Flavour Is Skin Deep – By Anuradha Gupta

How many times have you been left disappointed the moment that “hot chicks” or the “oh so good looking guy” dressed in finest of brands opened her/his mouth to say a few cuss words?
How many times have you been left disappointed the moment you took the first bite of that gorgeous looking dish on your plate looking as if the great artists descended from heavens to bring this artwork on your table?
Well I would say in both the cases, way too many times in our lives.
Just as they say the beauty is skin deep, the most beautiful are those who appeal to our hearts and souls.  I being a hardcore food worshiper extend this fact of the life to the food as well.  According to me the most gorgeous of all dishes is the one that appeal to our taste buds and in turn leaves that rich aftertaste for our hearts. As the world is growing beauty obsessed and the perceptior of beauty being distorted  with each passing day or with the launch of each beauty treatment ; are we also styling our food little too much?
Of course it should look great and appeal to my eyes; that being my second sensory interaction with dish (after my nose interacted with divine aroma) but that doesn’t mean it can discount the value or importance of taste and flavour. When we lay our eyes on stunning cakes, exquisite cookies or those heavenly looking curries, the impulse kicks in and we are surely tempted to eat but we should also understand that, to sustain that excitement it should taste great as well. If the impulse can get us to drool and eat it, it can also let us leave the food unfinished and try the next dazzling dish!
Sometimes when I eat such carefully crafted masterpieces off my plate, I wonder if little more time and thought had gone on developing the taste, wouldn’t be a lot better dish! For me a beautiful chocolate cake is not one of the drop dead gorgeous designer cakes but the humble good old Wenger’s luscious dark chocolate cake which melts into my mouth and is a divine experience and hence it’s ‘beautiful”.

If you try and study the human psychic, you’ll realise that the vision has a bearing on the perception of food. Whenever we see tantalizing food, we conclude its equally great tasting and in turn our expectations sky rocket and trust me most of the time they come crashing down on ground after the first bite. I would always choose the not so artfully done food that surprises me with rich taste and leave me delighted over the former.
The fancier and snazzier the place,  chances are, more thought and efforts are gone to enhance the visual or aesthetic appeal of the dish  than developing the taste and a lot of times the eyes are quickly contradicted by the tongue. Maybe that’s why the fancy or five stars can never replicate the taste of street food joints!!
Sometime back I ate the pav bhaji in one of the fancy hotels, which looked stylishly dressed with the soft pav/bun cut out as bite sized roundels smothered with rich bhaji on top and garnished with delicately chopped onions, butter shavings and coriander, laid out on plate decorated with lemon wedges. Trust me it had everything but the taste needed, the pav / bun became soggy because it absorbed the moisture from the bhaaji and it was nothing less than a disaster. I wonder would I have not been tempted enough to eat it if it was served the conventional way and I had to dunk my hands in buttery bhaaji. Sometimes the dressers of these dishes forget about the functionality or the practical aspects of the food. The dish had spectacular visual presentation but all style and no substance  is not my idea of a good meal.
Cooks or chefs often pay close attention to plate presentation, choosing ingredients and techniques to suit a desired effect, following a standard arrangement & wiping away drips. Diners like me are often transfixed  by dazzling  food when it arrives at the table, yet even the most impressive sculpture collapses at the strike of knife, fork or spoon so that plate presentation is evanescent, what is left behind is the after taste. When i intend to eat  don’t want an artwork on my plate, I’ll waste my time appreciating the beauty of the dish,  I would rather browse through pictures of  mouth watering  food to admire their beauty at peace.  The chefs or cooks who spend so much time on plate presentation to enhance the visual appeal need to understand that diners are there to eat to their hearts content and nothing can discount the taste.
My humble request to practitioners of food styling is, please refrain from using non edible stuff, we believe everything that is on plate is meant to be eaten and sometimes this can cause serious problems. Secondly try to use flavourful garnishes that match the dish, imagine the hara dhaniya / coriander sprinkled on fettuccine in pesto sauce.  Lastly nothing can beat simplicity with elegance when it comes to lying down food on a plate!
All I want is good looking food with a taste to match and not a mere showpiece!!
Wrtten by Anuradha Gupta

Royal Restaurant, CP – Run of the mill food

After a day spent on the roads, Ashish and me came down to CP and were looking for Dhaba style food. The day being a Tuesday our choices were limited as lots of places serving non-vegetarian food are shut on Tuesdays. Jain Corner at Shivaji stadium was an obvious choice, but then that is more for a late night jaunt for me, I prefer to eat regular food if its available at that hour.
We decided to check out the Dhabas and as we entered outer circle, I was hoping that anyone of  Kake / Bhape / National / Royal to be open. So Kake and Royal were open, Royal being pure vegetarian. Having not have had good experiences at Kake in past, we decided to skip and give a shot to Royal Restaurant. Made couple of calls and was suggested we order Shahi Paneer and Palak Paneer, that too if we must. Btw.. its a restaurant in name, its a regular genuine Dhaba.

Palak Paneer
Shahi Paneer

Having eaten at almost all 4 of the CP outer circle Dhabas in past few months, I feel that all of them come from same family or maybe same village. They all have same style of serving similar food, similar crockery, similar ambiance and even owners look similar to me sometimes. . 

We settled in, I asked for some dry items or tandoori snacks which they told me that they don’t serve. Then as suggested by fellow foodies we ordered the Shahi Paneer and Palak Paneer to start with. Both the items came in a jiffy, the breads that were served were hot, crisp and tasted very nice. Till the time we were very hungry the food tasted quite nice, but then we realized that there was nothing spectacular about it and it is strictly average.

Shahi Paneer and Palak Paneer

We also ordered Dal Makhani, which to my surprise was best of the three dishes we had. For a change the Dal was not creamy or loaded with butter, however the taste and smoothness seemed to come from dal itself, which is rare to find these days. That is definitely one thing that I am going back for.

Dal Makhani

 At the end of meal we both were surprised that we finished of 3 dishes, however then we realized that these were the MOST stingy portions in veg food that we have seen. EVER. And we both have have seen a LOT of food individually and combined together as well. Having said that, the entire bill was Rs.460, with these three dishes and breads, which is not bad at all, and is quite reasonable for a meal of 2 in a place like CP.

All in all a 6/10 kind of place, nothing bad, but nothing spectacular as well. Dhabas for me dish out much better and tasty stuff. 
Connect with me on Twitter : @tweet2shashank