Food personality, wedding caterer, TV show host and restaurateur – Marut Sikka’s larger-than-life personality dominates the garden restaurant in the slightly out of the way Garden of Five Senses. It is supposed to be a de-stressing zone with soft music, heaters in winter and mist fans in summers to take the edge of Delhi’s infamously extreme weather. With the kind of ambience it has, Magique (it lives up to its name all right) didn’t have to try very hard with the cuisine: any old mish-mash would have passed muster. But that’s not what Sikka has earned his laurels for, so the food is Delhi’s only fusion restaurant. Isn’t that a concept that is past its sell-by date? It would seem so on the face of it, but one bite of just about anything on the menu will convince you that thus far, fusion was in the hands of novices.
There are dishes with a western orientation that may or may not have hints of other cuisines in them, and dishes from Asia that have western or Mexican touches. It is done out of a sense of playfulness and the breaking down of geographical and political borders. Perhaps because of the settings, Magique does not have a whit of pretentiousness: the food is just one element. Nature, the sense of isolation plus a large portion of romance are ingredients in a dinner here that you’ll probably notice much more than the Shiitake, Oyster and Cloud Ear Mushrooms and Asparagus with Brown Rice. As a corollary, don’t expect white-gloved service and do expect to be left alone: that’s what Magique is all about after all.
Best sellers: Soft shell crab with daikon mirin dip, Batter fried Calamari Rings with Garlic, Cayenne and Roasted Sesame Seeds. And the best Khao Swey in the city.
Provenance: Because of his wedding caterings, Sikka has the most jaw-dropping list of suppliers for everything from seafood (soft-shell crabs in a land-locked city) to flavourful fresh mangoes in winter. Little is free-range or organic
Go for starter or pud: Tough call, but in the end, the starters would win because they espouse Sikka’s philosophy of what Magiqueis trying to achieve. The desserts, gooey and chocolatey, are just that: great desserts, yet without the inimitable Magique touch. Take the soft as a baby’s kiss Squid Rings. Korean kochujang, the addictive chilli paste, is present as an undertone, in perfect consonance with Japanese soy and Chinese sesame dressing. The inspiration for this dish has come from no fewer than four countries on two continents, yet they co-exist harmoniously on your plate, whether you choose to eat them with cutlery or chopsticks. Khao Swey comes in three options: chicken, vegetables or seafood. Mild, subtle, packed with flavour and as authentic as a Burmese family recipe, it is served with noodles.
Insider tip: when booking, make sure you ask for a table near the mist fans in summer or the outdoor heaters in winter and come dressed appropriately. In summer, a tube of mosquito repellant is a good idea.
What to drink: A list of well-nigh unique martinis. All the fruit based ones are made of real fruit pulp. Only the elderflower martini and the Coffee Martini use no fruit pulp. In winter, hot toddies hit the spot. Made of cognac or whisky, they taste great and keep the cold at bay. The wine list is adequate: it is arranged according to grape variety and country of origin.
Details: Starters: Rs 300-650, main course Rs 625-1300