside from Indian Accent in New Delhi (at quantity 18).

But that is the primary time that many gourmands in different Indian cities are attending to expertise Sadhu’s distinctive cooking as a result of even inside our aggressive, rising restaurantscape, Masque is extra area of interest than well-liked, extra experimental than mass. Which is a disgrace as a result of it’s maybe the one one within the nation that prizes pure experimentation over commerce. If Masque was cinema, it will have been Satyajit Ray’s.

Like artwork home cinema, there may be each the distinctive and the common in Sadhu’s oeuvre. Take, for instance, some of his dishes from the Delhi pop-up: course one was ‘Carrot kanji, bhekti’ — brined and cured fish, pickled Kashmiri cherry, pickled lime, gongura greens, aam papad, and carrot kanji. Sour is maybe the least accepted of tastes with the Indian palate. But Sadhu pushes that boundary with this research in bitter. Fermented traditions from throughout India have been layered — northern Indian kanji, japanese aam papad, southern gongura, the pickled lime of the quite a few pan-Indian achars, and the elusive Kashmiri cherry.

In course two, Sadhu places out ‘Corn pani puri, kalari kulcha, ghevar and chok charwan with tomato rasam’. What might be the thread of thought operating by means of his thoughts whereas placing collectively such disparate regional influences? A research in textures: of crusts and breads from a number of Indian areas. The Marwari ‘pure veg’ ghevar serves as a base for Kashmiri lamb liver, startling purists, however look carefully and also you’ll discover a redefining of the thought of Indian bread.

Part of the menu at the Delhi pop-up

Food that doesn’t pander

Sadhu appears to make use of his particular person experiences — his Kashmiri roots, travels, and the innate internationalism that comes from his stints at prime international eating places comparable to Alinea, Le Bernardin and Noma — because the lens to have a look at extra common Indian culinary traditions. Kashmiri lamb neck yakhni meets morels miso in what seems to be his hottest dish that night; rogan josh sausage and katlam, the Jammu bread, masquerade with NYC casual-chic; and Pondicherry chocolate will get mixed with indigenous central Indian flower liqueur mahua that not many city Indians have tasted earlier than.

Also learn | Sadhu and Krug’s onion chronicles

“In a way what he does is the opposite of what I do because I do not mix different regional cuisines,” chef Manish Mehrotra, one of Sadhu’s visitors that night, who got here together with his teenage daughter Adah, tells The Hindu Weekend. Mehrotra, broadly considered the daddy of trendy Indian delicacies, whose signature Indian Accent dishes proceed to be copied and regurgitated by cooks in even small cities, finds Sadhu’s voice to be among the many most unusual in Indian kitchens. “He mixes cuisines and is not afraid to experiment even if diners here do not accept certain tastes or the importance of things like acidity, something that all Michelin-level dining pays attention to internationally,” he factors out.

The five-year plan

  • Influenced by zero wastage, methods like fermentation, and native elements sourced straight from farms, the philosophy behind Masque has remained the identical because it launched. Even as Sadhu sharpened his focus to researching various subregional cuisines. So what’s his ambition within the subsequent 5 years? “It is always to survive,” he says candidly, concerning the problem of balancing business success with cutting-edge experimentation. The pandemic has made this more durable. “The next few years will definitely have to be about healing from our current difficult scenario. But, personally, my ambition is to dig deeper into Indian cuisines. I feel I have only scratched the surface. I want to look at home recipes, bring them into the restaurant after R&D, understand different regions and subregions, castes and sub-castes, and how food has changed so many things in the country,” he says.

Sadhu’s signature type is neither purist nor populist, and it’s positively not by-product. In truth, his individualistic experimentation is one of the methods ahead for contemporary Indian meals. ITC’s Manisha Bhasin concurs. “There are two schools of thought when it comes to Indian food, one is purist and other is inventive. But what I like about Prateek’s food is that it is not about presentations; the food talks to me, there is a purity in that,” says Bhasin. ITC motels would be the venues for Sadhu’s pop-ups in Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru.

Younger cooks like Dhruv Oberoi of Olive, who was additionally a visitor on the pop-up, add that that is maybe the boldest experimentation in Indian gastronomy but — with a sense of internationalism within the dishes. “While a few of the courses like the lamb yakhni were comfort, there were bold combinations like chocolate and mahua that I had never experienced before,” says Oberoi.

Chefs Dhruv Oberoi, Manisha Bhasin and Manish Mehrotra

Chefs Dhruv Oberoi, Manisha Bhasin and Manish Mehrotra

What is genuine?

I keep in mind the primary meal I had at Masque, within the first week of its opening in Mumbai in 2016 in a mill compound that had fallen into disuse. There was Himalayan rye bread and sea buckthorn berries from Leh, there have been textures of potato utilizing methods like dehydration, cooking in an earthen pit, and sous vide, there was olive oil specifically pressed from Rajasthan. The entire method was described as “botanical bistronomy” — what seemed to be a combine of worldwide kinds of cooking utilizing carefully-sourced (and sometimes unheard of) regional elements. Over the final 5 years, that focus has sharpened.

Koji-cured barramundi, carrot & passion fruit kanji

Koji-cured barramundi, carrot & ardour fruit kanji

Sadhu now makes use of Indian elements in addition to cooking kinds and methods and refashions them. But the sense of internationalism nonetheless binds all these. Does he see his meals as Indian? “Indian food as we know it today is a result of constant evolution. What is authentic? Is my mother’s rogan josh more authentic than what my aunt cooks? Authentic is subjective; food is the result of migration and is constantly evolving. So while tradition is important, innovation is critical,” he says. His Indian meals, he factors out, will not be about returning to regional recipes and easily plating them with new tweaks. “It demands revisiting ingredients in altogether new ways that can build cross-cultural bridges,” he provides.

As you eat a bhetki with clam rogan with a puri flavoured with Goan sausage, pondering cross-cultural bridges is inevitable. The pop-up menu will proceed to evolve over all its stops — very similar to the journey of meals itself.

The upcoming pop-ups will likely be priced ₹5,500 plus taxes. Bengaluru on August 20-21 and Chennai on August 27-28.

Chef Sadhu and his team

Chef Sadhu and his workforce

Hat tip

Sadhu’s modern cooking and internationalism (that comes from research on the Culinary Institute of America plus work at prime international eating places) have been successful him recognition ever since Masque launched. In its first 12 months, it was ranked among the many prime 10 on Food Tank’s 2016 listing of restaurant innovators on the planet. In 2020, the restaurant acquired the Miele One To Watch award in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants listing earlier than debuting this 12 months on the principle listing. Sadhu has been the primary Indian chef to be a model ambassador for Champagne model Krug and, extra lately, he contributed a easy however creative beets with peach chunda recipe for the #Amexforfoodies cookbook that includes recipes by prime international cooks. Before the pandemic, Masque had additionally been collaborating with main cooks the world over to host pop-ups, together with with Matt Orlando who helms Copenhagen’s Amass, in 2017.

2021-08-06 17:20:07

Leave a Comment