What: New Menu at Above Sea Level
Where: The Raintree, St Mary's Road, Alwarpet, Chennai
Cuisine: Continental, North Indian, Mughlai, Seafood
Open only for dinner (7 - 11 PM)
The metro city blooms with restaurants but only a few shine through their food. There are a few that never survives the food war and there are some that gloriously rise from the ash. Yet there are only countable number of fine dining destinations that continue to interest their diners with different food variants.
The new era food technique that is gaining momentum after Heston Blumenthal presence in the ever-famous television show MasterChef Australia is Molecular Gastronomy. The scientific principle put forth in the preparation of food appeals all the senses especially sight and taste. My dream to visit Fat Duck is at a far reach now so the best option to experience food-science is via the ventures in my city. And the new menu at Above Sea Level (ASL) crafted by Chef Deepak Dandge takes you on a roller coaster ride to please your senses.
The chef curated appetisers and desserts for the tasting whereas the main course was left to my choice. As the crispy bread slices and chilled mocktail helped to kill time, the food finally started ramp on the table. The first two dishes to decorate the table were Avocado and Truffle Crisp and Yogurt Papadi "Molecular" Mint Foam, Pomegranate. The avocado and truffle stuffed puri looked like golgappa whereas the taste was nothing alike. The overpowering bitterness from avocado did letdown the dish as well as it was less on salt. As the pebble alike yogurt stood firmly on the papadi, I grabbed a bite and it tasted good but I personally prefer crispier papadi with extra dash of yogurt. The yogurt looked more like a mini-wobbly pannacotta so I wasn't sure about the foam part as specified in the dish name.
I was shocked for a moment when I saw foam on my plate of idli. I like playing with foam but I wasn't ready to eat the same. As the Chef was curiously awaiting my reaction I gulped a piece of "Air" Podi Idli, Sambhar Foam. The surprise was indeed pleasant as the taste impressed instead of shocking me. The flavour burst reminded me a bowl of 'mini ghee-sambhar podi idli" and created a taste ride which was really commendable.
|Podi Idly, Sambhar Foam|
The guess game of what is what became intense as the next plate arrived. A spoon that holds some curd with thadka (Indian tempering), little pieces of appalam and foam was put before me, this dish is Curd Rice "Molecular" appalams, Mango Pickle Foam. Yes, the foam was mango pickle. You got to eat the foam immediately else they start to evaporate leaving behind no taste. They mentioned that there is rice but I couldn't taste any and it was more like a spoon of curd with thadka, appalam and pickle foam. Though the effort is brilliant I wasn't impressed in terms of taste.
And next to taste was "Masala Bao, Spicy Vegetables, Banana Crisps"; inspired from vada pav this mini burgers had a spicy and tasty filling in the middle whereas the buns were hard in texture. The banana crisps were added to the dish to cut down the slimy aftertaste left by the filling and it proved to be a good addition.
As the plate with chicken and gulab jamun arrived I was perplexed; thoughts made my brain busy as I was hoping for atleast a main course before dessert. The ever-smiling chef asked me to try the gulab jamun as a single piece instead of breaking it down. As I starting chewing, the hit of rasam completely overtook the taste senses. And slowly the rasam taste faded away bringing along the sweetness from the mava (khoya). The "Rasam Vada" ASL way left me awestruck in terms of taste and made me appreciate the chef for bringing in the intricate flavours of rasam in a small deep-fried ball; though it doesn't exactly match the classic dish the taste is almost nailed.
The stuffed fried chicken (Murgh-e-Shauqat) is cooked well. The taste of crispy outer layer and creamy stuffing inside the chicken was yum.
|Chicken & Rasam Vada|
This is one dish that was nailed to perfection. The taste was mind-blowing and the texture of beetroot kebab with chilli mayo and paratha melts in your mouth and brings joy. Chatpate Chukundar ke Kebab on Ulte Tawa ke Paratha is a worthy vegetarian competitor for Galouti kebab. Serving palate cleanser in-between the courses is a great thought. The strawberry-yogurt palate cleanser refreshes and sets you ready for next course.
As the main course was left to my choice I went with "Vegetable Risotto, Coconut Foam, Coriander Dust, Spicy Parmesan Cheese Straw". After appetisers I was little curious about the foam part and that reflected in my selection. The essence from the coconut foam and the cheesy vegetable risotto reminded my South Indian favourite 'Avial'; I wasn't sure if the chef intended to bring across those flavours but the look and choice of ingredients made me think so. Also the addition of crisps (appalam) made the feeling stronger. Coming to taste, I am sure I liked it but I would prefer infusion of more flavour as that would cut down the richness as well as make me go back to the dish.
I was anxious to taste two specific desserts and the chefs choice surprisingly matched mine. I didn't lick but cleaned off the ASL mud pot; it is a tiramisu that is packed with layers of flavour and texture. The cake, tempered chocolate, mascarpone cheese and sugar crystals is a delight to taste. It was interesting to learn the complex process involved behind the fancy plate of "Biscuit Cheese Cake". "Cheesy" would be my single word description about the dish, the crispy vermicelli and sugar crystal helps to cut down the creaminess of the cheesecake. Personally I wasn't fond of the cheesecake taste.
The new menu showcases some unique food techniques, (note: not every dish involves inspiration from molecular gastronomy but a good number of them). which did interest me in terms of thought process, making and taste. Don't envision a jaw-dropping or smoky experience as I say 'Molecular Gastronomy'. This is more of a treat to your taste buds then to your vision.
Breaking Down Points
Location & Parking: At the Alwarpet Raintree hotels that's pretty easy to locate with valet parking.
Ambience: Positive. The serene Buddha statue along the pool side with breezy roof-top locale is eye-soothing.
Food Variety: Positive. I have not tried their old menu so the new one did interest me. The minimal dish count with ample vegetarian and non-vegetarian variety adds to their pros.
Taste: Undoubtedly the effort is brilliant and it shall impress the diners but there were glitches in texture and taste. As the prime aim is to create a gastronomic experience via taste, it would be perfect if they nail the flavours they put on the plate.
Quality & Quantity: NA. The food quantity and presentation is different as it was a tasting session. Quality wise no complaints.
Service: Positive. Top-notch and they genuinely welcome feedback.
Price: NA. A meal for two would cost Rs.3500 INR (plus taxes) approx.
So my Verdict!
Above Sea Level at The Raintree Chennai is presenting their diners with new menu. The technique and concept shows through in the plate and food but finessing the taste would make the ideas a success. If you are someone who loves experimenting then it's perfect for you but go with a open mind. ASL food magic!!
For Reservations call +91 44 30853751
P.S. On-the-house bloggers meet for tasting session of the new menu at Above Sea Level, The Raintree, Alwarpet, Chennai. Remember, no two person's palate can be same.
New Menu at Above Sea Level, The Raintree St. Mary's Road, Chennai Reviewed by Divya Srinivasan on 02:38 Rating: