Winter meals beckon at Fire in The Park

My husband once told me about his first encounter with chiku, or shobedaa, as we Bengalis call the brown fruit. He was barely five and was visiting an aunt with his parents. The old lady suggested the little boy eats healthy and handed him a big juicy chiku. The mister was stumped by the gesture, thinking that he was asked to eat a rotten potato. Sneaking out to the balcony he promptly hurled the fruit away.
I had found the anecdote amusing. But on a serious note, considering the constraints the fruit has, can we blame the unsuspecting child for doing what he did back then. It looks dull, has a distinct taste, and, if not ripe, juicy or grainy enough, I doubt whether anyone would think of consuming it. The essence is also singularly unimaginative.
Or so I thought. This Monday I was proved wrong when I tasted a Chiku cheese cake that turned the tables on every notion of mine regarding the fruit. Soft and chiku flavoured cream on top of a fluffy cake, the dessert was garnished with the fruit pulp. After having the second bite (to reassure myself of the clever spin) I looked up at executive chef Abhishek Basu and said, “This is a masterpiece in restraint!”
I like meals that rustle up memories. Monday’s lunch at Fire in The Park was just that. Of great food, memories and more. Sitting before food that brought together the robust aromas of various parts of India, organic goodness and the best of seasonal fruits and vegetables, it also initiated conversations about what we ate at our grandmother’s and romantic dates. Now that is a meal worth remembering.
Curated by the ever-happy Chef Basu, Fire has been making the right noise for serving diverse cuisines of India prepared with fresh organic ingredients sourced directly from suppliers and artisans. We have seen how the kitchen team grows its own microgreens in the hotel premises, an initiative that negates the involvement of unscrupulous middlemen. All this would have been tall talk if we didn’t have the food to vouch for all the healthy claims. The winter menu is gorgeous, if I can use that word. It includes dishes right from the North-East to the South and showcases the beautiful diversity that Indian Cuisine has to offer. Prepared with love and a whole gamut of spices to give each and every mouthful a memorable flavour.
As much as I detest the chill, I do agree that winter is all about fresh crunchy greens and a huge spread of vegetables. The menu celebrates that. We started off with Manipur’s Singju Salad where I could distinctly taste roasted gram flour. While the authentic salad would throw in the pungent dry fish with the cabbage, lotus stem, coriander, crispy pigeon peas, perilla seeds, fermented capers and basil syrup dressing, I didn’t mind it because not all of us that brook that kind of pungency. And believe me when I tell you from the perspective of a woman married to a hardcore Shutki lover (the mister is from East Bengal), that smell could be pretty attacking!
Chilly afternoons call for warm broths and steaming soups. We were served hot Poondu Rasam from Tamil Nadu, a delectable garlic and tomato soup flavoured with tamarind, curry leaves and back pepper. It comforted me. But I reserve the points for the crispy bruschetta that accompanied it. Baby tomatoes drizzled with butter and olive oil never tasted this good.
The kebab platter had the traditional Hyderabadi lukhmi kebab (baked parcels of Nizami mutton mince), Kashmiri tujji chicken, papad crusted chukandar aur nariyal ke kebab and gulnar ki tikki. Delicious every morsel, though I preferred the chicken kebab and the gulnar ki tikki (a direct derivative from the northern valleys, figs, walnuts, paneer, popped amaranth, kale powder and tomatoes come together to form a subtle celebration of texture and flavour).
The good part is that the spices have not been tempered. So, you will not feel that the dishes are toned down or anglicised. Which is good, isn’t it? Because we Indians love our spices.
The main course was a riot of colour and taste, placed before us on a spectacular thali. The high points for me were the Malabar fish curry (where Chef used river sole) because of the immaculate marriage of raw mango and coconut milk, Nalli Nihari (the iconic old Delhi’s slow cooked mutton) and the Bhatt ki Chudkani (regional speciality of Uttarakhand with black soybean). Topped with a dollop of ghee, this dal warmed the cockles of my heart.
The panch phoron tadka of ganth gobi, shalgam and gajar reminded me of the vegetable subzi we have at home with puffed puris for Sunday breakfasts. The winter menu keeps these nostalgic touches in mind…
Sometimes, in the process of showcasing his culinary skills, a chef misses the comforting touch. What is good food if it doesn’t comfort you from within? Or, dips into nostalgia? If it doesn’t take you back to sunny afternoons basking in the balmy January sun sipping filter coffee. Chef Basu isn’t like that…
Maybe, that is why his ingenuity included sending out the Udipi coffee and chocolate fondant in a filter coffee mug, decorated with coffee beans. So that, while you tuck into the delicious chocolate dessert, you travel back to the fuss-free days of childhood. Before, moving on to the heavenly Chiku cheese cake that is…

At: Fire, The Park New Delhi.
Phone: (011) 2374 3000



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