It doesn’t look particularly Indian, and that is precisely the intention. Amaranta (amaranth or Ram dana) has an intensely desi soul, but its outer garb is international. Look at the neutral interiors, and you won’t know whether you are in an Indian or a western restaurant. That’s why you will be thrown off balance when you are faced with a pink coloured sorbet accompanying a char grilled chicken with copra masala (Rs 750): close your eyes and take a spoonful of the sorbet: the flavour is that of sol kadi, the quintessentially west coast digestive drink. You’ll get the whiff of ginger, mustard seeds and kadi patta in addition to kokum and coconut milk. It is identical to what you’ll be served in dhaba after dhaba in Malvani, Gomantak and Konkan eateries, except that instead of being served in a grubby glass, this one is served as an elegant quenelle as an accompaniment to a chicken with coastal flavours.
Is Amaranta a traditional Indian restaurant or a nouvelle one? I honestly don’t know the answer to that one after two visits. I’d say the flavours are traditional but the presentations are nouvelle. Take their Andhra Snapper with green gram dosa (Rs 1500) as an example. The so called tamarind and tomato veloute in the description of the dish is nothing more than good ole coastal Andhra curry with all the masalas playing their part. It is poured over lightly grilled snapper from a sauce boat: you help yourself to as much or as little gravy as you want. Rice is served to those who request it, but the accompaniment is designed to be the ‘dosa made of green gram’ which is actually none other than a pessarattu. My only quibble is with the term veloute: it is a full-bodied Andhra fish curry and has nothing to do with the French sauce. The brandade of spiced yam and rice crackers were either not made properly, or I have not been able to understand the concept, but like a few of the accompaniments in Amaranta, I thought that this was gilding the lily.
Crab, asparagus and raw mango poriyal with green moong waffles, mache and grapefruit salad (Rs 1100) is a completely captivating dish. You take one look at the generous pile of white flakes speckled with mustard seeds and you mentally write it off as bland. Then you take your first bite and you look at the understated dish with renewed interest. It is the same lunch standby that your mother makes every day of the week (if she was from Kerala, that is), except that it would have been made with one or two finely chopped vegetables. The simple, homely appeal of the dish is intact: what adds punch is the five star ingredients – minced crabmeat and finely sliced asparagus stems. A judicious quantity of diced raw mango adds drama to the dish. Too much and it would have overpowered the crab; too little and it would have been lost. That’s the genius of Amaranta: to know when to hang back and when to go in for the kill.
One thing that Amaranta is not: an inexpensive eatery. The wide selection of freshly flown in seafood and the stash of champagne bottles chilling on ice at the entrance tell their own story.
443 Udyog Vihar, Phase V, Gurgaon
Tel: 91 124 2451234
Open from 12.30 pm to 3 pm and 7 pm to 12 midnight
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Meal for two: Rs 5,000