Amaranta, at the Oberoi in Gurgaon is hailed as the fine dining South Indian offering in the Oberoi in Gurgaon and I must say, it certainly lives up to the “fine” part of its label. The “dining” part of that phrase did leave a lot to be desired.
I went with someone who stays at the hotel frequently and was recognized by the chef so for the first time ever I never looked at the menu and we went with “the chef’s choice”.
We started with an amuse bouche which was really three separate ones if you go by the exact definition of an amuse bouche. We were told to go left to right. The first thing was a bit of an uttapam with some creamy topping that was tart. The tomato chutney that was smeared was really quite tasty and made the browned idli a lot of fun to have. The buttermilk, while served in a cool shot glass, was not really remarkable. If you have read my earlier posts you know that I hate when Indian chefs put thickened balsamic as ink on their plates so this chutney smear was good fun!
The table was adorned with three homemade pickles and four flavored salts. There was a chilli and mustard pickle, a dry mango pickle and a more traditional oily mango pickle (my favorite). I recommend trying them all because the art of making pickles at home is all but lost so getting a chef to do it for you is quite a treat. Their salts were really quite cool; they had one that was mixed up with ground curry leaves which was really quite nice. The salts were served with olive oil, similar to the way oils are served to drip breads into. The papad were standard run of the mill ones but with the oiled salts was quite fun to experiment with. Their crisp breads are now made everywhere and seem to be liquid flour poured in triangles, topped with sesame seeds and baked till all the liquid has been removed and it is dry and crunchy.
The appetizers were quite good. A modern take on the Bengali bhape, a light fish marinated with ground mustard and wrapped in banana leaves. The fish was cooked just right, which is what you would expect from such a fancy place. The tomato chutney that had been brushed on underneath could barely be tasted. There was a tiny piece of jelly that had some type of leaves in them, really didn’t have much of a taste but was cool to try. The prawns were fried with an indianized tempura batter and were supposed to be eaten with the tomato sorbet. It felt a little like frozen Tropicana so not much to write home about and I think the prawns were better on their own. Unfortunately this time the chef DID do the tired old thing of smearing balsamic which added absolutely nothing to the plate. I did eat the lettuce which didn’t have any remarkable dressing on it.
Now because this is a “fine dining” place, they served a palate cleanser that was a champagne sorbet into which they actually poured champagne. I don’t drink so I can’t vouch for it but I did enjoy the showmanship of it.
They were kind enough to give me a non-alcoholic sorbet which I think was lemon and had quite a nice tart flavor. Totally worth trying out.
Our mains were a grilled fish with a brushing of a sour cream type dip, perfectly grilled asparagus and then Bengali khosha mangsho (mutton curry).
There was also a nice thick curry to go with the fish that I think was tastier than the fish itself. What I loved was that it was full of curry leaves and those are the surest way to my heart!
Now, if you ask me, the breads were the most interesting dishes of the entire evening. More specifically, the rice flour thing that we are all betting is called puttu. The malabari paratha was ok, no different from the ones you get at the mid-range restaurants but the puttu was light and fluffy with a slightly tangy taste that was great to soak up the fish curry sauce with. You simply MUST get some. I, for one, am always amazed at how many different kinds of accompaniments you can get for main dishes in the south, a lot of them rice based and in wildly different shapes and cooking styles. I think you could write a book just on the rice dishes!
My other favorite part of the meal? The desert. The donut was a sweeter version of a vada and encrusted with sugar and jiggery – simply mouthwatering! The ice-cream was a delicious coconut ice-cream that was light and just sweet enough to hit the perfect spot.
So what is my final verdict? Frankly, I don’t know if I would ever go there again. It is fun to go if you have tons of money to blow and want to get plates that have been designed really well. If, however, food is what gets you going, I would probably give this place a miss. There was nothing (other than the puttu type thing and the donut and ice-cream) that was mind-blowing and I don’t think you can go to a restaurant for just a rice dish and accompaniment.
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