Delhi’s newest restaurant – Smoke House Grill – is from the stable of Riyaaz Amlani, the maverick genius who gave us Mocha. Expectedly, it is not just another fine-dining eatery with a lounge section, but contains a novel concept that is set to change the way we look at cuisine.
The restaurant actually has a piece of equipment that smokes food without cooking it. Consequently, something as banal as aubergine or as exotic as taleggio is smoked before being cooked, hence the name Smoke House. That’s not all: every dish on the menu has a juxtaposition of ingredients, tastes, textures, flavours or temperatures that are on opposite ends of a spectrum. Consequently, the Iced Chicken Liver Pate + Apple Marmalade (Rs 250) features chilled pate served with slightly warm marmalade, and the recipe for the pate has been purposely tweaked so as to contrast with the sweetness of the marmalade.
There are few clichés on this menu, and I get the impression that the formidable talent in the kitchen are making up the rules as they go along. What cuisine is being showcased here? That’s precisely the point – it lies within the broad ambit of contemporary western cuisine, yet other than that, fits into no particular slot.
There is a consolation for those who find smoked tastes not to their liking: just avoid those dishes that have been marked with a symbol on the menu. You could try, instead, the Seared Raviolo of Chevre + Fava Bean (Rs 295) in which the beans are cold to contrast with the warm raviolo. Another thing to try is Melted Mozzarella Aubergine ‘Fry’ (Rs 275), one of the least unusual combinations. Occasionally, the juxtapositions either don’t work, or would be best left alone, as in the case of Baked New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels (Rs 350), where sheer determination to showcase creativity at whatever the cost, has resulted in a surfeit of ingredients drowning out the mussels.
Balsamic Marinated Beetroot + Aragula and Taleggio Melt (Rs 275) is one of the best-conceived combinations, but to appreciate the dish, you do have to like smoked food. If you do, don’t miss Smoke House Aubergine Soup (Rs 250), simple, elegant and not all that different in concept from baingan ka bharta! Other soups to try are Of a Couple of Mushrooms (Rs 275) and Riesling Reduction + Green Lipped NZ Mussels, the latter being the house version of New England Chowder.
However, Smoke House Grill is at its best when it does Indian-western juxtapositions. Not to be confused with traditional Indian food, combinations include Halibut with Smoked Shimla Chilli (Rs 850), which of course, refers to Shimla mirch! And their single best main course dish? My choice is the superb Fillet Mignon, Wasabi Emulsion (Rs 550).
The surprise is the dessert menu: not only is everything on it of a uniformly high standard, the apples in the Warm Apple and Rosemary Pie (Rs 275) have been smoked.
North Wing, VIPPS Center, Plot No. 2, LSC, Masjid Moth, GK II
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Open from 7 pm to 11 pm from 25th December onwards. Expected to open for lunch in February 2007
Average cost of a meal for two (without alcohol): Rs 2,000 (for the dining section)