‘Tis the season of hyperlocal and regional foods in India.
In the last five years, interest and experiments with regional Indian cuisines has taken the country by a storm. And why should it not? The 28 states and nine union territories of India hold within it innumerable kitchens, tales, heirlooms, recipes and techniques that will leave any gourmand spellbound. It is time to embark upon a culinary journey to look further and dig deeper into India’s food heritage. The first step to it will be the impressive wave of establishments dedicated to indigenous ingredients and micro-cuisines have cropped up in different states of India; spearheaded by a bunch of inventive restaurateurs and chefs.
LF Epicurean Guild Awards, under the ‘emerging Indian restaurants’ category, honours the best of such properties. Restaurants who are setting a new direction for both the industry and consumers by putting not just food, but also rich culture and history that has been passed down through generations. Team LF and LFEGA co-curator Manu Chandra held discussions with a jury comprising chefs, restaurateurs, food critics, entrepreneurs, and more, to pick out the best restaurants under several categories. Here’s a roundup for some of the best Indian restaurants in India.
1. O Pedro, MumbaiLocated in the heart of Mumbai’s popular corporate hub Bandra Kurla Complex, O Pedro, led by chef Hussain Shahzad, celebrates the culinary diversity of Goa that is speckled with Portuguese influences. Unlike most fine-dine restaurants, this all-day bar and restaurant serves authentic dishes with inventive drinks, spotlighting local ingredients and local flavours, in a casual-cum-formal setting.
2. Masque, MumbaiWilderness-to-table, seasonal, stylish, and out-of-the-box, Masque has got all the millennial-friendly hashtags on its side. Owned by entrepreneur Aditi Dugar and Chef Prateek Sadhu, the fine-dine restaurant focuses entirely on dégustation menus, which feature 10 courses of chef’s tasting spread. The food at Masque puts spotlight on the home-cuisine of chef Sadhu, while the tipples are designed around the five elements of Ayurveda: bhumi (earth), jal (water), agni (fire), vayu (air), aakash (void). The restaurant has the claim of being one of the best restaurants for dining in Mumbai.
3. Paragon, KochiNow here's an eatery that enjoys a cult status among Malyalis. Paragon has four outlets, two in Kerala and two in Dubai. However, it the Kochi outpost that is most famous. The restaurant is beloved by all because of the culinary heritage of Kerala that it showcases through Mopallah (Muslim) and Hindu Thiyya recipes. Food lovers travel far and wide to try Paragon’s mutton biryani, which has a cult status.
4. Kappa Chakka Kandhari, Chennai265 homes and 70 toddy shops. That's how many stops chef Regi Mathew and his partners, Augustine Kurian and John Paul, took to research for Kappa Chakka Kandhari in Chennai. It was a simple idea—to recreate the food memories from their childhood. Today, they've done just that. Fine ingredients, heirloom recipes, and nostalgia are a few of the key points that attract people to KCK.
5. Savya Rasa, Pune and ChennaiWith an exhaustive menu featuring long-forgotten recipes from Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana and Tamil Nadu, Savya Rasa, helmed by chef Sheikh Mohideen, makes an attempt to acquaint diners about south Indian food beyond the usual idli-dosa. Think flaky Malabari kottu roti, succulent mutton fry loaded with crispy curry leaves, Chettinad kozhi podi varuval, and more.
6. Dalma, BengaluruNamed after a hearty lentil and vegetable stew, Dalma at Koramangala is not just comforting homesick Odias with flavours of home but also acquainting a new generation of foodies in Bengaluru with the intricacies of this cuisine from Orissa. The ambiance and service at this eatery is no-frills, but the minute the food arrives you know where they dedicate all their energies. The bamboo mutton and chakuli pitha are a couple of the most popular dishes at Dalma.
7. Mahé, GoaTucked away in a restored 19th century Portuguese home in Anjuna Goa, Mahé is one of India’s coolest contemporary restaurant. Helmed by Mumbai-based Parth Timbadia and chef Sandeep Sreedharan, the restaurant opened its doors in 2019 and pays tribute to India’s western coastline. Keep an eye out for eclectic dishes such as slow-cooked mackerel with fresh plums, pickled mussels in extra virgin coconut oil, and fish with moilee foam. One can pair these dishes with innovative tipples that combine classics with regional favourites.
8. Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu, DelhiNamed after chef-owner Kainaz Contractor’s father, this 18-seater Parsi restaurant was launched in 2014. Its aim was (and still is) to offer lesser-known delicacies of the Indian cuisine along with the favourites such as dhansak, salli boti, and akuri toast. What makes Rustom’s even more popular among Delhiites is their surprisingly vast vegetarian menu including patra ma paneer, soya and French beans na pattice, and bheeda ma dahi, which have been taken from a cookbook by Katy Dalal.
9. Axomi, BengaluruYears ago when Dipankar Kalita, Pranjal Medhi, and Srimanta Sharma shifted to Bengaluru for work, they yearned for home cooked food. The trio saw this as an opportunity and opened Axomi in 2013. The thalis (regular as well as mini) here feature Assamese basics such as rice, dal, khar, aloo pithika, with a vegetable or meat curry. One can choose between fish, mutton, chicken, and pork on the side. The murighanta, a fish head and lentil curry, and khorikhat pura gahori, meat chunks roasted in bamboo, are two of the must-haves at Axomi.
10. Blue Poppy - Thakali, KolkataDecorated with upcycled woven cane and traditional Nepali brass lamps, Blue Poppy - Thakali brings to you the cuisine of Nepal's Thakalis, a tribe that resides along the Thak River. The food is served in a thali format and it boasts of simple dishes - rice, black dal, meat/veg curry, greens, and salad. The tribal spread also has a variety of pickles to complement the delicacies on the plate. Coming to the a la carte, don't miss the combination of sel roti and alu dam. While the alu dam is a Nepali version of the popular Bengali aloor dum, the sel roti is a cross between a donut and malpua, finished with a tempering of aniseed.
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