LIFE has an uncanny knack of plonking coincidences on your plate. Leaving you to wonder, if there are mysterious forces operating behind a veil, or if you’re a mere spectator in a bloody well scripted plot. Either way, it leaves you jonesing for more!
With his busy foodie lifestyle, the zoman warrior barely had a handle over how time. As his phone flashed a reminder, the zoman turned pale. The text read “Anniversary” and all the hints his damsel had been dropping recently suddenly made sense.
Scurrying for options to mollify the damsel over this serious faux pas, the zoman was losing his nerve. Enter Amrith – the zoman’s ally on many quests, now turned pro, with an invitation for a one of a kind preview experience. Just about the perfect thing to ring in an anniversary. Exactly!
Coming back to strangely pleasant coincidences. Arriving at the preview venue, the zoman hit pause on his iPod. Incubus and their excessive guitar strumming had driven the damsel mad anyway. The last lines he heard were from their song Stellar “How do you do it, better than I ever knew. How do you do it, make me feel like I do. You are stellar. ”
Little did he know, that’s precisely what he’d be crooning the entire night, as the awesomeness unfolded at Panayaa, The Modern Indian Kitchen?
Panayaa – Lavish, in Sanskrit lives up to the name in terms of how it’s been done up. It has pulled out all the stops in giving us a place that looks chic and classy but stops short of making you feel awkward if you’re not a Mills & Boons character.
Superb looking lamps and portraits adorn the classily done up walls.
The seating is comfortable yet minimalistic and shys away from those over the top lavish sofa’esque places to plonk your tush on.
Now this might not be your traditional definition of lavish. But being lavish without screaming LAVISH at you, is something Panayaa has nailed down to the T.
For a place with a molecular gastronomy twist in most of their menu, service staff needs to be really efficient and trained for the theatrics that accompany the tag. In terms of basic silver service, the servers are well trained, know what’s on the menu and what goes well for whom. I like that.
In terms of the molecular gastronomy part, I’d urge them not to use liquid nitrogen as a sales pitch and tone down the excitement a little bit. While the theatrics aren’t an everyday staple, but this isn’t the first place doing it and chances are that people have seen the show before.
Nonetheless, the service complements the overall concept very well.
Like Pareto’s rule, it was an 80:20 mix for me at Panayaa. 80% brilliant and 20% absolute crock. Surprisingly nothing played in the mid regions, which I feel is a great thing.
PAV BHAJI MINESTRONE
On first thoughts I thought this was blasphemy.
I mean both these dishes are a matter of national heritage and there’s no way to justify combining them. Like Kejriwal, I was about to stage a dharnaa against this but when it is plopped onto the table, I was absolutely quelled.
A runny pav bhaji is what I’ve always wanted, and a creamier minestrone is what I’ve always prayed for. At Panayaa, I got them both in one demi-tasse cup.
The minestrone was spiked with pav bhaji masala and I suppose a decent helping of the potato mash too.
Somehow the entire thing worked magically well. And talking about magic, the nitrogen breadsticks added such a Harry Potter’esque charm to the dish that I literally wanted to gobble up the entire stock.
Absolute A grade dish!
POTATO SPEAR CHAAT WITH RAGDA
Holy ass gorgeousness!
OK, as a foodie I probably cannot say this, but I’m not a fan of the ragda and aloo chaats on the street. Now I know why. Guess, I was meant to like this dish in gourmet form only.
Potato straws form a spear shape that encloses a delectable ragda, topped with a small dollop of yoghurt. If this wasn’t enough goodness already, there was a controlled helping of tamarind chutney which was perfectly balanced in terms of sweet-n-sour. Topped off with a generous heaping of micro herbs, this dish was flawless.
Seconds, thirds, and fourths later, I realized I had to move on, but if it was upto me I’d linger on for hours just savouring this.
If I am to be believed, you cannot and simply must not miss this!
Shakarkandi or sweet potato for the uninitiated, is a beautiful accompaniment to many a meaty dishes. But standalone, this is probably the first time I have enjoyed it so much.
Cooked used Heston Blumenthal’s method of choice, the sous vide (French for under vacuum), the preparation was beautiful.
The naturally sweet, sweet potato was perfectly complemented by the tamarind chutney which was spot on in terms of spice, sweetness, and tang.
Packed and moulded as though it were a serving of foie gras, the presentation was done well with a helping of greens and chilli powder that you could pepper your bite with.
Absolutely loved it!
Without the fancy pants language, this dish simply translates to stuffed mushrooms.
There wasn’t any element of theatre to the dish and with an elegant yet minimalistic presentation, the simplicity of the food was allowed to take centre-stage.
I couldn’t ask what exactly went into the stuffing as I was so busy marauding the platter, but it isn’t always essential to know what goes into the making. The subtle realization of something being excellent without knowing much about it, is its own reward.
A great preparation, although I wouldn’t say its an absolute must have!
This dish was like the Rocky V in the Rocky series. Came in with a lot of flash and an altogether different premise, but fizzled out when the true test came.
I would give this dish a resounding 10 on 10 in terms of the theatre and presentation.
But, proof of the pudding is in its taste and the only conclusive proof here was the lack of anything awesome.
The khaman was hardly there and the liquid nitrogen could set only parts of the dish while the others wavered off into incognito somewhere along the line. I even found the entire construct a bit soggy.
So while this dish comes highly recommended, I am certainly not backing it up. Most certainly not as a showstopper which it is claimed to be.
Don’t recommend it at all!
Pretty much as is the case with most of us, my India palette was taught to loathe zucchini as a useless sidecar that went along with a steak. But make me an emarti tori ever again and I am a happy camper.
A beautifully balanced dish in terms of flavour.
Just when the neutral and somewhat umami like flavour of the zucchini has nearly bored your palette out, the kadhai chutney (more like vegetable curry) begins to hit you with the masalas. If that gets too much for you, the potato and cheese in the dish will bring you back to normalcy.
Imagine all this action, possible in every single bite of the dish. Total awesomeness.
The dish looks somewhat good too, but, believe me tastes immensely better.
Resoundingly wins my recommendation and a definite must have!
DECONSTRUCTED DAHI WADA
Having seen a molecular gastronomy demo during my stay in the UK I know how much effort goes into setting a spoonful of food on your table. That, which you polish off in a single bite. But that’s culinary art for you, isn’t it?
The tiny little yoghurt and wada mixture dome sprinkled with pearls tamarind caviar.
The flavoursome wada, the palette calming yoghurt, and the pick me up pearls of tangy tamarind caviar synchronized perfectly in giving us a spoonful of delight.
Only when it was down to the last spoonful of this beauty and a lady at the table eyeing it, did I realize, that chivalry had to win over downright gluttony. And I gave this dish up.
Quite obviously and by miles clear of anything served to us that night. This dish won the night!
GRILLED MUSHROOM SALAD
A few little mushrooms decided to go out and have a nice day. But Panayaa had other plans and screwed them up. After the foodie high horse we were riding till this point. This salad was an abysmal let down.
The liquid nitrogen theatrics and the edible lavender adorning the dish couldn’t even save this dish.
Whatever it was that these mushrooms were coated in, left a lot to be desired in terms of texture of flavour.
I’d say, steer clear of this offering!
The standard fare makhani gravy, nonetheless done perfectly.
The cottage cheese was absolutely fresh.
The subtle hint of garam masala and a mildly yet beautifully aromatic cardamom.
Should be a great thing to go with a rice preparation in case you want to make a main course out of it.
In my defense, the only reason why I wasn’t extremely pleased with this dish, was because of its name.
When I heard the word thecha, I was expecting a fiery preparation that would call for the use of a fire extinguisher on my next trip to the men’s room. But what was served wasn’t very spicy.
Beyond that, it was a decent preparation.
I loved this dish for the amount of contrast and balance it had to it.
On their own, both the gravy and the koftas were done perfectly. But put together they were even better.
The spicy gravy was balanced so well by the cheesy and mild koftas.
Whenever I’m back at Panayaa, this is my main course order for certain. Absolutely loved it!
My north Indian heritage kicks in every time this particular dish is served up and yes, becoming over critical is something that comes along with it.
Despite my ultra-refined dal makhani filters, this dish managed to scoot through to the PASS category.
I wouldn’t say that it was one of the best dal makhanis I’ve sampled, but yeah, it was great nonetheless.
Moving on to my favorite part of the meal, DESSERT.
You could literally orgasm watching this dessert being sliced apart. Believe me, its groovier than watching Shakira contort herself in racy dancy moves right on your face.
A trio of different textural elements. A chocolate ganache like layer which you could slice open to expose a titillating layer of strawberry mousse and some strawberry compote stuffed further within.
A bite of everything together and you are literally asking to be taken away from the earth, since you’ve tasted heaven right there.
I have been insanely enamoured with constructed desserts. Somehow that extra special feeling is hard to get over with when the chef comes to your table and gets busy making your dessert right there.
The scrappy mountain is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Even if you’re not much of a foodie, I’m certain this dessert would cajole you towards pulling that camera out and getting a quick video for the social networks.
Cookie crumbles, nitrogen’ified cream and banana, caramel, chocolate shavings, chocolate sauce, strawberries, and a host of other ingredients go into creating this edible piece montee.
If you ever needed an analogy for saving the best for last, use this one going forward.
Everyone on the dinner table was aching to see how two immensely contrasting dishes with not even the furthest of connections between them could fuse together to form a dessert.
The mohanthaal cheesecake is such a beauty. Everything from the baklava to the cheesecake filling to the mohanthaal base and especially that really tart berry compote topping it off was excellent or beyond.
This is a flawless dish and no matter how snooty a gourmand you are, I guarantee this will put a smile to your face.
I quite love that as masses we are moving from every day to experiential dining and places like Panayaa, which offer more of a modern gastronomy twist to regular Indian fare are an essential element of this movement.
If you find yourself dining here, it is safe to say that you’d not only end up walking out having had dinner, but an experience you’d certainly want to share with others.
From my side at least, Panayaa gets a resounding thumbs up and at least a few more guaranteed outings.
So, do I think you should check this place out? What, with their laundry list of palette pleasers. Hell Yeah!
AMBIANCE – 5 / 5
SERVICE – 4.5 / 5
FOOD – 4.5 / 5
PRICE – 4 / 5