To eat scallop carpaccio on a rainy night with a view of the beach is one thing, but to experience it with a rocker-rebel-handsome Michelin star chef, who welcomes you with a light kiss on the hand, is something else.
This is how it began, the tasting table at Chef Sergi Arola’s newly opened tapas and Catalan restaurant Arola at JW Marriott Hotel. One of those rare occasions when we picked the chef’s table over the anonymous review for a conversation with the visiting Spaniard and really, can you blame us?
Inside: Djinn & Tonic
An isolated lounge at the other side of Mezzo Mezzo, Arola (seats about 70) features comfortingly dark wood floors and panelling, trendy chairs and geometric lattice work screens that separate a sea-facing terrace from the tables inside. But the better view is from the glowing crescent moon-shaped bar that overlooks a wall where bottles of gin are arranged in grooves with an almost mathematical neatness. Here, you can choose from about 31 brands of gin; chef Sergi recommends having what most Catalans and Spaniards love with their tapas—a good ol’ fashioned gin and tonic. There’s also a mad bunch of cocktails, Spanish beer, wine from around the world and regular spirits.
We started with the Sangre de torro, Sergi’s signature red wine sangria served in a sleek tumbler glass, nicely boozy and not too sweet - just the way we like it. The preferred red for the night however, was the cool gazpacho (tomato-based soup, usually served cold) served in a miniature matka, fresh and lump-free.
Our meal started with two types of tomato salad (one with salted tuna cubes, the other with olives and onion rings) and a smoky eggplant one. All three were refreshingly uncomplicated – the “complexity of simplicity” that Sergi loves – but not something we’d specially order on a second visit. Next came Sergi’s desi speciality - tomato paste spread over a naan (in Spain this is substituted with another kind of bread) with a half garlic clove, salt and a few drops of olive oil. It may be desi inspired but don’t expect a spiced up dish.
Somewhere between the naan and the night’s end, we learned that chef Sergi’s studied English only through his travels (he speaks French and Spanish), he loves French wine and Indian Basmati rice, turns vegetarian on Tuesdays, and lets his wife rule the kitchen back home in Madrid.
Then with fingers still sore from attempting to play a sitar the night before, he proceeded to serve us yum blue cheese croquettes and patatas bravas. The former, was like a classier version of cheese balls and the deep-fried mini potato cylinders were topped with creamy aioli and filled with chilli sauce. The scallop carpaccio was stunning, featuring diverse ingredients - sweet mango and passion fruit sauce, chopped red chillies and olive oil – that had decided to get along for our sake.
If you’re looking for fresh, get the prawns (gambas) flavoured with parsley and garlic. The risotto of carnaroli rice with cheese and artichokes was surprisingly light and tasty, but not the best dish of the night.
The meal ended with must-go-back-for Crema Catalan, which is basically Spanish crème brulee, dusted with cinnamon and served with orange-flavoured cream and cooked cookie flan at the bottom. Cookies and cream in a whole new avatar!
Arola coaster ride?
Reserve a table at Arola keeping a few things in mind: your meal will be pricey; they don’t serve paella; don’t expect Indian cuisine spice levels; and the chef’s signature dishes like patatas bravas and the gambas must be tried. Along with a tall order of a gin, of course.
Getting there: Arola, lobby level, JW Marriott hotel, Juhu, call 66933000, open 5pm to 1am, dishes start at Rs 595.
|< Prev||Next >|