Despite the challenges of the ongoing pandemic, a surge of feisty restaurants have launched, drawing on memories of the past and summer holidays to create alluring dining spaces
The Tangra Project
Chef Vikramjit Roy’s face beams like the Qutab Minar on a moonlit night, or, in his case, the Victoria Memorial. He has just launched The Tangra Project, his first “own” restaurant, after two decades in the industry, along with business partners Vir Kotak and Anurodh Samal. The three had started Context.Eat, the parent company, earlier last year.
Located in Delhi’s DLF Avenue, this barely two-month-old restaurant is an ode to Kolkata, the city where Vikramjit was born and spent his formative years. Right from the second hand book shops on College Street to the river Hooghly, everything finds a representation in the restaurant, either is the form of decor or dish. This includes marble pillars that resemble stacks of books, a giant mural of a vibrant fish that finds itself sprawled across three walls, and lights on the ceiling which are reminiscent of the “toony bulbs” that are strung during pujas and festivals.
Working on this project brought to life a gamut of memories for Vikramjit. As we bite into a deliciously creamy haleem on toast, he recalls how he used to catch the 1 pm show with his friends at the erstwhile Chaplin Theatre, and then wait outside for a specific vendor who sold haleem. That is what he recreated.
The kosha mangsho and kochuri are what his Sundays were made up of; he would go to the butcher with his father and get the best pieces to make this household favourite. At this restaurant, Vikram has obediently followed his mother’s recipe for the kosha mangsho. “She came here and taught us how to prepare it and then followed it up with a video,” he laughs.
The menu is a rolodex of Kolkata’s iconic dishes: Chinese, Anglo Indian, Mughlai and of course Bengali. Here you’ll find bhetki fish wrapped with the sharp flavours of kasundi, kanch kola kofta (dumplings made of raw plantain), cholar dal, Tangra style chilli chicken and chicken cutlets so crisp that when you bite in, you hear a satisfying crunch (#ASMR). The breadcrumbs — in which the cutlets are coated — are sourced from Kolkata, as are the other raw ingredients.
Then there are the recipes that took shape in Vikram’s head before finding themselves plated on elegant crockery. These include parwal guacamole: pointed gourd being cooked for 18 hours and then made into a fine paste, featuring bits of tomato and pomegranate, shining like bright jewels on a bed of green. Or spinach, roasted poppy seed in sesame sauce, a simple yet delightful combination. If you are in the mood to experiment, the menu also offers a mustard and tender coconut mousse.
The menu, Vikram says, will keep changing according to each season. Hardly a challenge, given they had to bring down the number of entries from 500 to 200.
The Tangra Project Unit No. 154-159 Commons, DLF Avenue, Saket. Call: 8929925253
There’s a slice of Pondicherry in the trendy Dhan Mill compound in Chattarpur.
With its sunshine yellow facade — dappled with pink bougainvillea — French style doors and courtyard bordered with white pillars, this chocolate factory and cafe mirrors the laidback charm of the former French colony. Colocal is a passion project of Sheetal Saxena and her husband Nishant Sinha. For Sheetal, a chocolate aficionado, the idea to start a bean to bar brand came to her while she was watching videos of cacao being roasted. Curiosity led her to research more on the subject and thus Colocal was born.
They are currently doing dark chocolate: 55, 66, 72 and 85%. “The eventual goal is to reach 95%,” says Nishant who also owns the Roastery Coffee House in Hyderabad and Kolkata. There are bonbons and truffles, and the chocolates are also blended with sea salt, nuts, caramel among others.
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Colocal’s cacao beans are sourced from Idukki in Kerala. “We roast our cacao in a proper coffee roaster and that gives our chocolate a different taste,” explains Nishant. He says that often there are many myths associated with chocolate. “People think chocolate is sugar. Through these tours of our boutique chocolate factory we are able to show them that it is actually derived from a fruit. They can see the process right from roasting, conching to melanging,” he adds.
At Colocal chocolate factory and cafe
The menu is simple, with a choice of breakfast platters, granola bowls, generously filled sandwiches, tacos, sour dough pizzas and pastas. The hot chocolates — there are about seven varieties including caramel and banana — are favourites; one sip of the smoky campfire hot chocolate and you will realise why. Fluffy white marshmallows, also made in-house, are just as decadent. “The plan is to make quality couverture chocolate and break the international dominance that is there in the market,” says Nishant, adding, “We want to showcase Indian cacao to the world.”
Colocal, Shade no. 21b, Dhan mill compound, 100 Feet Road, Chhatarpur. Call: 9310524620
They have a new branch in Khan Market.
As posh as it may seem, at Klap you can nonchalantly forego your fork. Follow Chef Gurmehar Singh Sethi’s instructions: Two fingers, one bite. Apparently, that is the best way to enjoy the innovative bite-sized small plates that this trendy “bistro by day and gastro by night” is known for.
The bistro offers sushi, galouti kebab, golgappa with pomello, dimsums (in stunning red and purple hues, using natural colour from beetroot and purple cabbage) and more. The idea here is to try an array of cuisines rather than commit to one large main course for the entire evening.
There are large plates too. The massaman curry, for instance, where the meat is cooked for 24 hours in a sous vide machine. The food represents the chef’s culinary journey across London, Dubai, Maldives and Phuket, among others. The menu also lists favourites from closer home, like appams, chicken Chettinad and cone dosa.
Owned by Gurmehar, Navdeep Singh Sethi and Alekh Vardhan, Klap was born in April, but had to temporarily shut down due to the second wave of the pandemic, before reopening in June. Spread over two floors, it has a terrace offering open air dining. “The terrace also has the Chef’s garden that grows basil, bird’s eye chilli, ajwain (carom), coriander, ginger flower, lemongrass, and microgreens such as amaranth,” says Gurmehar, adding that he believes in sustainability.
To that end, cucumber and tomato peels are dehydrated and served with a dash of pink salt and paprika, as nibbles at the bar. Stems of broccoli and leftovers of onion are frozen in blocks of ice, which double up as slabs on which sushi, sashimi, and nigiri are served.
Klap is currently awaiting its alcohol license and is working on elaborately concocted drinks such as a sous vide cocktail and some made with peanut butter.
Klap, 2, Rabindra Nagar, Khan Market. Tel: 9919918323