Imagine the sheer fun of dipping into a bowl of tomato soup swimming not just with croutons but also a scoop of icy orange sorbet; or a thimble-full of hot chocolate warm and deep and comforting enough to validate JK Rowling’s claim that chocolate can combat a Dementor’s kiss.
These are the dishes that bookended our pre-opening lunch at 36 Oak & Barley, a new all-day restaurant that launches in place of East at Kemps Corner next week, and embody the current of culinary adventure that runs through most of the menu here.
Biting Into the Big Apple
Presided over by chef Nachiket Shetye (who also ran East), the food at 36 Oak & Barley reminds us of Friend of a Farmer, a restaurant in New York that Chef Shetye and this Scouter have often reminisced about (disclaimer: Chef Shetye is a friend, and knew we were there – anonymous review out next week!). 36 Oak & Barley has a similar focus on fresh ingredients, on serving meals that are simple yet innovative. This ethos is reflected not only in cuisine but also cocktails, boozy, bright concoctions made from freshly peeled pomegranates and sliced apples, vodka and whiskey. We were particularly blown away by a mix of olives, gherkins, jalapenos and vodka that tasted like pickle in a martini glass. Oh, dear!
The same focus on fresh we found in a tangle of calamari bathed its own broth, fishy and richly sour; in glistening, woodsy shitake dumplings; in an outrageous melding of macaroni, parmesan shavings and black truffles; in a warm salad of zucchini and lightly stewed tomatoes that we could eat for lunch every day. It is less successful, however, in asparagus-and-phylo squares that manage to be bland and bitter at the same time or a chicken entrée with too-salty sauce and too-bland potatoes.
We also enjoyed two-cheddar fondue that comes with sides of chopped tomatoes, chillies, onions and the crunchiest, airiest bread ever; and a colourful dish of couscous, chickpeas and ratatouille that reminded us of a meal we had on a cold, smoky night in Egypt. Those pleased by cheese should also try cottage cheese steak, pillows of paneer cut through with flavored cream cheese and topped with a sprinkle of Parmesan.
Along with the above mentioned hot chocolate, for dessert we sampled spoonfuls of silky panna cotta, served with thick strawberry sauce and topped with tapioca, as well as fruit jelly with custard that made us grin like a bunch of kids.
Unlike Friend of a Farmer, which looks like a rustic barn house, 36 Oak and Barley is a futurist, industrial space with angular, translucent seating, exposed ducts and even flat screen TVs playing Vicky Christina Barcelona and Roman Holiday in the restrooms. The décor is maroon and black, which, despite large windows, makes the interiors feel dark for an all day restaurant.
There’s plenty of sun, light and other good stuff in the food, though.
Getting there: 76 Nidhi, August Kranti Marg, Off Kemps Corner, approximately Rs 1,750 per head with one cocktail, opens on January 24.
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