Salads are no longer associated with terms like ‘bland’ or ‘boring’, or even healthy. Salads have been catapulted to a whole new stratosphere of epicurean flamboyance. With quirky combinations, designer plating, complex flavours and stunning ingredients – the New Age salad has indiscriminate gourmands and seasoned connoisseurs asking for more. Here are a few places in the city where you can sample salads with an edge.
Since its inception almost a decade ago, Afraa Restaurant and Lounge has trumped up numerous stunners in their kitchen. They have an evolving menu, so making a recommendation is a little tricky. Nonetheless, their current salad menu (small but striking) has a few fantastic picks such as the light lemon-flavoured tandoori chicken Caesar salad that comes loaded with anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan shavings or one with home-grown micro greens, confit artichokes, chestnuts and sun-dried tomatoes that comes dressed in balsamic nage. The best pick here is the parma ham and melon cascade tossed with parmesan shavings, garden cress, chunks of crusty bread, and aged balsamic – the slightly salty parma ham helps underscore the delightful sweetness of the melons and the tart balsamic takes things to another level.
Chef Joymalya Banerjee does not cease to surprise with his quirky takes on familiar flavours, and his penchant for innovation spills on to his salad menu. He tosses up corn and dates in a chilli and lemon dressing and turns out a lip-smacking salad with pan-shocked chicken laced with spicy alphonso dressing. But the star of the show is easily The Outrageous Seafood Salad, a mix of prawns, squid, crab and lobster meat and chunks of fish topped with dill infused mayonnaise dressing. And yes, assorted lettuce too (it is a salad after all). It really is outrageously good.
The Palms on Southern Avenue is a relatively new addition to the city’s restaurant scene and has two specialty kitchens – Indian and Oriental. The Oriental kitchen is headed by a chef previously with Yauatcha, and he has crafted an interesting menu with some inspiration from his former kitchen. They have a limited but interesting selection of salads such as the prawn and bean sprouts salad and a yam bean and squash salad with assorted lettuce, but the one that gets you really excited is the Mixed Salad with Lotus Root. The lotus root is sliced thin in rings, blanched and tossed with torn lollo rosso, romaine and iceberg lettuce in hoisin and plum sauce – it is sweet, it is sour, it is delightful.
Talking of Asian salads, at Chanda’s Khaukswey, the city’s only specialty Burmese restaurant, the eponymous Chanda Dutt (the owner and chef) turns out a fantastic Hto Boo Thoke – a traditional Burmese tofu salad. The Burmese tofu is distinctly different from the Chinese bean curd; it is made of chickpeas and has a singular flavour. Dutt tosses the sliced tofu with fried garlic and onions, chopped spring onions and fresh coriander, and garlic infused oil to turn out a superlative dish. However, one salad that is not on the regular menu, but makes an appearance as the day’s specialty from time to time (or Dutt can make it for you if you request in advance) is the La Phet Thoke, a unique salad made with pickled tea leaves imported from Burma, which is tossed with roast tomatoes, an assortment of fried lentils, sesame seeds, slices of garlic, wedges of lemon, salted roasted peanuts, shrimp powder and garlic infused oil – it will blow your mind.
M Bar Kitchen also has a rather inspiring salad menu. Try the decadent poached pears and candied walnuts tossed with crunchy rocket leaves and blue cheese or opt for healthier tosses such as the grilled prawn salad that comes tossed with spinach, cherry tomatoes and cucumber in light, flavourful lemon vinaigrette. Another fantastic protein-packed salad is the shredded chicken salad with greens and pine nuts, finished off with a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
And, finally, there is The Corner Courtyard, one of the city’s best looking restaurants with an equally striking menu. Their salad selection is stunning and the season’s assortment includes the Canneberge Salad made with grilled asparagus and artichokes tossed with arugula and cranberries in a ranch dressing, and the Nuts and Greens salad which has grilled vegetables, salad greens and hearts of palm fruit topped with spiced brittle walnuts and finished off with a potent mustard dressing. But the standout salad is the Sea Salt Roasted Dried Figs and Gouda Cheese salad tossed with apples, crunchy salad greens, walnuts and celery shavings and dressed in a slightly tangy pomegranate dressing. It is winner. They have an ever-changing menu, so here is hoping they will come up with more fantastic options.
An independent journalist based out of Calcutta and a dedicated food enthusiast, she writes mostly about food and travel, and has worked and written for publications India Today, The Telegraph, Live Mint as also Lonely Planet India’s website. She also loves to experiment in her kitchen and runs a food blog – allthatsdelicious.com. But mostly she eats, frets about how much she eats and then eats some more.