Blurb: South East Asian tastes without political boundaries
Intro: Imagine flying east from India and reaching a land where all the food is light yet intensely flavourful; where jaggery and wasabi are part of the same meal: that is the essence of the newest Diva.
Atmospherics: This is one restaurant for which you won’t have to ask for directions! It’s right on the main road between the Defence Colony flyover and the gas station. Plenty of parking just behind the restaurant. It is called Kitsch because that is the name of the high-fashion style shop on the ground floor, with whom Diva has partnered. It is not a reflection on the food! Ritu Dalmia who has recently reached a milestone in her life, wanted to do something new, and hit on the idea of a South East Asian eatery albeit one without boundaries. The food is meant to be a pastiche of the flavours in Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, tweaking here and there to fit a Ritu Dalmia framework rather than to appeal to the local palate. Therefore, expect food that is not authentic because it is not supposed to be authentic. You can expect crushed peanuts and Japanese ginger for instance, but no coconut milk or fish sauce.
Table talk: chilled avocado soup with fresh crab salad (Rs 595) had a slight bite of wasabi that gave the taste-buds a shock, especially because the soup was chilled. It was a marvellous marriage of unexpected pairings and it worked brilliantly. Similarly, Bomra’s tomato salad (Rs 380) is the clone of the one in Bomra’s, Goa, in which de-skinned tomato quarters play their part in an orchestra with sesame, jaggery and vinegar provide flavour while crushed peanuts provide texture. Prawn and pomelo salad (Rs 545) was packed full of juicy prawns, sweet pomelo segments and juliennes of tender coconut and crisp fried slivers of garlic.
The food depends for its success on the fine art of proportions. If one single ingredient overpowers the others, the whole premise of Diva Kitsch will collapse.
For main course, lamb, potatoes and baby onions in Massaman curry with quinoa is served with crisp, fresh oriental vegetables. Is quinoa the grain of choice in South East Asia? Maybe not, but it does go superbly well with the intensely flavoured gravy, made without coconut milk.
Plus and minus: the tables are set rather close together; the desserts are unmissable. All of them.
Must try: Shredded duck salad with banana blossoms and lychees; crystal dumplings: Chinese greens and water chestnuts; chilli caramel sea-bass.
Food: 4 Service 3 Décor 3.50
Meal for two: Rs 3,000