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The art of fine dining


THE WEATHER in the Capital is somewhat elusive. "Can you feel the light turning?" asks sculptor K.S. Radhakrishnan, at Masala Art in New Delhi for a rendezvous with food and art. Food because Chef Querishi is one of those vintage hands who can conjure up a late summer fling or make you romance the autumnal instincts of time with his kababs and veggies done with a twist.

"Meats must be tender," says Radhakrishnan, as the chef rustles up a gilouti kabab that grabs the early morning glimmering autumn light. The gilouti is soft, has a melt-in-your-mouth consistency, and before we know it, my sculptor friend has devoured it with utmost relish. The arbhi seekh is an entendre of veg splendour. This again is soft, mildly flavoured and certainly a reminder of a lingering late summer.

"I'm very much a fish person," says Radha, as the chef sizzles his repertoire with a jhinga achari barbecued to brisk succulence. Prawn brings back the nostalgia of Kerala: the menfolk going fishing and bringing back the catch for the family.

Radha reminisces how the kari meen is marinated with spices and fried in a banana leaf.

Music with metal

Radhakrishnan, whose show unveiled at Shridharani gallery this Wednesday, is known as the man who makes music with metal. His bronzes have over the years been a flow of the laya in life. His Musui Maiya series have become emblematic symbol of the celebration of emotions and evocations. At Masala Art stands a sculpture of Musui Maiya as the couple who emote the energy of life's reviving blood.

The prawns are a delectable blend of faraway from the southern spice, in fact a hint of zeera, a wee bit of a lemon marinade and the smoked ember of the coal. The chef also revs up the meaty morsel of lamb with a tender wisp of curd that has perhaps been hung.

"The best thing about this meat is the softness," says Radha deftly slicing it into slivers and engaging his hands with the masterpiece.

For the main course there is an array of unbelievable vegetarian concoctions. Tori aur soya wadi ki subzi is an intriguing mélange of the insipid but extremely nutritious tori that gets converted into a new avatar in the chef's hands. The aloo aur wadi ka bhurta is another dreamy number that keeps you guessing about the texture and the terrain that you comfortably chew upon in such languorous style.

The tawa murg khatta pyaz has a tang that is somewhat strong, best had with a hot steamy phulka - which indeed is healthy eating minus any fats or oils. However, the chef's piece de resistance is hare masale ki gosht, a rendition that unveils the mixture of the green masalas and the softness of the lamb chunks.

Surprise biryani

"Mutton cooked in the North is so different from the mutton cooked in the South," says Radha. The difference lies in the spices used and the coriander powder. As the talk shifts to the famed Kerala cuisine that is indeed fit for the Gods, the crab biryani comes as a surprise!

The chef has this one up his sleeve for guests who are crustacean carnivores by habit. The crab biryani is a wonder.

Khajoor aur anjeer ka halwa arrives for dessert. It is a maximal mix of the walnut and the fig, a blend both royal and delightfully dense for its texture and the minimal flavour of sweetness - the figs add haunting floweriness the usual halwas never have. The second teaser for the dessert is the anjeere kulfi that is resplendent with the grains of the figs, though it is a trifle hard, but it has the elegance of a simple idea done perfectly.

"My show is about the climax an artist comes to when he creates works that bring the past forward and also speak about all his experiences in the present," says Radha. "One single large sculpture with a number of little human figures will speak about the maximal intent reflected by a minimalist epoch."

Strange how an artist decides to pare down his imagery, keep the lines simple, sleek and full of a gravity that comes of observations and ruminations. Rather like the only real secret of any chef's success: His style of cooking, how he bring things all together at the end just long enough to let the flavours meld. Appetites satiated and artistic intents appeased, it is time to walk out into the happy drizzle of a silent city.

UMA NAIR

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