“If I was eating this, I would have picked up the bun, mopped the sauce and eaten it straight off the plate.” You know you’re in good hands when the chef tells you what to eat and how to eat it. It is another matter though that I had realized my being in great hands right from the time I entered the newly opened Asian Restaurant, Triple8, at the up-market Ansal Plaza Complex, in Delhi.
Music, décor, lighting, space – everything ticks the right boxes at Triple8. The wine coloured walls, accented with monochromatic pictures, paint the perfect backdrop for colourful food and retro music. The music, in turn, sets the mood for the signature menu, curated by Chef Vivek Rana, known for his stints as the Executive Chef at Indian Accent, New York, and Tamrai, London. And the star of the show – quite aptly – remains the food.
The chef greets us soon after what he calls the ‘curtain raiser’ to the meal – a shot of tom yum soup and Amuse Bouche, a tiny croquet. “At Triple8, we have 8 signature cocktails, 8 signature wines, and 8 signature items on the main course.” He tells us while showing around the two-storey restaurant that comprises of a sushi bar, a dining space, a lounge bar and a private dining hall that can seat upto 40 people.
What began with the soup continues with an exquisite sashimi platter with slices of salmon, scallops, salmon roe, otoro, and salmon eggs with gold leaf created by the Japanese chef Hiroshi Isomura, who brings over 4 decades of experience to the kitchen of Triple8. The sashimi is followed by green apple tofu roll and 5 spiced goat brain tempura. While the fish is as fresh as it gets, the brain tempura is creamy and flavourful; the kimchi meanwhile balances the flavours perfectly.
“This pork belly is cooked for six hours to get the texture right; in fact, I use only Belgian or Chilean Pork because it does not get stringy.” Says the chef while presenting the Pork Belly Yaki-tori, in a spiced miso glaze. The cubes are, indeed, cooked and spiced perfectly, and are neither hard, nor stringy. The Dim Sums, that come next, however truly stand out. The chef later explains why — he uses Himalyan morel, which is far more flavourful than the widely used European morel, and Himachali timur (pepper), which is peppier than Szechuan pepper. Ingredients do speak for themselves at Triple8 – from the lamb shanks procured locally to the grouper that flies in from the Andamans every day, each ingredient stands out for its quality and freshness.
The usage of Asian ingredients in the signature cocktails is noticeable too. Miso, pandan, jaggery, lemongrass, galangal, nori, jasmine, all find a place in the signature cocktail collection, making it one of a kind in the capital.
A part of the signature menu, the Braised Lamb Shank Malacca with Fried Mantao Bread and Poached Grouper Slices in Thai Lemon Sauce with Tom Yum Rice is next. The rice turns out to be light and flavourful; the fish, marinated in Chinese wine pairs perfectly with it. The homemade buns are soft and flaky and go beautifully with the creamy shanks. As suggested by the chef, I break a piece of the bun and mop up the sauce. The result is gratifying.
While the signature selection of wine, cocktails, and main course has eight items each, the dessert menu is restricted to four. The reason, I suspect, is the quality and complexity of the desserts – they are twice as good as everything else.
The Mascarpone Tart and Rambutan Lemongrass Compote with Matcha Green Tea, for example, is beautifully subtle – an art not many places excel at; the Night Market Custard Bun, filled with sweet corn, served with yuzu lime flavoured cream, meanwhile, are soft, sweet, and crisp, and unlike anything you would have eaten, and the home made Palm Sugar Coconut Ice Cream is reassuringly comforting. Together they make for a great closure to a great meal.
Triple8, B-103A, First Floor, Ansal Plaza, Khel Gaon Marg, New Delhi
Timings: 12:00 pm to 1:00 am. Reservations: +91-8448038886
A version of this story first appeared in CondeNast Traveller.