Restaurant Review: Ziya
The Oberoi has always been known for its understated and reserved ethos. A small illustration of this is the manner in which they acknowledge the November 2008 terror attacks—a subtle plaque at the entrance of the adjoining Trident hotel. It is, therefore, quite amusing that the menu at Ziya introduces Vineet Bhatia as “the prodigal chef.” Mumbai-raised Bhatia worked with the Oberoi group for five years before emigrating to the UK. He was, at the time, the chef at Kandahar. Seventeen years later, Bhatia has replaced Kandahar’s antiquated north-west frontier fare with Indian food that defies all convention.
This introduction to contemporary Indian food would have been more fascinating had it not been for the fact that Bhatia recently opened another restaurant, Azok, in the city. Ziya, though, is exquisite in comparison, and provides a far more memorable experience.
We tried the seven course gourmand menu, which turns a meal from a mere dining experience into an elaborate event. A large part of this event is the ambience; Ziya is dominated by gold, but manages to be elegant and not ostentatious. The show plates and brick walls of the show kitchen are particularly stunning, bettered only by the view of Marine Drive. It is a shame, however, that the tables are best suited to a party of four when they could have been more romantic if smaller and cosier. Our biggest grievance of the night was the lounge music in the background, which was loud and distracting.
While the waiters at Ziya haven’t yet memorised every detail of the gourmand menu, they adequately highlighted the components of each course. Our first, a white tomato soup, was served with Bloody Mary jelly and grilled broccoli or fried prawn. Made using only the flesh of tomatoes, the white soup was mostly creamy, and was complemented by the sharp spice of the jelly. The prawn however had little flavour other than that of the batter.
One of the highlights of the menu is the mushroom khichdi with makhani ice cream. The ice cream, essentially frozen butter chicken gravy, managed to hold well and the three components of the dish (the rice and the gravy are separated by the crunch of a cracker) delightfully provided not just different textures and flavours, but also temperatures. Our next course was less enjoyable for the vegetarian on the table—grilled asparagus on a bed of saffron upma with a spring roll shaped peanut fritter that was rich and creamy, but devoid of any relation to Indian food. The black spiced chicken with gold leaf, though, was able to match the previous course with its subtle flavour which better complemented the silky smooth saffron upma.
The grilled lobster was the spiciest of the dishes we had. Served on a bed of broccoli khichdi and lobster jus, it was hot but not overwhelmingly so. The lobster, like the prawn we had earlier, wasn’t succulent or flavourful enough.
The fifth course is a palate cleanser, a champagne sorbet topped with Moët et Chandon. The sorbet quickly disintegrated and melted into the champagne, making for a lavish letdown. In contrast, the mildly spiced lamb chops were perfectly cooked. The meat, which comes with a silk-smooth saffron mash and a minced-lamb samosa, was tender and juicy. The vegetarian option, capsicum stuffed with cashew and cabbage, paled in comparison. The lemongrass sauce gave it a distinctly Thai flavour, and the capsicum was difficult to slice gracefully. Our dessert, creamy kheer ice cream with crunchy toasted rice and coconut basundi, was rich yet not overly sweet.
Ziya’s success will depend on whether customers get used to the idea of pre-plated Indian food that isn’t really Indian. We just hope that the quality of the food will be maintained once Bhatia goes back to London. For now, we suggest you enjoy the return of the prodigal chef.
A meal for two costs approximately Rs 4,500 without alcohol; the seven-course gourmand meal for two is priced at Rs 6,700 without alcohol. All reviews are anonymous.
Devendra Das likes a bong, all Bongs and while not preoccupied by either, chronicles his gluttonous experiences.Tags: Azok, Food, Kandahar, restaurant review, Restaurants, Special Top Story, The Oberoi, Vineet Bhatia, Ziya
HoursMonday to Sunday, 12.30pm to 2.45pm and 7pm to 11.30pm