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Wine & Dine
December 21, 2016

5 Five-Star Restaurants You Should Eat At Before The Year Ends

Text by Shirin Mehta, Simone Louis and Arti Sarin

We tested the best of the new lot and discovered a variety of wonderful offerings

1. RIVEA
Taj Santacruz

Rivea, at the newly opened Taj Santacruz in Mumbai, offers cuisine from the south of France to north-west Italy and, in the bargain, some of the finest French and Italian food to be had in the city. We leave it to sous chef Amaresh Nandan to send us his choices, little realising that we are in for a treat! An interesting bread basket appears with two types of dipping oils and we’re hard-pressed not to make a meal of it. The wild mushroom soup is full of indolent flavour, the aroma of truffle oil tickling the nose pink. Complementing this perfectly, the focaccia is covered in Parmesan shavings. Charred scallop on corn puree is served with pancetta crisp and caper berries. The heirloom tomato salad is a must-try, with a ball of artisanal burrata surrounded by a variety of tomatoes and olive oil ice cream. Next up, perfectly plated in a bowl, arrives the Marseilles bouillabaisse, deliciously satisfying with its seafood selection and hot broth.

Despite the smaller portions requested, we’re stuffed to the gills even before the mains arrive. A perfect little goat cheese ravioli with sweet basil jelly melts in the mouth, and a selection from the grill follows — tiger prawn and lamb rack, both fired to perfection — tender yet charred. Satisfaction! A taste of two desserts leaves us in heaven: mascarpone and chocolate and a deconstructed tiramisu, scrumptious to the last spoonful….

Decor details: contemporary chandeliers overpower the luxurious room, giving it an edgy look while a private dining area provides secrecy to much of Bollywood. An open-plan kitchen provides interest.

Vegetarians rejoice: there are options galore and more are being added.

2. DASHANZI
JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu

Tranquil yet far from boring, this Arabian-Sea-facing fine dining property makes for the perfect setting to enjoy some respite from Mumbai’s monsoon showers, with its steaming bowls of miso soup and other umami delights. Described as a progressive Asian restaurant, Dashanzi may have inherited the space previously occupied by the hotel’s celebrated gin bar Arola, but the spirit of reinvention is strong with this one. A smooth prelude to a relaxed meal is the Asian G and T, featuring jasmine-tea-infused gin, honey, basil and tonic water, which comes in an impressively large glass that you’re advised to swirl from time to time. For all fellow clumsy people: do this with both hands.

Lanterns glow warmly, illuminating paintings and Eastern decor accents, and the music is unobtrusively pleasing. An amuse-bouche of tomato, spicy mayo and watermelon hits the table in a mini metal bucket as liquid nitrogen is poured over it, followed by the star of the menu — braised pork belly. Sticky, succulent and oh-so-satisfying, the meat is served with and is meant to be put inside mantou bread pockets that truly complement it both in terms of texture and flavour. Vegetarians will enjoy the great selection of signature dumplings as well as mains like stir-fried lotus root, tofu preparations and Penang curry. Plus, the live sushi and sashimi bar offers great vegetarian rolls alongside seafood favourites like akame, hamachi and even dragon spider!

Heady fix: rum lovers should complement their mains with the monk of the east (cardamom-infused dark rum, syrup, freshly squeezed lime and ginger beer) while sweet-and-sour drinkers can opt for the five spice mojito that has kaffir lime and yuzu.

Finishing strong: don’t leave without indulging in dessert. If you’re dining with company, the freezing chocolate balloon is a sure-fire dramatic treat.

3. SORRENTO
Shangri-La’s ­— Eros Hotel

Mouth-watering aromas and warm, casual interiors welcome you to Shangri-La’s — Eros Hotel’s elegant speciality Italian restaurant. There are open kitchens and fridges from which you may choose your cheese and cured meats by weight, which the chef then proceeds to slice on an impressive Berkel machine. This is then served with hot gnocco fritto and home-made compote and is a wonderful way to start the meal. The restaurant’s access to an open terrace overlooking lush green gardens gives it a lovely al-fresco feel. Beginning with cicchetti (small plates and tapas-style dishes), the mozzarella on wheels is a delicious and colourful experience where a locally handcrafted mozzarella salad is assembled tableside with tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil. Executive chef Neeraj Tyagi focuses on using the highest quality ingredients — fresh and seasonal — to recreate the flavours of Southern Italy in New Delhi.

The adjacent bar, Grappa, which has an extensive wine list, wine cocktails and negroni, is perfect for sipping on a drink while watching Chef Luigi Ferraro at his best, creating pizzas both in the Salerno and Neapolitan styles. The wild mushroom and the salami picante are scrumptious. The handcrafted artisanal pasta menu is widespread and the Parmesan brûlée stuffed ravioli delicate in flavour. The strozzapreti with Italian sausage, onion and fennel seeds and the black cod with olio negra, nuts and roasted forest mushroom make for delicious mains.

Sweet selection: twenty-one flavours of home-made gelato include the classic tiramisu served with bits of almond biscuits and coffee gelato. Mount Vesuvius — hazelnut crémeux, almond biscuits, cocoa soil and raspberry sauce — makes for the ultimate dessert.

Cool quotient: complimentary shots of limoncello accompany the bill!

4. HONK ASIAN RESTAURANT
Pullman New Delhi Aerocity

Presenting a carefully curated menu that showcases culinary influences from Asia — primarily Chinese and Japanese with a glimpse of Thai and Singaporean — this bistro-style speciality restaurant puts street-smart food on top of the list. Bamboo and brass elements around the candle-lit restaurant lend a relaxing ambience.

Appetisers are served in award-winning limited-edition crockery while mains are presented in Serax tableware; a real visual treat. A welcome drink, the honk sour — gin, kaffir lime, camomile tea and egg white — is a delicious start to a meal paired with more heady cocktails, while the green apple carpaccio with lime sorbet is highlighted by an amazing mirin decoction. The mixologist deftly guides guests to pair cocktails and wines with the courses. Sid car, a cognac-based cocktail, goes beautifully with Hainanese chicken rice, salt and pepper prawns with chilli, stir-fried lotus root, broccoli, sugar snap peas and melt-in-the-mouth steamed fish with pickled chilli, capers and greens. To finish on a high, the chocolate and mango Bavarian and the caramel chocolate and peanut parfait perfectly satiate the palate, accompanied by a White Russian highlighting a coffee liquor that is made in-house.

One-on-one: skewers from the robata-yaki grills the best fresh produce, tempura is fried in front of guests, providing an interactive experience, as does the hand-rolled sushi from the sushi bar.

Bespoke bonus: the edamame and shallot dumplings, asparagus sushi, salmon carpaccio and char sui pork buns are all accompanied with delicious in-house sambals.

5. LAKHORI
Haveli Dharampura, New Delhi

A walk through narrows alleys, lined by houses and shops, virtually transports you to the Mughal period, as one arrives at Haveli Dharampura. The grand entrance welcomes you into an aangan with a small fountain, with a tiny art gallery on one side and the restaurant right ahead. A kanji shot welcomes you, a traditional drink that is quite famous in the Chandni Chowk area.

Lakhori is an old-world eatery, with pretty arches, copper lights and shehnai music. The menu features a unique selection of Old Delhi street food and Mughal delicacies. The journey starts with a cocktail called Benarasi paan – ready-made paan topped with soda. Most of the cocktails and smoothies have a mix of berries and are delightfully unusual. The haveli ki galouti kebab is delicious and the tamatar dhaniya shorba, served in a kulhad-esque glass provides a burst of flavour. The dahi ki aranchini, palak patta chaat and dahi puri accompanied by shot glasses of saunth and jaljeera are worth a try.

Touch of nostalgia: the chai biscuit, a thick latte-like drink with a layer of biscuit on top, is slurp-worthy.

Don’t miss: the jharokhas and windows with stained glass art.

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