Eat fresh, eat local—one of the most prominent trends in the food scene, continues to surge this year. Olive Bar and Kitchen in Bandra has launched into the year with a new ‘reharvested menu’ that upholds clean eating, clearly focusing on local and seasonal produce.
If you swing by the Olive Bar and Kitchen in Bandra, you will notice that they now have a garden space, to grow fresh produce. The Pickle Bar stocks ingenuous fermented wonders, from strawberries, apricots, mushrooms to bell peppers.
Under the watchful eye of their head chef Rishim Sachdeva, the garden cultivates herbs such as parsley, basil, mint, oregano, more than 20 varieties of microgreens, tomatoes, chillies and peppercorn. “Farming is my stress buster,” says the chef as he elucidates on how the team works backwards with the menu. It begins with careful evaluation of the produce every season, experimenting with them in recipes and shortlisting the best dishes that will be featured on the menu.
If juicy peas make the fag-end of winter better for your, the Sweet Potato Gnocchi (INR 495++) should be ordered. The traditional recipe got a fresh lease of life not just with the produce, but potatoes have been replaced with the sweet and organic variety, giving it a healthy twist. The sauce is pureed sweet potato infused with chive crème fraiche as a befitting substitute for cheese. With a dash of fermented pea jus, sprinkled with fresh peas and flavoured with herbs from their kitchen garden, vegans will rejoice with this menu option.
Some of the appetisers are so good that nothing from the main course can quite add up. The hummus and falafel (INR 450++) was one such. A pairing of regular hummus with fermented hummus along with smoky-flavoured falafels and in-house tapas, this irresistible dish is a tribute to the Mediterranean essence of Olive.
“I love fermenting, because it extends the lifespan of an ingredient enabling us to use it in non-traditional ways. Let’s say you have worked with peppers and there are only six different ways to extract the flavour, so what’s the seventh way. Once you ferment the pepper, it becomes incredibly spicy. If you cook it with some honey and then take the juice out, it’s such a fine balance of sweet and sour. It’s almost like an imli ki chutney – it’s sweet and sour with a spicy kick. There are just two ingredients but the flavour profile is incredible. So, we preserve a lot of food and in the pickle bar there is some stuff that is two years old,” says the chef raising our expectations.
During the conversation, we learnt cauliflower is one of chef’s favourite ingredients and called for the Trio of Cauliflower with Leek (INR 450++). Barbecued cauliflower is served with a pureed form of the floret and drizzled with a vegetarian version of XO sauce, seasoned with leek, onion, parsley and finished with cacao nibs. This humble vegetable was transformed into a thing of beauty.
Working with umami-rich mushrooms is an exercise in creativity for the chef. He grows them on sacks that are stuffed with soil, ferments them in pickle jars and uses different cooking techniques to keep the freshness intact. “Mushrooms are scorched using a blow torch, put in the pickle jar and taken out so that the flavours are preserved and they develop an acidic note with a smoky aftertaste,” explained the chef while serving Crispy Mushrooms and Feta Cheese (INR 575++). Apart from the pickled pink and white oyster mushrooms, we were intrigued by the crispy mushroom risotto crackers with a dash of balsamic vinegar and crumbled fresh feta cheese that has been locally sourced.
Baby lamb ribs (INR 625 ++) stood out because we thought this was a safe bet. The good part about the menu is, it’s really hard to imagine the taste of the dish or what would appear on our table. So, ready yourself to be completely surprised. For instance, the slow braised lamb ribs served with sweet tasting miso and charred corn still makes our mouth water.
We had over indulged with appetisers and wanted to go easy with the mains. But why choose the familiar when we were in the mood to experiment! The Duck Bacon Carbonara (INR 950++) came highly recommended and we were presented with a generous helping of hand-rolled fettuccine cooked in an egg and cream sauce, dil oil, homemade duck bacon, garnished with shavings of Parmesan cheese and micro greens. It exudes the kind of warmth that can be only associated with homemade food.
Although we could barely eat another morsel, the dessert menu was too tempting and intriguing to resist. With apples being one of the finest winter fruits, the Chilled
Apple Crumble (INR 475++) was destined to be on our table. Basically, a deconstructed apple crumble that’s served chilled with fresh apple pieces, pureed apple, apple parfait and what seemed like crumbs of walnut cookie. Not too sweet and superbly refreshing, this is a one-way ticket to dessert heaven.
The Beetroot Salad (500++) with homemade coconut yoghurt just did not hit the right notes. The vegetable itself was well done, but it needed a shot of texture, perhaps nuts, or something pungent like mustard oil.
With figs being in season, we had high expectations from the Fig and Goat Cheese (INR 425 ++). The glazed goat cheese was wiped clean, but the figs were too mushy.
Brie and Mascarpone (INR 575 ++) was a tribute to cheese that came atop their homemade raisin bread. We were told that it is infused with truffle oil for an added kick, but we were just not able to taste it. We have no other grouse from this overload of cheesy deliciousness.
The Water Chocolate and Apricot Kernels (INR 475 ++) is a house favourite and its rich bitter flavours are enhanced by the fermented apricot puree. But, we called for the Chilled Apple Crumble too, and although it hasn’t gained cult status on this menu, it should. This implies that the chocolate pales in comparison.
We cannot sign off without making a mention of their elegant handmade clay crockery that changed with every course, and in our case with every dish. The team spent two weeks in Auroville with a potter to meticulously plan the design and look of each piece. We were told that it takes almost six months for an order to get delivered.
Honestly, it made us want to peek into the pantry where the chef keeps a count of every dish that he owns and perhaps pickles some gourmet potions.
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