Everywhere you look nowadays, there’s a new eatery. There’re food trends, organic produce, coffee ‘satsangs’, flash feasting. But we can see why it may not be easy to trust the newest ‘it’-standalone-pop-up-hot-mess! Five star hotel restaurants are attempting to reclaim some of that atmosphere of adventure and culinary savoir-faire by hosting chefs from across the world for brief spells. And introducing us to singular regional fares.
Cilantro, at the rather spectacular Trident in Gurgaon, is one such establishment. The award winning all-day dining restaurant, with the striking crimson and gold dome, has been treading the fine line, buying into mason-jar mania, whilst maintaining high standards of quality. It recently welcomed Chefs Fabrizzio Renda and Pintonello Silvano from the renowned Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, for celebrating Swiss cuisine.
Little is known in India of Swiss cuisine. But in truth Swiss cooking comes highly influenced by French, German and Italian cuisines. In that way, we’re all fairly familiar with the style of cooking. So when the Pizzoccheri appeared – a kind of flat buckwheat pasta and in this case, prepared with potato, haricot vert, spinach and cheese – it was like seeing your old car with a new paint job, familiar, yet fascinating.
The next course was a deep, gritty polenta dish topped with Swiss cheese fondue and gratinated. Its unusual cornmeal-buckwheat composition provided the texture that had us revisiting polenta with fondness, the addition of black truffle making it a crowd hit. Our next, a hearty barley soup, Chef Sandeep Kalra explained, had been done Grison style, which essentially has to do with the Milano salami topping.
While the two visiting Chefs made their presence felt by way of sumptuous, home-style cooking, Sandeep Kalra, Executive Chef at Trident, is the one who took us through the Swiss’ culinary quirks and traditions. He described how their Rösti – a kind of potato pancake – is prepared, instead of parboiled and grated potatoes, with the spuds grated and pan-fried directly. The skipping of parboiling lends a charred exterior and moist interior to the rösti.
We had ours as a side with very interesting minced chicken patties or ‘pojarski’, slightly gamey but with bread mixed in. Sadly, fondue-lore turned out better than the actual dish- the Swiss, they say, draw figures of eight each time they dip into the fondue pot, for kicks and consistent heating. But try as we might, we couldn’t keep the mixture from separating. Apparently, one also kisses their neighbor if they lose a dipper (to cope with the loss of accompaniments?)
The drinks list at Cilantro, while in no obvious way Swiss, is a lot of fresh fruit concoctions. There’s also a deconstructed Negroni! But we relinquished that upon an offer of one ‘Negroski’, which was a similar potion done in vodka and barrel-aged for 3 months. They also do these smoked drinks that are as theatrical as they’re delicious; our dessert platter of light-as-air Apple Strudel and dense, slightly dark Swiss chocolate mousse with mixed berries for tartness, was washed down in equal parts, with a Smoked Sidecar and Smoked Old Fashioned.
Disclaimer: The author was a guest of the restaurant and served tasting portions.
Swiss Cuisine Promotion at Cilantro, was between 26th October and 6th November 2015 at the Trident, Gurgaon.