Fire at the Park has a long history of curating food from the most interesting cuisines. My first meal there was in 2009 during the tenure of the legendary Chef Bakshish Dean and in his company. Since then I’ve been watching them bring forward cooks and chefs from lesser known cultures, most of whom have proceeded to delight patrons with their food. Always retaining an element of familiarity, the food promotions at Fire combine the known, the unknown and the aspirational and bring them to diners in one irresistible package that most succumb to and indeed, are delighted to do so.
Eating out can be seen as a productive exercise from so many points of view. It fulfils a practical need as whoever cooks doesn’t need to do so that evening. Folks in sales use it to wine and dine potential clients and show them a good time. It allows the displeaser in a relationship to placate the displeased. Apart from the usual, eating out can also be an exercise in exploration. Exploration of how much we know and the realisation of how much is yet to learn. Exploration of cultures and cuisines we haven’t approached before. Exploration of flavours and textures we have yet to know well enough to identify. Exploration of the history and traditions of a state that results in food that’s distinct to the region.
Exploration was what this evening was for me and it helped that shortly after our arrival, walked in that giant among adorable food writers, Rahul Verma with his undoubtedly better half, Vishakha; both like their food, know their food and both love exploring the field.
The evening passed in a blur of new tastes and textures, prime amongst which was the absolutely brilliant tea leaf salad, called Lahpet Thoke (“la-pay toe”). Made with steamed and fermented tea leaves, usually the best of the crop, given the cultural significance of the dish, and embellished with textural components like nuts and lentils, you’ll find this salad to be a revelation of how little priority we’ve all given to salads thus far. Similar were the Beef Salad (just lightly seared and sliced beef with sprouts), Pork salad and the very delicious, Bawmra’s Tomato salad. One of the lessons I’m taught time and time again, is how important simplicity is to the overall scheme of things – apply it to a dish or apply it to life.
We continued with an underwhelming curried lamb with sweet tamarind and black lentil that appeared to have lost its mojo though the slow roasted pork with pumpkin wasabi mash was lovely. It’s always so very nice to pop in a mouthful of crusty pork and then bite through the distinct layers of crispy skin, hot, soft fat and tender flesh, the whole resounding with flavour. The lone vegetarian at our table Amit Joshi, ate the lone vegetarian dish on the menu – mushrooms, lychees and waterchestnuts curried in coconut milk, with a helping of rice topped with crisp caramelised onions and roasted nuts. I thought dessert distinctly out of sync with the rest of the meal despite obvious efforts to make the platter blend in – a tasting platter of chili chocolate mousse, creme brulee with lemongrass and ginger and coconut panna cotta.
I’d advise you to skip the dessert entirely; you won’t miss a thing. Having said that, do not skip anything else! Do the salads. Gorge on the mains. Order the sides. Chat with the chefs. Put aside your phones and look at what you’re eating. Close your eyes and try and identify the flavors within. Figure out how that explosively crunchy texture was arrived at. Explore.