Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tasting Menu - Checking out the Michelin Pop-Up at JW Marriott With Ranveer Brar

The JW Marriott invited me to the Michelin pop up by Chef Laurent Peugeot at Mezzo Mezzo last week. Pop ups have become quite the thing in Mumbai. And I for one am happy. I’ve always loved the idea, they bring a welcome change, infusing favourite restaurants with fresh flavours and giving those like me, with a somewhat jaded palate something new and exciting to try. Of course the JW being the JW had to take this to another level and make it a Michelin Pop up!

JW Marriott has been at the forefront of bringing global flavours and the world’s finest chefs to Mumbai.  So it came as no surprise that they have taken the concept of Pop-ups to a new high with a Michelin level Pop up! They’ve partnered with 4XFOUR Singapore, an expert in pop up dining experiences and brought an ultimate Michelin dining experience to Mumbai to India for the first time. The first stint is underway. 
Goofing around - the fun side of the usually 'proper' Chef Brar! 
I accepted and to make things even more interesting asked my new favourite foodie friend Chef Ranveer Brar to join me. (We've been spending time together on a new project - I’ll share what we're cooking up soon! I love picking his brain on food and I wanted his perspective on this meal. (Of course his scintillating company as a dinner companion was an added bonus...!)

We were both especially intrigued by this menu because Chef Laurent has a very rare take on his food. He specializes in a unique fusion of French and Japanese cuisine. Both Japanese and French cuisines are so revered, each having evolved over centuries into strong identities that should be handled with respect, that we felt it would take a brave person to try combining them. But then who better than a Michelin Chef to do so?

Chef Laurent Peugeot is a 1 Michelin star Chef and one of France’s rising culinary stars, with a restaurant - Le Charlemagne - located at Pernand Vergelesses. Having grown up in Burgundy and spent 4 years in Japan, he certainly has the credentials to understand and innovate with the subtle nuances of both Japanese and traditional French cuisines. He was named the 'Best Young Chef of the Year' in 2007 by Gault Millau and obtained his first star Michelin in the same year. (The restaurant obtained its first Michelin star in 2006.)

We both picked the 8 course non-veg meal (And yes regretted that beef was banned because imagine a little Wagyu in there… ) But I digress… here is what we ate.

watermelon cube, ricotta, garlic clam, tomato water ravioli and marmalade olive oil
scallop, burned and marinated with sake soja, puree pumpkin, pomelo and takuan
langoustine (scampi), eggplant dengaku, crispy soja 3 years old
green asparagus , morel mushroom sabayon, britanny lobster
wild seabass, crispy scales with fondue white turnip and sesame broth
organic chicken breast, yuzu koshio, beetroot salt crusted, melted curry ball
strawberry, syrup of strawberry, espuma kapao (thai basil), sorbet rocket, cream cheese
white cube of maniquette pepper, liquid heart,  burnt miso

The first course was intriguing, with the crunchy watermelon and succulent clam juxtaposed with the tomato water ravioli - which was something new for me - dissolving in a burst of tomato on the tongue and the Marmalade olive oil caviar really popped with flavor. It certainly was an interesting start to a promising meal. After that each course brought a medley of interesting flavours and textures out on the palate. Ingredients beautifully cooked and perfectly poised on the plate and the palate. The seabass with the sesame broth got both of us excited with its lovely plating and the flavor of good toasted sesame oil. I LOVED the chicken dish with the perfectly cooked chicken, topped with a smidgen of yuzu koshio (wish there had been more) a Japanese condiment in which chili peppers, yuzu (Japanese citrus) peel and salt are made into a paste and allowed to ferment. I really liked this dish though I did feel that the Thai notes of the melted curry ball were too jarring and did not ring true on an otherwise lovely plate.
Such a pretty plate!

Where we both felt the menu truly excelled was with the desserts.  The first dessert was strawberries and olives with an aromatic rocket sorbet. This was the high point of the meal for Ranveer. He thought the combination really worked. I agreed. The rocket sorbet was phenomenal. I also loved Chef Laurent’s little gimmick of sprinkling yuzu zest on the outside of the glass the dessert came in (look closely and you willsee it in the picture). 70 % of taste is smell and this was a clever trick to cash in on that. I have filed it away for future use.

We were both also totally blown away by the burnt miso in the second dessert, the White cube of maniquette pepper with burnt miso was a soft centred white chocolate dessert enlivened by Maniquette pepper or grains of paradise and complimented with burnt Miso. I love grains of paradise,  they come from Cameroon and are a sort of cross between pepper and cardamom with a hauntingly spicy, hot but not too strong flavor. In this instance they brought a pleasant bite to cut through the which chocolate. That followed by the burnt miso was a memorable combination. The burnt Miso actually acquired a chocolaty note we could not get over. I suspect you will see one of us try that somewhere in time to come.

Ranveer was just commenting on how this was a great way for Indian food lovers to get a taste of Michelin level cuisine until Michelin starred restaurants opened in India when the very dapper Mr. Pavithran Nambiar, GM of JW Marriot stopped by to say hello. Pavithran has been at the forefront of many of the path breaking initiatives at JW and his excitement was palpable.  "We are very excited to bring this unique concept to Indian diners. Culinary innovation is our main focus at the hotel and this concept marks the beginning of a gastronomic revolution in the city. " We could not agree more.

It was a lovely meal for the most part. In retrospect however, I have one wish. I realized as I wrote this post that I wished for more stories with my meal. I would have liked to understand more about the choices Chef Laurent had made. Why did he chose the dishes on this menu? I wish the menu had reflected this a little more. And the thought behid the dishes themselves. Why combine the watermelon, clam and tomato ravioli? Was there a reason for the melted curry balls in the chicken dish? What made him put the zest on that glass? Or combine that burnt miso with the white chocolate? In all fairness we did meet him but there was a language barrier. So I wonder if perhaps the team at J W Marriot might want to get the stories behind the menu selections from the chefs and share them on the menu so diners could get more insight on how the chef thinks. After all a Michelin Chef is an artist, and one would like to understand how he thinks so one can appreciate his art better.

In case you missed Chef Laurent then you have another chance at trying a Michelin starred dining experience. From today till 19th April Chef Giovanni D’amato of Ristorante Il Rigoletto – Italy (2 Michelin Stars) takes over at Mezzo Mezzo with traditional Italian cuisine to Italian fare fans in Mumbai.  Pricing: INR 7,000/- per person plus taxes. Book your table on or call 022 66933344/ 9594117774 (From 9 am to 8 pm) for inquiries.

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