To celebrate the excellence, diversity and modernity of French gastronomy, on Thursday last week (19th March), almost one thousand chefs on five continents at once prepared a French meal. On that day, across the world, 1,500 selected restaurants were a part of the Good France Project that was originally founded by none other than Alain Ducasse. Competent chefs scattered around the globe prepared their own special menu for the Good France Project. Executive Chef Indrajit Saha, Sofitel Mumbai BKC, was also one of the chefs across the world, who took up this challenge to present French cuisine with his own golden touch. Good France was organised by the French Embassy in India, in collaboration with Atout France – France Tourism Development Agency and in partnership with Air France, Accor Hotels, the Lido de Paris and Rail Europe.
The confident and composed Chef served each dish with extremely neat and thoughtful presentation. He sourced the ingredients for his dishes from both Mumbai local markets and abroad. His ingredients varied from Brie cheese to Chaat masala! Not quite like heavy French meals, Chef Saha lightened up all the French dishes served that evening. Very tastefully, he incorporated Indian elements into French cuisine to create dishes that looked stunning and tasted heavenly. I was really transformed to a different level tasting Chef Saha’s modern and innovative take on French cuisine, which had a surprise factor weaved with intelligent use of spices, ingredients, flavours and techniques from India. A slight touch of Molecular Gastronomy uplifted the whole experience for sure!
As I settled myself with the apéritif (appetite-stimulant) Apple Martini, the Chef introduced himself politely. The first dish was served soon. It had a choux pastry base with yogurt and goat cheese topping. A fried quail egg sat pretty on the top of the pastry, accompanied with sea salt, truffle oil and roe. The Gougeres Nouveau was creamy with that perfect choux pastry base. I loved it!
Next up was a cold appetiser. The base was a chicken liver parfait, which was topped with an interesting ginger and turmeric crisp for textural contrast. The dish couldn’t have looked prettier with finishing touches of strawberry sauce and Café de India butter.
Scallop and Pork Belly was served next as the hot appetizer. This dish was mind-blowing. I have had this combination in a few restaurants in Asia before, but this was so different! The plump scallop was perfectly seared to retain its subtle flavour and softness. It was paired with a melt-in-the-mouth piece of heaven: the 48-hour-cooked pork belly! Tiny pieces of compressed and grilled melon added a dash of colour and freshness to the dish. Salsa Verde and Gastrique of Pomelo (pomelo reduction) not only completed the look of the dish, but tasted great with the scallop and pork belly. According to me, this was the second best dish of the evening. Kudos to the Chef!
Next up was a shell-fish-based miracle, called Textures of Sea. This was the best dish that I tasted here. I can still recollect how beautiful the dish looked, with that sprinkled seaweed crumble perfectly matching the charm and the theme of the dish. The sophistication, thought and execution of this dish was superb, with the surprise factor coming from clever use of molecular gastronomy. There was a rectangular slab of delicious turmeric crayfish jelly topped with sea foam. The lobster and cottage cheese crisp was a dish in itself and a great finger food too! But the hero was definitely the globule of the Smoked catfish curd rice: something that totally surprised me. It had humble flavours of Indian curd rice in a completely spectacular shape and texture. Each element in this dish celebrated the flavours of the sea, and that too, in complete harmony with each other. This stuff was brilliant!
The next dish was a beautiful lamb dish. As the dish called “Discover Lamb” arrived on my table, I fell in love with the sight of the reddish beetroot glaze on the lamb chunk that was served over a bed of Parsnip puree. In this dish, the colour contrast of red and white was very inviting. The crispy reconstructed carrot-potato was fun to munch on. There was a tiny pulled lamb croquette served along, which was perfectly crisp from outside and very succulent from inside. This was not only a lamb dish, but a celebration of the flavours of root vegetables in different forms and textures. Edamame and a cherry tomato were a good addition, not overdone. The only thing that I was not happy with was that the lamb was a bit too chewy.
An interesting thing which I noted was that the timing between two consecutive dishes was just right for our tastebuds to welcome the next course. The quantity of the food was neither too much nor too less: I felt light and satisfied after the dinner.
No French meal is complete without cheese. The dish, called called Brie Exploration, was unique. I have never tasted Iced Brie before, but wow, this was something! I do not recollect the foam, but the layered creamed thyme crisp was oh-so-good! I loved the hint of honey in the crisp. But I loved those tiny honey spheres sprinkled over, even more. These spheres were made using an interesting syringe technique, which inspired me totally!
There was a chocolate-based dessert too! I loved this dessert. It was a burst of flavours in my mouth. Called “Mumbai to Paris,” this dessert had Chocolate Cremeux, a “can’t-get-prettier” Masala Tea Brulee, Rose Sable and apricot chutney. The sweet-n-sour chutney was a good flavour-enhancer with its sweeter neighbours. This dessert is one of the best fusion desserts I have tried in Mumbai so far.
With such amazing food, what I missed was a French wine pairing. But still I would say, the finesse in the presentation of Chef Indrajit Saha’s signature dishes for the Good France initiative left me wide-eyed and speechless. I would love to return to Sofitel Mumbai to taste more of Chef Saha’s unconventional and modern take on French cuisine. I think, I am sort of addicted to his dishes now!