The second coming of Indigo Deli. The launch of its 'global' menu

'Kolkata inspired' grilled prawns


Inception


I remember being super excited when Indigo Deli finally opened its outlet in Bandra. This was in 2012.

We had not gone to the flagship Indigo Restaurant at Colaba when it opened earlier. We were rather junior in our corporate careers then and did not consider it to be in our pay grade!

The Indigo Deli chain opened at the right time in our lives. It took the Indigo brand promise across the city in a slightly more younger, casual and comparatively affordable (we were in middle management by then) format. We used to go to the one at Colaba and then at Phoenix Mills very often and were happy to see a branch open next door to where we lived in Bandra. Rahul Akerkar was at the helm then and it is at the Bandra opening that I met this legendary chef for the first time. He has moved on from the group as you know I am sure  and has recently opened the much talked about Qualia in Mumbai after a cooling off period in between thanks to a non-compete clause.

The original Indigo restaurant shut down sometime back. The Indigo Deli chain continues to exist. With a new management and with new chefs in charge, there have been changes made to the restaurant offerings. Restaurants evolve over time as do customers and I guess that those at the helm would now want to leave their own stamp on the place after ensuring that its legacy was not disturbed.

What I have noticed during my visits to the restaurant (the Bandra outlet) in the past few months is that Indigo Deli seems to have moved away (or expanded beyond) the original 'deli-like' fare of sandwiches, burgers and cakes and bakes.  In my recent meals here, I have seen a slow introduction of Asian, Mediterranean, and at times even Indian flavours. The food is plated and served in a way that’s pleasing on the eye and yet looks uncomplicated and appetizing. The focus is clearly on the food here and the food has been rather top notch I must say and which is why we have made quite a few visits to the restaurant since this January.

I did try out the bar menu when I had gone there for lunch a month or so back and we had some impressive cocktails that afternoon.

Rebirth


I was at the Indigo Deli, Bandra, a couple of afternoons back once. This time, on invite and to try out their new menu. A menu which they said has a ‘global’ feel to it.

I met chef Swapnil Raut while I was there. He told me that he has been a chef at the Bandra branch since its opening. I learnt from him that chef Kedar Bobde, who is now in charge of the chain, had apparently encouraged four young sous chefs in his team (including Swapnil) to come up with their introductions to the menu. They apparently had an open brief to experiment with any flavours that they liked, and take inspiration from wherever they wanted, as long as the food tasted good. 

I tried a number of dishes from the menu, largely non-vegetarian and here is a sum up of them.

Short eats:

Soy chilli pork


soy chilli pork


This consisted of double cooked pork belly, where each cube of pork had a bit of a crunch on the outside, a layer of fat that was sublime and a layer of meat that was so tender. The smattering of red chillies (the menu said Sichuan peppers but I did not get the sensation of numbness one associates with that), the drizzle of soya sauce  and the wasabi mayo helped cut the fattiness of the meat to make it perfectly balanced. It was one of the nicest pork belly dishes that I have had in a while. The last one that wowed me as much was the pork khorika at Mising Kitchen at Guwahati.

I am yet to come across anyone who does pork belly as well as those in the far east (of Asia and India) and the chefs at Indigo Deli had found the right source for inspiration in this case.

Caribbean prawns


Caribbean prawns


The menu describes the dish as 'prawns poached in Cajun spices'. I found the prawns to be very juicy and cooked perfectly. 

The spicing in it did not do much to me, but the oil layer - which had possibly come from the juice of the prawns coming together with the chilli flakes - when mopped up with the generous slab of soft inside, crunchy at the surface, garlic toast took me back twenty years when I would have finished such a dish without a (cholesterol) worry in the world. I somehow managed to restrain myself to a few judicious bites this time and made sure that I relished them to the hilt.

There was something very comforting in an early 2000s sense to the dish.

Soups

Shitake & steamed wanton broth with amarillo chilli oil 


Steamed wonton broth


This turned out to be another Asian (far eastern) masterpiece on the menu, just as the pork belly that I spoke of earlier was.

The lemongrass flavoured clear broth was spiked with a kick of chilli oil which brought back memories of a meal I had eaten at a Sichuan restaurant in Singapore. The wantons in the soup, stuffed with minced shitake and tofu, were one of the best I have had in India. Even when compared to those that I have had in five star hotels with expat chefs. The chefs deserve a pat on the back for this. As they do for the pork belly. They clearly have imbibed the culture of the far east well in their new DNA at Indigo Deli.

If anyone knows what 'amarillo chillies' are then please let me know. I did not seem to find any good source.

Sri Lankan lamb broth


Sri Lankan lamb broth


The menu description said ‘curry leaves’ and I wonder if that was meant to be the 'Sri Lankan’ touch.

What I felt though, the moment I took a bite, was that this was a classic old Delhi mutton shorba. I couldn’t taste the curry leaves in it and wondered what was Sri Lankan about it. Not that I am well versed with the cuisine there.  

The pieces of goat meat in the soup were truly tender. The broth was very meaty. Chef Swapnil told me that the broth is cooked for four hours (if I remember right). One could taste every bit of the TLC of slow cooking in this brilliant shorba. I mean Sri Lankan broth. Or whatever.

The dish was brilliant, even if the parentage seemed confusing.

Mains

Kolkata inspired grilled prawns


Kolkata inspired prawns


This dish consisted of massive king prawns which were grilled on a high heat and then pan seared. The grilling gave a nice char to the prawn and added oodles of oomph to the flavour. The prawns were a bit tougher than the medium sized prawns that I had earlier that day as well as the river prawns which I had had twice earlier at the Indigo Deli, Bandra. 

To keep up the 'Bengali' theme, they had served the prawns with a Gobindobhog rice risotto. Gobindobhog is a short grained and fragrant rice that is had on special occasions in Kolkata. Here the rice had got a bit glutinous as Gobindobhog can became at times. One did not get really get the aroma of Gobindobhog which we Bengalis so covet. It did not really add anything to the dish.

A mellow and well seasoned coconut milk broth was poured into the plate. Its flavour construct smacked of the taste of roasted elaich or green cardamom. This evoked memories of the Bengali malai curry, in which prawns are cooked with coconut milk, in my head. The flavours of the sauce and the barbecued, smoky feel to the prawns made the dish sail despite the slightly tough prawns and the lacklustre rice.

Fettucine carbonara


Fettucine carbonara


I have left one more stellar performances from the afternoon till the end. I am talking of the carbonara that I had.

 I managed to convince chef Swapnil to hold back on the cream which he said comes with the dish, even though he the loves cream in it himself. 'Italian' food in India unfortunately draws its inspiration from the heavy sauced and creamed dishes of American Italian heritage from what I understand.  This explains the the flood of cream that you can often see in pastas and risottos and other dishes in Indian run Italian restaurants in the country. The original carbonara of Italy has no cream of course. Nor does pesto for that matter. 

Not adding cream in this case meant that the flavours of the brilliant bacon used in the dish got to bloom like a rose. Most of the pork used here is Sri Lankan from what I learnt. The fish is from local markets. Chef Swapnil told me that the lessons he learnt from his grandmother has held him in good stead while navigating local fish markets. There is a Bombay duck croquette in the menu which is inspired by what she cooked. We could not try it as they had not got a good supply of Bombay Duck that day.

Coming back to the carbonara, the Parmesan and egg mix added a wonderfully elegant touch to the dish. The fettuccine was 'charcoal activated' and that gave it a slightly unfamiliar taste at first but it all came together rather well. I kept taking one forkful after another and then finally forced myself to stop. In case you are worried about whether I over ate or wasted too much, I had company and we spent a typically long and languid Indigo Deli Bandra afternoon, chatting over good food. 

Chef Swapnil came out of the kitchen and told me with a smile that he actually enjoyed this (non creamy) version too and might add it as a special. I hope he does so. They used to, on request, make me lovely pesto spaghetti with no cream at Indigo Deli (both at Phoenix and Bandra) after all.

Dessert


Trilogy of chocolate


I had the trilogy of bitter chocolate with blueberry and passion fruit compote which I have had here before too. I liked it well enough in the past to try it again and it is a dessert made for a dark chocolate lover for sure.

Phew. Those were quite a few dishes for one afternoon and the menu has many more... from Burmese to Goan, to what not.

Ambitious? Confusing? Have they spread themselves too thin?

Possibly not, because at the end the memory one left the restaurant with was that of some pretty nice food eaten across a lazy and languid afternoon. My sort of afternoon you could say.

What I had suspected over a number of meals over the past few months, and what got confirmed during this lunch, is that Indigo Deli has moved on from the past while retaining it too as it prepares for the next stage in its life.

Which is good news for us. They are a class act after all and I am glad that they have built on the great genes that they have.


With chef Swapnil Raut


The meal was on invite by Indigo Deli. My take on the metamorphosis of Indigo Deli is based largely on my many visits to the Bandra outlet which are unannounced and anonymous.

Appendix:

My post from Indigo Deli had opened in Bandra 
Indigo Deli experience from more recent times

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