Traditional techniques for innovative fare

Traditional techniques for innovative fare

Arth, a new Khar restaurant forgoes a gas connection to make food the old-school Indian way

As far as food trends go, it often seems like Indians are ahead of the curve. Turmeric and moringa are just two ingredients that have recently been discovered by the West, but they’ve been a subcontinental staple for generations, passed down through families.

A recent trend has been the forgoing of gas connections at restaurants around the world, so that chefs can rediscover traditional ways of cooking — like smoky barbecues or charred grills. Closer home, Arth a new Indian restaurant in Khar has followed suit and is instead using traditional Indian techniques and implements (coal and fire cooking, and a generous use of the tandoor) to churn out kebabs and more. And coming soon is a sand pit so that fish and meats can be slow-cooked.

The Aalia Hospitality restaurant has been helmed by chef Amninder Sandhu, formerly of the Taj Lands End eatery, Masala Bay. It’s taken over the space formerly occupied by Sanchos in Bandra. “I take immense pride in Indian cuisine and traditional recipes inspire me,” says Sandhu about her decision to forgo a gas connection. “Cooking on charcoal-fired angeethis, chulhas and a sand pit form an integral part of traditional Indian cooking. Every time I researched a traditional recipe I came across cooking on charcoal — this used to be done because of charcoal's even, slow cooking properties.” The technique had therefore been on Sandhu’s mind for a long time until she realised one day that the ultimate way to cook traditional Indian food is to do so only on charcoal or wood. “This is why I decided to have a gas-free kitchen,” she beams.

For the most part, you wouldn’t know the difference between innovative vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes being churned out at the bi-level bar and restaurant. And if you’re looking to take the hassle out of ordering, the Arth thaal is a great way to sample an array of options at a fixed price. Serving four people, the non-veg variant is priced at ₹1,800 per head, while the vegetarian option is ₹1,200. It includes dishes like rhododendron seekh kebabs, made out of the flowering plant that replicates the texture of meat and melts in your mouth like its Kakori counterpart. The food, inspired by places all over India, features dishes like litti chokha served alongside pepper crab with appams.

The expansive ground floor features a white and gold bar, which reminds us of a gaudier Shatranj Napoli or a Bollywood star’s living room (after all, the interiors of the restaurant are by Gauri Khan). Here, you can sample from a small selection of house cocktails, and an extensive array of sprits and beers. The drinks too showcase local produce, some using ingredients like marigold flowers and Assam tea.

If there’s one quibble when it comes to the food, it’s the reliance on Instagram-baiting theatrics like over-the-top tactics of serving food on wooden logs and smoke-filled glass dishes which could have been avoided. For the most part, the food can hold its own whether it be shareable bites downstairs or a meal upstairs looking out at the open kitchen. Sandhu is sourcing her produce from all over the country, and takes pride in reinterpreting lost recipes for modern palates. “Rare ingredients like Naga spring salt and mejenga leaf have been sourced from Nagaland,” explains the chef. Tenga mura, short grain fragrant koni Joha rice, bamboo, Alpinia leaf and kaaji lebu come from Assam. Morrels from Kashmir and Rhododendron are sourced from Uttaranchal.” Arth, combines interesting and often unheard of ingredients with cooking techniques that harken back to days before gas, for an interesting meal.

Arth, 15th Road, Khar West. Phone: 30151369

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