Indian Accent is a celebrated envelope pusher in New Delhi with scores of accolades including a spot on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in 2023. Helming the joint are Chef Manish and Shantanu Mehrotra who are in Singapore for a fortnight residency at the Mandala Club. Corporate Chef Manish Mehrotra discusses his aspirations and philosophies in brief on behalf of the dynamic duo.
1. Have you had any culinary collaborations in Singapore before? How much do you know about the food scene in Singapore?
Yes, we did a collaboration around 12 years ago not long after Indian Accent opened in New Delhi. I had come to Singapore for the World Gourmet Summit and had cooked a few meals at the event. But this is the first time we are doing a proper tasting menu with courses at a residency which is two weeks long. And definitely in the last 12 plus years, my kitchen has evolved, I have evolved, and our menus have evolved. So this is the first time we are doing a proper tasting menu in Singapore.
2. Will you be crafting something special for the menus at Mandala Master？Any highlights to look out for?
The menu has certainly evolved over the years. So have my signature dishes as well which will be featured on this menu also. We have created a few new dishes for this residency, particularly with beef and uni which are the things we don't use in India because we don't get a good supply of these things in India. We have also created a beautiful dish with roots and a sago pongal, like a sago porridge. This dish has been developed for the Mandala Club residency, so we’re really excited about that.
3. Will diners be able to understand what is Modern/ Innovative Indian cuisine simply by trying the menus? What should uninitiated palates look out for?
The modern or innovative take on Indian cuisine will be really easy for the diners to relate to, because of the way we put together our menu and our dishes. We do unique combination without playing too much with the authenticity of the dish. So in a simple word - at its heart, this dish, these dishes are totally, totally Indian, but with a unique combination and twist, which even people outside India can relate to. That was the whole idea of doing innovative Indian food, which people from all walks of life, not only Indian, can relate to it and understand what we are doing. While at the same time getting the same authentic Indian flavours.
4. When do you think innovative methods irreversibly alter the DNA of cultural cuisines? Is there a line you won't cross in your kitchen?
I don't think that innovative dishes or unique combinations can alter the dish. Definitely they have to draw a line somewhere. When you do a unique combination, you have to keep in mind that there has to be a history or a story or a reason behind it, why you are doing that combination in that dish. And if it's a vague kind of a fusion or a combination, then the dish is not successful. People will not accept it. When there is a history or a reason behind it, then it works very well. Like a simple example of our blue cheese naan which is a very, very unique combination. The blue cheese is a bit pungent, and when it goes inside the naan in a hot tandoor, it tones down the pungency a little bit, which is very suitable for the Indian palate. So it works really well. A nice tandoori naan with a hint of pungency and the savouriness of blue cheese. It works very well. So this is how we put together the dishes so that it doesn't play with authenticity, but at the same time give a unique twist to the dish.
5.. Describe the best outcome you hope from this collaboration at Mandala Masters.
With this residency I am thinking that when you go to a new place with your whole team, you get to see so much. You meet so many different people. You meet so many different chefs. You get to learn a lot of things because there are many in my team, they're going to use wagyu for the first time. They're all young kids. My management trainees, they're going to see uni for the first time. One or two people will taste caviar for the first time. So that really is exciting. When you do your food, your dishes, your cuisine in a different place, then it really showcases your talent, your team’s talent, to a different market, which is always good for the restaurant and for the cuisine. There are lots of misconceptions in people's mind about Indian food, that Indian food is about chicken tikka masala. And when people see this kind of a Indian food and they get surprised and they like it, you feel really happy that your cuisine is moving forward. The perception of Indian food is changing. That is a great feeling and that is what we want to achieve from this residency.
Mandala Masters x Amaya Ventures Present Indian Accent is available for booking nightly from 9 May to 25 May 2023. For more info please visit LINK