“Please do not serve ma’am those chilies, ” chef instructs, Hussain, our server.
“No, no!” I want it. I interrupt.
Sandwiched between his boss and me, Hussain is unsure, when I smile at him and signal to serve me some fried chillies and the sauce. He obliges.
The fish that chef has prepared for me is swimming in a sea of chillis. He explains the husband how he has made it while I get busy eating. The fish is tender and not stringy, which, chef says, is a result of marination before poaching. The chillies have added a beautiful kick to it, and the pepper packs a punch. The rice, served on a fried lotus leaves is fragrant and completely gluten free. Made with prime quality jasmine rice and sautéd veggies hidden inside, it is subtle, bitey and has just the right amount of umami. Maku Tofu, a recipe made usually with beef or pork, is as flavourful as it is tender; the interplay of three diffrent textures work wonders on your palate.
That’s the thing about chef Rana’s food. It is complex yet simple. A skill, I guess, he has picked up in the course of his career spanning New York, London, and now, Delhi.
When it comes to dining, food should always be the last word. Ambience is cool, experiences are all good, but if at the end of it, the food does not move you, everything else fails to matter — at least to me.
That is why, when a fellow writer had asked me for my recommendation for the best new restaurant in Delhi, I could recall only one thing: the meal that chef Vivek Rana had made for us at Triple 8. His food was not only made with the finest recipes and ingredients (more on that later), but also with love and passion. We had spent a lot of time talking about his methods, sourcing, techniques, and of course recipes.
With experiences from Tamrai London, Indian Accent New York, and working with none other than chef Manish Malhotra, chef Vivek Rana is one of the finest chefs I have met in the capital. He knows his food in and out, he is particular about his sourcing, he cooks with love — there can be no better combination for a chef than this.
Recently, when I learnt he had moved to The Claridges and had redone the menu at Jade, I couldn’t help but pay him a visit even if it meant disrupting my work day.
And I am so glad I did.
The meal started with fried rice that looked like papad. On first glance, the platter seemed like soup and papads, but chef explained how the crisps were actually rice — he made fried rice, dehydrated it and then rolled and fried it.
What steals the show however is the dimsum, gluten free at that. Made with potato starch, served with truffles and stuffed with porcini mushrooms, they are as beautiful to eat as they are to look at. A soft, elastic casing, with salty favourful topping, and crunchy stuffing — each dimsum seems like a work of art. The Pork Belly is tender inside and crunchy outside; the prawn is nicely caramelized and fried to perfection, the Lotus root tastes like a chip, only better.
“Ingredients are what set my food apart”, says chef Rana. “After spending so many years in the kitchen, everyone learns techniques, but how you use it makes the difference, ” he explains. An encyclopedia on sourcing, he gets his fish from japan, his Pork from Chilli, and vegetables from India. The pepper often comes from his own garden in Himachal. While the chef and the husband talk passionately about produce, I pay attention to the product.
The date pudding chef has got us for dessert is more of a cake with fresh cream. Floating in caramel, topped with whipped cream, accompanied by chef’s homemade coconut and jaggery ice cream. The dessert is a perfect end to a perfect meal. A meal I wish never got over.