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Masque, the mecca of ‘botanical bistronomy’ which was started by the visionary entrepreneur Aditi Dugar, last year with Chef Prateek Sadhu at the helm, has just turned one. Naturally, celebrations are in order and what better way than a pop-up by Mumbai-born, 29-year-old talented Chef Garima Arora of Gaa Bangkok fame.
Simple, locally sourced seasonal ingredients to create innovative global dishes, are what Masque believes in and Chef Garima Arora, a Le Cordon Bleu alumnus, Noma Copenhagen trained and former Sous Chef at Gaggan, shares the same philosophy. With ingredients as the hero, a unique experience with a 16-course vegetarian and non-vegetarian tasting menu was put together for the two sittings for dinner.
Fortunate to get a preview earlier in the afternoon, I opted for a Vegetarian meal. While the entire experience was a carefully crafted culinary journey that was unparalleled, here are my top 5 picks from the menu.
The one-word description on the menu intrigued me. Invited to the kitchen by Chef Garima to experience the first course, stalks of young corn grilled in the husks and brushed with salt and chilli awaited me. Served with a thick corn emulsion, with intense flavours, the simple corn had been cleverly elevated and was a palate pleaser all the way.
Pumpkin milk skin
A crisp tiny pancake encapsulating red pumpkin meshed with subtle flavours, served with a crisp collard leaf, was attractive to look at, to say the least. The crunchy taco-like pancake casing boasted of smooth textures and the firm pumpkin filling offered a good bite. Together they co-existed in perfect harmony – both in flavours and textures.
Wild mushroom, sticky rice
A medley of the finest mushrooms, served with sticky wild black rice is expectedly an absolute treat. This one bore testimony to modern cooking techniques juxtaposed with traditional cooking methods, to create a wow dish with basic ingredients, characteristic of Chef Garima.
Sea buckthorn, black pepper, pine salt
Simple looking items pack a punch in terms of flavour. This bright fiery saffron colour palate cleanser was enticing in appearance, as it was in flavours. The black pepper hit the right notes and the aftertaste of the pine salt lingered, effortlessly getting me ready for my next course.
Nothing sounds more mundane than this, but Garima Arora manages to surprise you a la minute. And she did. Cucumber ice cream sandwiched between a crisp wafer-thin slice of baguette teased my taste buds endlessly.
Jaggery and coriander ice cream
Waffle cones instantly take you back to your childhood and Chef Garima Arora succeeded in doing just that. The flavours were different but distinct with a hint of nostalgia in every bite. The toasted whole wheat cone was achingly familiar, while the jaggery and coriander seeds lent the right amount of flavour twist.
Chef Garima Arora’s approach to ingredients and some of the resultant dishes are Noma-esque, while in others, the Indian influence is apparent. Whatever be the influences, the alchemy and equilibrium are perfect and I stepped out completely indulged.
Food critic, features writer and columnist, Mini Ribeiro is a qualified Journalist, from IIMC New Delhi. She specialises in the Food & Beverage and Hospitality space. As an established food & beverage writer, Mini currently contributes to several leading English publications across the country – Asian Age, Hindustan Times, Sunday Financial Express, Hotelier India, Go Getter and Vistara inflight magazines and Rediff.com. She also has her own You Tube channel called Mini’s Food Fundas. Fond of cooking, Mini enjoys experimenting in the kitchen with various cuisines, with Indian regional food, being her favourite. She has recently started, a platform for home talent, called 'Flavours from Home', an initiative which aims to make women who are passionate about cooking, entrepreneurs.