Chef Hemant Oberoi needs no introduction. Not only, is he, famous as the former Grand Executive Chef of the Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai Hotel, but also, as the hero who put himself above the line of service on 26/11 to save many lives. A historical event, recently been captured in the reel, where Anupam Kher plays the role of the Chef and is heard saying, “I am just a reel hero. He is a real hero.” In culinary matters, Chef Hemant Oberoi’s legendary food tales are applauded worldwide, which includes the list of the world’s ‘most-powerful’ people, who eagerly look forward to surrendering their tastebuds to HO’s quintessential food fantasies. More so, at his hallmark restaurant in BKC which supersedes Chef Oberoi’s 35-years of a long-prevailing gastronomic journey with Taj Hotels.
Walking inside the Hemant Oberoi restaurant is like wending your way into a sophisticated dream-laden old world charm. Whether it be, the expanded ceiling adorned with chandeliers emancipating freedom, or, the compact dream menu that allows one to relish the refined global culinary fare.
Moreover, spanning across 3000+ sq.ft. HO is a one-of-its-kind in India, ushering with floor-to-ceiling windows, stunning sombre lighting, contemporary wood panelling, pristine table arrangement and vast spaciousness accompanied by the warmth of the waitstaff. Besides, the piquant shades of deep red, black, royal blue and gold jive well with the formal dining area, perfectly designed to elevate one’s mood and appetite.
Similarly, the revolutionary-menu of HO boasts an ‘exquisite’ range of delicacies, and each has a story of its own. I was delighted to savour an exclusively-curated menu on 06th-June, which, unveiled to me the refined cooking skills of a class-apart kitchen. May it be, the cooking, the flavours, or the plating, HO offers an unsurpassed gastronomy tour to food connoisseurs. Before we could get the taste of a gourmet 7-course meal, a brief conversation with Chef Oberoi revealed his love for the Peruvian and the European spices. Although, the refined taste only comes into action after the dishes are prepared by utilising unique methods of cooking. Expect ingredients comprising of exotic vivers from Peru, Japan, Holland, Miso and other parts of the world.
Our 7-course meal got off the ground with a deliciously-refreshing first-course that presented itself with an idiosyncratic panache. My eyes twinkled with joy as the dish called Perushi on Chairs was placed before me. Perushi on chairs, is Sushi, with a Peruvian touch! A signature dish curated by Chef Hemant Oberoi, essentially featuring the not-so-sticky vinegar-ed rice rolled with avocado, sesame (Black & White) and Peruvian spices. Furthermore, the Perushi is garnished, with a slice of red Peruvian bell pepper, and altogether, the Sushi is plated, on miniature ‘chair-table’ cutlery set in ceramic, along with, a fun-size soy sauce flask and a wasabi coaster. To give it a culinary whirl, Chef Oberoi made sure to add edible, set of carrot-leather cushions to the chair. The Sushi, however, gets its flavours from Amarillo aioli, black sesame, Peruvian pepper and the Julienne radish. Like a food critic once rightly said, “It’s hard to decide whether you want to play house or pop that picturesque morsel into your mouth.”
The second course, to arrive on the table, was the delicate “White Fish Amarillo Carpaccio,” a low-carb, low-fat, and protein-packed preparation. This fresh Sea Bass (White Fish) was sliced ultra thin and layered with Peruvian bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, Amarillo radish and European herbs. The star, however, was the centrepiece; a baked parmesan crisp roll, firmly grasping fresh purple lettuce. In fine the Carpaccio was lightly-drizzled with olive oil, a creamy leek and spicy citrus vinaigrette. A kinetic combination, I’d say! While the parmesan with lettuce knocks up the salad-ish flavours, the mouth-melting slices of fish, on the other hand, evince a flavoursome blend of acidic juice and European spices. The Bell pepper and radish effortlessly balance the sweetness and the spiciness. This tender bite, in my opinion, is a marvellous brunch (or dinner) addition that, not only, feels complex on the plate, but also, on the tongue.
Next up, was the Brie and Truffle Soufflé, Chef Oberoi’s signature entree with a dramatic presentation. Light, aromatic and airy, this truffle Soufflé was a French dream served on a plate. But, it’s how they brought it to the table, is what makes the dining experience fascinating in the first place. I remember getting all keyed up, as the wait-staff walked up to our table with a set of bell-shaped ceramic cloches. In a dramatic fashion, they slowly lifted the cloche cover to unveil the rounded Brie and Truffle, rooted on the plate like a full circle of life. Except, we couldn’t wait to taste it. As we expected, this delicious delight was a creamy treat that allowed us to relish both Brie and Truffle without overpowering our tastebuds.
Fourth in line was the “Edamame & Chestnut Dumpling,” served to us on a bed of asparagus, generously sprinkled with a dressing of mustard-mayo and black sesame seeds. This hearty dish added a fascinating dimension to the dumpling served on the podgy stems of fresh asparagus. This dish was so fresh, so delicate underneath, so beautiful that I almost cried!
After a bit of Peruvian, the focus shifted to authentic Italian with the fifth-course. Chef Oberoi has nailed the “Cry-O-Pac 3-Mushroom Ravioli,” an entree which contains Button, Portobello and Shiitake Mushrooms from Europe, North America and East Asia. This unique preparation requires the ravioli to be packed airtight in a tin and then steam it. That allows for the flavours and the nutrients to remain intact, and what more, the waitstaff even opens the tin in front of you.
After placing the Ravioli on the plate, it is further, drizzled with a glistening pour of truffle oil, a soupçon of roasted oats and black Périgord truffle. What can I say, except, from the first bite until the last, the persistent aromatic-rich texture had me floored.
As, for the main course, I and my dining companion, were served “Martabaan Ka Meat,” which is a pickling pot lamb curry, served with Truffle Naan. At HO, the generous use of truffle essence, is evident, despite it being a rare and extremely-expensive ingredient. Well, what better way to impress your guests with a rich, new taste, right? Coming back to the curry, the “Martabaan Ka Meat,” was served right out of an earthenware pickling pot, with aromas pouring on the plate.
To make this curry stand out, Chef Oberoi ingeniously used a custom-made pickling pot which, absorbs heat and allows the lamb to soak-in the pickled flavours in a natural manner. While, the ‘intrinsically pickled,’ flavours variegate, from mango to spicy Italian pickled peppers, the delectable truffle Naans to go with it is what makes this tang curry, taste even more heavenly!
The 7-course gourmet fest concluded with the World’s most delicious desserts, namely, Three Milk Parfait and Bird’s Nest. The Three Milk Parfait, like a milky-bar, is a frozen dessert except this one is prepared using three disparate kinds of milk. Although, its served with a crunchy topping of salted caramelised popcorn and elegant edible flowers that add an urban panache to the smooth texture of the caramelised dessert.
The Bird’s Nest, on the other hand, is a creatively curated dessert boasting 3-contrasting chocolate eggs placed inside a stunning sugar spun nest. Inspired by the whispers of the Kashmir, this exquisite dessert gets adventurous when the waitstaff requests you to guess the egg containing the Indian dessert. (Spoiler alert: It’s the white one) The other two are eggs stuffed with gooey, dark chocolate and caramel.
Right from the first course to the last, the aesthetics and contemporary flavours of the delicacies divulged us into a state of perplexity; compelling us to give in to the temptation of savouring the exotic flavours and get curious about the elaborate cooking techniques. Each dish left us equally dazzled, and more so, nostalgic with the classic creations. While the food was ‘certainly’ the bigwig at HO, the scintillating Whiskey Sour and HO-T from the bar menu is what made the experience wholesome.
It’s impossible, to not get, mystified by Chef Oberoi’s culinary skills that gyrate even the simple of ingredients into legendary levels of luxurious dining. Unsurpassed culinary finesse, indeed! Can’t wait to return for more.