It sat quietly as the city went overboard on hospitality. Atop a plush hotel in the CBD was a terrace that overlooked the verdant urban expanse, with the wind and quiet for company. Then, this space atop the Chancery Pavilion was awakened from its slumber by Simarjeet Singh, General Manager and renowned Chef Hari Nayak and an able team with chef in-charge Suresh's vision to give the city a haven where one can dine, drink and make merry - with a twist of fusion and gastronomy that's classic yet modern. Ask Udupi-born consultant chef Hari Nayak, who has travelled the world to embellish his Indian roots with Western ingredients, all for the menu he has curated for over two years, and he says, "the flavours are Indian and what I like is that when I cook in New York I was exposed to produce not common to Indian cuisine. I found myself experimenting to find what pairs well with Indian cuisine." And he found Alchemy. Based in New York, he also brings back his hometown's essence with a chicken sukka bulgogi that is served on baby appams, with Korean gochuchang chillies embellishing it. Or the arbi Toscano, which is also part of the lineup of very local ingredients with international flavours.
Alchemy, the new semi-fine dine restaurant and bar in town is a take on Indian tenets, reimagined with western tenets. It's a fusion that general manager Simarjeet Singh explains succinctly, "Fusion when done well is the essence of Alchemy. Traditional yet progressive, it's a good marriage of both classics with fusion." To which Nayak adds, "The idea was to focus on wholesome food and not gimmicks."
Nayak who debuted by opening America's first patisserie in Princeton, New Jersey and then joined one of the largest food service companies in North America as executive chef, was with the ITC before dropping his chefs hat into learning more at the Culinary Institute of America. He is known globally as one of the pioneers of modern Indian cuisine and has brought that sense of gastronomy to Alchemy's carefully curated menu. The able and impressive expertise of Suresh DC, the chef in-charge, with South Indian roots too, who was earlier at Taj Yeshwantpur, makes the menu a surprising walk on classics rendered creatively, and scrumptious. While Nayak has been busy creating the menu with ingredients and dishes that leap out thanks to their uniqueness, one can rest assured that Suresh's heart is embellishing those dishes with his great understanding of the cuisines.
We started the meal with the Scotland Cinderalla cocktail with a hint of strawberry, very good. Light. Unwhisky-ish! The aam ras was perfect, we added an extra green chilli to spice it up. Then came Alchemy's popular dishes.
The Indian artichoke and potato samosa was good, fresh and crunchy, an interesting blend with a wasabi punch. More artichoke would be nice… but it was beautifully presented in cones. Next came the spanakopita, a local take on a Greek dish. Stuffed with saag paneer and feta to dunk into a delicious chutney in a crispy fillo pastry, the saag and paneer with feta was perfect. The hickory smoked chicken kebabs came imbued with subtle flavour and welcome smokiness, succulent and juicy, we liked the gram flour crunch. We also had the chicken sukka bulgogi, Nayak's Korean inspired portion, that came on baby appams, which was alright, could have been better with beef!
For mains, we ordered the fish and pork, as the team is working on adding some signature beef dishes. The pork came with an apple slaw on unique quinoa utthapa roundels. The slaw was a bit overpowering, which hid the peppery glaze.
The breeze hits you first, followed by the deluge of sensations from the menu. Perfect for a sundowner, a brunch and a nice meal with family. The bamboo inspired bar with red and gold cushions and sofas offers great views with small plates to order, and a semi formal dining that offers interesting delectables for the "always searching" foodie.
The menu sees each ingredient leap out of a classic dish, unsuspecting, "The menu is based on local influences so there is a hazelnut hollige or a mysore pak cheese cake. Since I travel a lot, I always try to bring in inspiration from my travels," adds Nayak who has many cookbooks to his name and is out with a new one as well.
We spotted a kale saag, again interestingly different. It came creamy, so so delicious, with a melt in the mouth goat cheese dumpling and a fox nut crumble. WOW! Full marks! We dunked into its creamy, welcome leafy textures with jalapeno and peas kulchas - melt in the mouth and buttery yum.
The next was a Konkan Fish Fillet, which had a wonderfully home-cooked touch with the flakey fillet on a bed of the most delicious quinoa chitrana (lemon rice), surrounded in a lemon grass coconut gravy. Pan Asian meet Konkan … we gobbled up the chitrana, not just because of its protein content, but because it tasted so good. Then, we bit down into a flakey fillet dunked in a thick coconut gravy, good although the lemongrass favour could have been toned-down. The sriracha chicken kulcha with a generous baste of sriracha butter was yummy. We also had sides like the honeycomb masala bun, the chef's take on the humble Iyengar bakery aloo bun… Wow. Portly, spongey, fresh and delicious. We didn't want to break the beautiful honey comb. It is a must, with masala chai or filter coffee on the side. Suresh also suggests the twice cooked lamb and soft shell crabs. Next time, for sure.
For dessert, Chefs Nayak and Suresh turned desi classics around spectacularly. The Gondhoraj lemon mousse, a lemon from West Bengal finds itself in a star dish that comes with the trappings of a nitrogen cooled dessert -mousse with lemon curd and custard, and a lemony sponge. The interactive dish has the sous chef brandish a siphon gun, that squeezes out subtle mousse onto a large spoon that is then cooked in nitrogen right before you, all smoked up. This is a must-try for its textures, the zest of lime that stars and accentuates the dish. The gooey mouuse inside was great though the hardened outside could have been thinner.
Our favourite was the Mysore pak cheese cake with a crumbly corn drizzled with honey crunch -Delicious. Bites of creamy cheese cake with bits of Mysore Pak hidden inside, it was the perfect dessert. The team is classical at heart and modern in approach, and have started on a new menu that will see a Beetroot millet risotto and squid and onion rings.
As equations go, this one is for a good hearty meal, with pleasant surprises in every dish.
Alchemy @ the Chancery Pavilion
Meal for two: Rs 2000
Must have: The Potato artichoke Samoa, kale saag with jalapeño kulchas, hickory smoked chicken with chicken sriracha kulchas, mysore Pak cheese cake and ghondoraj mousse.