KASHMIRI BARKAKATI NATH
Taj Vivanta opened its door to its patrons in Guwahati on December 7. This is only a soft launch and not all of their restaurants arefunctional until January 2016. There is a certain expectation when the stalwart of the hospitality industry steps into your city, they carry with them a certain legacy, personally I have a deep attachment to this brand, so as I walked into their spanking new reception, still smelling of fresh paint, I think there was a bit of reserved reservation…..will they live up to or let the citizens of Guwahati down? Well, Taj Vivanta-Guwahati shines like the bright star, that it is!
They have shown respect and love to the region, every detail whether in food or décor, is well thought of and executed with nuanced élan. I went in looking for the elusive heart of the hotel that would be the torch bearer of this region, welcome the guests from outside the state, understand the resident sensibilities and showcase our strength and play down the flaws and came back not disappointed at all.
The building design is arresting, echoing the Dome shape of the Kamakhaya Temple, the outer walls wear the weaving pattern of bamboo mats.
She welcomes you into her bosom, those “ Sarai’’ based coffee tables, the basket weave pattern played into all the wood work and those 1008 hanging brass bells on the wall, they embrace you , in quiet warmth and you know , you are in a good surrounding.
The high backed rattan chairs…..chairs reminding one of the charming Tea Estate bungalows. The ubiquitous Erica palms are given a miss instead what greets you, are tall elegant betel nut trees, standing proudly . The details in design is palpable and the Northeast flavour evident, they mingle so unhesitatingly with modern lines.
The only restaurant functional is No 7. The food is ethnic in essence but progressive. Chef Anirban Dasgupta is a man with a vision, Assamese cuisine in a new avatar but certainly not confused. The taste buds tingle with ‘Pork Khorika’, a quintessentially Assamese preparation of barbequed pork has all the flavours and the zing of the fiery ‘Bhoot Jolokia’ ( Ghost Chilli) and local greens. The presentation is new age and in harmony with the present.
After the smoky succulent pork, Chef presented a light piquant dish of ‘Dahikababs’, tangy and tantalisingly divine. Preparing our palates for some heady dishes ahead.
I loved the idea of our ‘MasorTenga’ ( a typically everyday fish preparation in a tangy tomato gravy), smile happily,looking delectable and fashionable , the fillet of bhetki atop ‘AlooPitika’ (mashed potato, tempered with mustard oil) in a light tomato juice. It looks like nouvelle cuisine but with a spoonful, I’m transported to my mother’s kitchen. It was magical.
You sit back and think what next and then arrives the smoked duck in a banana leaf parcel, you wonder if it will live up to its name, ‘Hahor Mangxo’ with ‘KolDil’ (Duck meat with tender banana flower), it stole my heart with the tender succulent meat cooked to perfection. Take a bow Chef, you have nailed it.
A quiet dish without much fanfare arrived at our table, Sea Food Stew, a delightfully light dish that warms the heart.Robust flavour of prawns, salmon and calamari all coming together with the herbs.
An elegant dish of Mushroom Risotto loaded with flavours of Portobello and porcinis and the plump Arborio rice in a creamy wine sauce was deliriously delicious.
Desserts were wicked, a chocolate fondant cake, molten and hot gushing out richness, a crème brulee, creamy custard with a crusty caramel top and the tiramisu, a symphony of sophistication.
Restaurant 7 has indeed set a high benchmark and I do hope it continues to do so, plating the unexplored dishes of this region in a progressive manner, true in its taste and modern in approach, putting local produce for the world to taste.