Saturday, February 8, 2014

In a league of his own-Abhijit Saha

-Shivani Mohan 
Abhijit Saha

Chef Abhijit Saha, of Caperberry and Fava fame, has many laurels to his credit. Extremely down to earth, polite and committed, I have seen his growth over the years. We started our careers at the same restaurant many years ago-The Orient Express-the iconic French eatery at Taj Palace, New Delhi. A few years senior to me, he was the sweet chef and colleague who happened to be the most well-behaved and ever smiling chefs in the kitchen, while I was managing the fore-front in F & B Service. Working with Abhijit was always a stress-free experience. While most chefs liked to be hot tempered or let out some expletives or abuses once in a while, kitchens being a highly charged up, 'masculine' department in hotels, Abhijit was gentle but in control, Bengali to a fault in his refined language at work and he never said no if we begged for that cheese soufflé for ourselves at the end of a tiring evening!
When Abhijit Saha setup Caperberry, it featured a cuisine very few people were familiar with, but with his passion and dedication he has brought the restaurant to the stage where we can safely call him a pioneer in Indian Food Service business,’ wrote Kripal Amanna, Publisher and Manager Editor of Food Lovers Magazine when DNA Newspaper honoured him as one of the ‘50 Most Influential Persons’ of Bangalore. Abhijit Saha is the Founder, Director and Chef of Avant Garde Hospitality Pvt Ltd which owns and operates two critically acclaimed premium restaurants in Bangalore-Caperberry and Fava.
Caperberry, the premiere restaurant of Chef Saha as an Entrepreneur, provokes multiple senses and has won the ‘Best Independent Restaurant in India’ at the Time Out Food Awards, November 2011-12.  Innovation, premium quality and attention to detail are the essential guiding principles of Caperberry, a world-class restaurant that showcases Modern European Cuisine with elements of molecular gastronomy. This is an interview I did with Abhijit in 2009, when Caperberry was just 7 months old:  

1.      What is the latest addition to your menu?

At Caperberry we have a 6 course vegetarian and a non- vegetarian tasting menu that change every month. For the month of October we have twelve new dishes inspired by Scottish cuisine and interpreted in Caperberry signature style. They are:

Gilouti flavoured smoked baby lamb shoulder with quinoa risotto
  • Scotch Rarebit
  • Scottish smoked salmon and caper scones
  • Scottish carrot and fennel SOUP
  • Cauliflower velvet with chicken and curry leaf oil
  • Ayrshire potato salad deconstruction - roasted potatoes, onion, truffle, green pea gazpacho and beet foam
  • Grilled ‘Whisky Mac’ scampi with avocado salad
  • Pan grilled silken tofu with roasted pepper and basil
  • Oat meal crusted Scottish salmon with sautéed mushroom and whisky sabayon
  • Tomato confit, mint and goat cheese tart with whisky-saffron beurre-blanc
  • Shepherd pie reconstituted - slow braised lamb leg, feuilletage of baby onion, potato and sun-dried tomato and whisky jus
  • Raspberry cranachan, whisky flavoured chocolate fudge and fig ice cream
  • Tome de savoie, English cheddar and with tea pot de crème and cornichons

2.      The hottest selling item on your menu.

  • Deconstruction of salad caprese - tomato basil sorbet, orange balsamic jelly and liquid centred mozzarella spheres.
  • Cyro Espuma; Chocolate-raspberry Monte Carlo with gold leaf

3.      One dish you are extremely proud of creating.

I would like to mention a couple of them at least

Three Melons
  • Roasted Roger Langbour Duck breast and duck confit with citrus salad and pomegranate sauce.
  • Three styles of Gazpacho - cucumber and basil;; grape and almond ; tomato and red wine

4.      Which is the oldest dish on your menu?

We have been only open for seven months. All dishes in our a la carte menu are as old.

5.      Most expensive dish on the menu?

Butter poached lobster with shrimp cappellaci, artichoke barigoule and spiced foam

6.      Name some celebrities who frequent your restaurant? Their favourite dishes?

Nandan Nilekani (Ex CEO Infosys, Current Chairman - UIDAI) - pancetta wrapped crumb fried prawns

Vijay Kirloskar-(Chairman, Kirloskar Electric) – Mint and red wine marinated grilled lamb chops

Vasundhara Das (Singer) - Salad of fresh figs, Manchego and assorted greens.

7.      The dish on your menu that gives the most value for money.

Grilled Rawas with leeks tapenade and garlic foam
Grilled scallops with green beans, ricotta stuffed morels and lemon oil

8.      The best thing about being a chef

The power to make people happy

9.      The worst thing about being a chef.

Limited time for self and family

10.  The best home cooked dish you enjoy. Who makes it?

Yakhni pulao (Rice cooked with whole spices, chicken and vegetables) – By my wife Shruti and Pati Shapta (Coconut filled crepes)- by my mother

11.  If you were not a chef, what would you have been? And why?

Creative director of an Advertisement company

12.  One chef you really admire and look upto?

Chef Thomas Kellar & Chef Feran Adria

13.  What’s the USP of your restaurant?

At ‘Caperberry’ it is my endeavour to bring in the highest quality of international dining experience into India. I have created a cuisine that is a blend of culinary science, culinary arts and culinary artistry, served in a chic ambience by a team of well trained service personnel.  Elements of surprise blended with elegantly presented dishes is the USP of Caperberry

14.  What do you like about the city you are in-Bangalore?

The wonderful moderate weather and great cosmopolitan mix of people from different parts of India and the world.

15.  One guest you wish to be able to create a dish for. Who would that be? And what would you serve him/her?

It would be an honour to create a dish for our Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. I would probably be a light vegetarian dish inspired by molecular gastronomy
16. How was your recent trip to Dubai. What were some of the good food experiences you would recommend in Dubai?

Chef Abhijit Saha with Gary Mehigan and wife Shruti Saha
My 3 day visit to Dubai with my wife last month was a wonderful experience. The purpose was a mix of tourism and gastronomic. I stayed at Atlantis, The Palm and every thing about the hotel was truly grand. I was amazed to see that such an enormous hotel built on a man made island. The Aquaventure and the Dolphin Bay and The Los Chambers were great and we had a great time experiencing them.

The highlight of our stay at the Atlantis had to be its wide array of Food and Beverage offerings. All meals including the lavish breakfast at Saffron and the special iftar dinner were fantastic. The crème de la crème was the tasting menu dinner at Ossiano the seafood restaurant by Chef Santi Santamaria which i would rate as one of the top 5 meals of my life.

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