What do Atul Kochhar, a colourful palace and seabass curry have in common?
Dubai; FooDiva was reminded earlier this year of Atul Kochhar whilst lunching at the casual, contemporary Indian eatery Zafran at Dubai Marina Mall that he consults for. My lunch companion was singing his praises and those of his one Michelin-star North Indian restaurant Benares in London, as well as Tamarind where as head chef he earned his first Michelin in 2001 before venturing on his own – all whilst engrossed in his cookbooks. Well the celebrated Indian chef is now opening a licensed restaurant in Dubai by the name of Rang Mahal at the world’s tallest hotel, JW Marriott Marquis on the Sheikh Zayed later this year – just in time for Diwali he hopes!
So when FooDiva spotted his name on the Miele cooking class schedule at Taste of Dubai (the festival was so successful this year, I hear rumours of a second pre-Christmas event), I blagged myself a spot and a quick interview – all thanks to Miele’s PR. He taught us how to concoct a coconut seabass curry – similar to a Zafran dish. Flaky white fish in a super fine coconut, curry leaf, chilli and turmeric sauce on a bed of lightly fried onions – not an inch of cream – and served with steamed basmati rice. The spicy ingredients are well balanced by the sweet taste of the onions. I gobbled it up in no time – perfect lunchtime fodder. Here’s how mine turned out, along with the publicity shot (big difference!). Click here for the easy peasy recipe.
More importantly, here’s what the highly well-spoken Atul, with a British twang I should add, had to say:
1. Describe your new restaurant. Rang Mahal which means ‘palace of colour’ will bring the vibrancy of India and its colours, its flavours. It’s truly an Indian restaurant [reflecting] the cuisine of the whole of India. It’s my British Indian fusion food. The restaurant will seat 80, and the bar for drinks and small bites, another 30.
2. What is your business partnership with JW Marquis? Is it like with Zafran? It’s a consultancy project like Zafran, but slightly more tied up. If I wish to run I can’t! [laughs]. I will be visiting at least three to four times a year, but I am a perfectionist so I will be hanging out here a lot [during those visits].
3. How important is wine to your Indian cuisine? The white wine works with white meat and red wine with red meat rule goes out of the window when it comes to Indian food because you have so many spices to play with. Wine is really important for Indian food.
4. Describe your cuisine and how it differs to Vineet Bhatia’s? There are no culinary boundaries. Everywhere I go, I look for inspiration. I am always true to the origin of the place and the food by looking for local ingredients. Vineet is more creative.
5. How will you source the local ingredients you mentioned here in Dubai? From the local, organic farms here? What about consistency? Yes I will be going after the local, organic farms here and I would also be looking at local fish – always sustainable fish. If not from here, from neighbouring countries – Yemen perhaps. I don’t buy any fish that I can’t trace back to the guy that bought it – but I realise that could be challenging here. Also something like dates which goes so well with my food. As much as I can use local ingredients I will use it. It’s a challenge but time will tell. You find your suppliers, not just one, but two or three that can stand by you.
That’s all he had time for, but stay tuned for more when Rang Mahal opens. In the meantime, FooDiva Friends have you dined at any of his restaurants – Benares in London, Ananda in Dublin, or even Sindhu on P&O’s Azures cruise ship? Oh and do try Zafran with its extensive selection of Indian treats – which reminds me I still need to write up my FooDiva review.
The Miele Gallery located in Sama Tower (ground floor) at the Dubai World Trade Centre roundabout on the Sheikh Zayed hosts regular cooking demos and classes. Call 800-MIELE (64353) for more information.