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"Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August,” writes the American novelist Jenny Han, in her young adult bestseller The Summer I Turned Pretty. It is unlikely that she was referring to the Indian summer, for the season in the sub-continent is all about steering clear of the outdoors, the customary venue for magical things to transpire. But Indian summers are also known for their produce bounties. So, while mangoes top the list of summer goodies, there are other ingredients that are making their way into inventive menus conjured up by a battery of Delhi chefs.
Olive Qutub’s ambience seems to cast a spell on its diners and magically foster an uninhibited, outdoors spirit. Its new menu for the season, Summer on a Plate, is celebrating artisanal food, fresh ingredients, nourishing salads, aromatic broths as well as greens and grains. Produce is at the top of the culinary totem pole here and includes everything from heirloom tomatoes to a range of grains, including millet (kodo, barnyard and foxtail), buckwheat, pearl barley and rice (Italian arborio, heirloom black rice from West Bengal, California wild black rice). What’s more, you can also feast on a variety of summer melons, including the Japanese yubari, honey dew and cantaloupe while Himalayan single clove garlic, purple potato, duck eggs and squash blossoms will make your taste buds come alive. Try the Melange of Beets with Chèvre Semifreddo where a semi-frozen galette of French goat cheese is studded with diced orange-poached apricot, and placed on a savoury beetroot sponge. The semifreddo is flattered with a line of multi-coloured heirloom beets and a crisp made of dried figs.
Tamra, the multi-cuisine restaurant at Shangri-La’s - Eros Hotel, is welcoming the season of the sun with a tiffin lunch experience, a hat tip to the Mumbai dabbawalas. The tiffin lunch (available from May 1 to May 31) offers meal combinations from cuisines across the world and is presented with a local spin. Up for grabs is the Thailand Ka Dabba (chicken krapow, vegetable green curry, jasmine rice), Desi Chineez (chilli chicken, vegetable manchurian, fried rice), Phorner Dabba (baked macaroni, grilled chicken, ratatouille, garlic bread), Desi Dabba (bhuna boti masala, lehsuni dal, mint and tamater ka pulao) and more. You can team your Dabba meal with a beverage of choice, which includes popular options like Thanda Banta (traditional soda concoction), Shikanji (lime drink) or Masala Cola.
Indian Accent, known for one of the best reiterations of plated Indian food across the world, and helmed by award-winning chef, Manish Mehrotra has an imaginative menu that complements the blistering heat of the season. Seasonal and fresh local produce join hands with unusual ingredients from world cuisine to excite the adventurous palate and evoke nostalgia. Cool down with the vegetarian starter of Thai pomelo segments, raw mango and roast cashew and follow it up with the baked scallop, tamarind, pumpkin and coconut curry from the non-vegetarian main course.
Rejuvenate yourself with the summer menu of The Spice Route, the South-East Asian restaurant at The Imperial, where the spotlight has been trained on the mango. The carefully-curated menu, on offer from June 1 to July 31, features dishes inspired by cuisines of Kerala, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. Both ripe and raw mangoes have been pressed into use and their sweet-tart flavour has gone a long way in heightening the summer dining experience. One of the most popular raw mango speckled dish in the new menu is the Yum Mamuang Kung Krob - Thai raw mango and crispy prawn salad. Another perennial favourite is the Ga Xao Hot Dieu - Vietnamese Style Stir-fried chicken with fresh mangoes and cashew nuts.
Food hall AnnaMaya, an ode to locally-sourced ingredients, is treating its patrons with a host of goodies this summer. Making a bold statement on its menu are artisanal ice teas, made from organic teas procured from a farm in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. The menu is intelligently designed, keeping in mind the compromised digestive prowess in summer months. As a result, you will find light flavourful fare like Barnyard Millet Khichdi and Char-Roasted Beetroot. To top it all, mango dishes such as Burrata With Pickled Mango will also be served on special request, even if they do not make an appearance on the menu.
So, don’t let the season weigh you down with its wicked ways. Instead, go right ahead and sample the sensory pleasures dished up by the top dining destinations in town.
Susmita Saha is a Delhi-based Features Writer. She has worked as an Assistant Editor at India Today and The Telegraph and writes on arts and culture, films, travel, food, architecture, design and various other lifestyle subjects. She has seriously itchy feet and plans to tick the world off her bucket list, one burger at a time.