The Delhi Chapter of the Chef at Large Blogger’s Table met at Varq a while back and I’m probably the last one to comment on the experience. As with all such meetings, the atmosphere was cosy and with the return of Nachiketa from her stint at Le Cordon Bleu, fuzzy too.
Varq is a traditionally laid out restaurant in every sense of the word, and quite elegant to boot with all the trappings of being a Taj asset; something like a traditional restaurant in contemporary bridal wear. You with me? Anyway, I started with a Masala Chai Martini that I didn’t quite like and did think confused, before being served an Amuse Bouche in the form of a fruit chaat roll, topped with a slice of olive, a coriander leaf, a pomegranate seed and a dollop of cliched past tenses. It might work for a foreign audience, but much too familiar for well-fed Indians. That’s my pedestrian opinion of course.
A fairy common stumbling block with quite a few restaurants that serve plated food, is the overtaking of functionality by form. Precisely the malaise I thought afflicted the Cottage Cheese stuffed Morels. Each placed atop Phyllo sheets interspersed with a mushroom masala of sorts and garnished with balsamic reduction, it was a lovely looking dish that tasted average otherwise. This was thankfully followed by a very well done Haleem, complete with a sprig of mint, caramelised onions. Though with a bit more clove than I would have used, it was meaty, creamy and flavorful with just the right amount of chew. Similar was the Galauti that arrived next; perfect in every way.
At this point came the perfect dish, that was both visually appealing as well as exceedingly tasty – the much seen Seekh Kebab. Skewered with a stalk of sugarcane, served in a shot glass with a slim layer of saunth chutney at the bottom. Four elements came together here – visual appeal, perfect traditional flavor, texture and surprise. The surprise here was the sweetish saunth chutney, that I have never eaten a seekha kebab with. This awesomeness was followed by another surprise. I forget the name of this dish, but it was something on the lines of Black Gram Cappuccino. I don’t know how you remember your kala channa, but mine was always short of gravy and overcrowded with kala chaana, the gravy therefore becoming a treasured, flavorful commodity. The cappuccino was the same preparation, blended to a smooth texture, mildly frothy and every mouthful an indulgence in the component of a dish that I never had enough of. I finished with a main of perfectly cooked sea bass in a mildly thickened coconut gravy flavored with turmeric, curry leaves and onions that I thought could have done with a touch of tamarind.
Predictably, a lovely evening spent at a restaurant which obviously has been the target of much effort and thought, both in the food and out of it. A visit to Varq will always be a great experience though you might want to spend some time on finding your places in the menu.
Ed: Photo by Charis, Culinary Storm.