Seven years back, on a trip to London, we decided we had to eat at a Michelin star restaurant. The choice, after much juggling between budget and location and cuisines we like, ended up being Yauatcha, in Soho. We loved Yauatcha, and thought it deserved its Michelin star. Totally.
Hardly surprising, then, that we got really excited when, 6 years later, Yauatcha opened in Delhi. We told ourselves we’d go check it out, but with one thing and another (not to mention Yauatcha’s very steep prices!), we didn’t visit it for months. Until two days back, when someone mentioned to us that they’d gone, and that Yauatcha was part of the heavily discounted Citibank Restaurant Week. Rs 1,000 per person (exclusive of taxes and service charges) for a set lunch meal, Rs 1,350 per person for a set dinner. A phone call to book a table resulted in the news that lunch was all sold out. We settled for dinner instead.
Yauatcha is tucked away in a corner on level 2 of Ambience Mall. The sign, too, is very discreet and low-profile, so you need to keep your eyes open to find this place. Inside, the restaurant is large, spreading around a central bar area gleaming with bottles. Large windows provide a fairly panoramic view of the outside, and the interiors (wood-panelled walls, upholstery in silver-grey and fruit-blossom-printed ochre-gold) are subdued and elegant.
But, to cut to the chase: the food. We’d informed our waiter that we were booked for the Restaurant Week deal, so he got us the menu for that. This listed a selection of starters (from which we could choose two each), two soups (one each), mains (from which we could choose two each, plus either a noodle or a rice dish each), and either of two desserts each. We quickly picked a selection, making sure neither of us ordered the same thing—so we could sample as much of the menu as possible—and passed up any drinks, soft or fermented or distilled.
Within minutes, a selection of pickled vegetables and three sauces (burnt chilli, mixed chilli, and a hot garlic sauce) had been placed on our table. While we tasted the pickled vegetables, our starters began arriving, and the meal was on. (One good thing that we appreciated: the timing of the service. We didn’t end up waiting, twiddling our thumbs and getting impatient, at any time. This despite the fact that the restaurant was pretty full and evidently busy).
Here’s what we ate, and my views on it:
1. Baked chicken puff: a mildly spiced chicken filling in a thin puff pastry shell, sprinkled generously with sesame seeds and baked to a golden. Divine.
2. Spinach roll: Although the menu doesn’t mention it, our waiter had told us that this included prawn. And it turned out to be good, succulent prawns, too, wrapped in spinach leaves, steamed and served with a lovely tangy-spicy sauce.
3. Chicken Shanghai dumpling: A pot sticker-like dumpling, filled with chicken, steamed and with a crispy bottom. While the stuffing was good, the thickness of the skin around the edges (where it folds over into multiple layers) was a little excessive, resulting in a somewhat tough, undercooked texture.
4. Fried turnip cake: Another winner. These crisp golden cubes of deep-fried turnip cake came topped with a generous helping of crunchy golden crumbs (in which I could taste fried garlic), scattered with finely chopped green scallions.
(We skipped soup, because the soups on offer—hot and sour, vegetarian or non-vegetarian—didn’t float our boat, and because our friends who’d eaten here had warned us that the meal could be too large for comfort if one also includes the soup).
1. Crispy lamb with raw mango: Shredded lamb, deep-fried to a crisp and coated with a glaze (honey?) and sesame seeds, with a few French-fry thick strips of sour raw mango here and there. Good, but this was something that was best enjoyed right off the wok. Since I had mine first, I liked it; my husband, who left his for later, found that it had become chewy in places and soggy in others by then. We should probably have been informed that this should’ve been eaten first.
2. Spicy wild prawn curry: One of the major highlights of our meal. This lovely little curry, studded with fat juicy prawns and lots of diced water chestnut, came in a lovely mildly mustard sauce, garnished with scallions, bell peppers, fried curry leaves, and toasted almonds. Simply superb, and not really as spicy as its name suggests.
3. Kung pao chicken: The classic spicy chicken, cooked with lots of dried red chillies, onions and cashew nuts, in a spicy sauce. I thought this was a little too highly flavoured, but it wasn’t bad.
4. Stir-fried lotus root: With asparagus and carrot, cooked with cracked black pepper. One of those very light, simple and gentle dishes. Eaten alongside the more highly flavoured kung pao chicken or the crispy lamb, this was almost like a palate cleanser: clean and fresh and delicious.
5. Stir-fried udon noodles: With lamb, bell peppers, and a pretty addictive flavour that reminded me of old-fashioned Indian-style Hakka noodles! No, seriously. But this was good.
6. Chicken fried rice with XO sauce: And egg, and scallions, and sundry other delicious little tidbits. Very good, both by itself and as a base for the other dishes.
1. Chocolate hazelnut mousse: This was a beautifully turned out mousse, so pretty and perfect, it seemed a shame to eat it. Good flavour, too (and a hidden surprise—a little ball of what seemed like chocolate truffle—at the heart of it). This came with, on the side, a quenelle of vanilla ice cream dotted with little specks of vanilla.
2. Assorted dessert platter: Actually, a little tower of profiteroles, and two macarons. Everything looked pretty as a picture, but when it came down to the taste and texture, this was the least impressive of everything we ate at Yauatcha. The raspberry (or was it strawberry?) macaron was fine, but the one with the salted caramel filling was far too sweet, cloyingly so. The profiteroles were filled with an almost tasteless custard (I even tried having it on its own—free of the chocolate-dipped choux pastry—in an attempt to identify it, but didn’t succeed). All in all, not something for which I’d go back to Yauatcha.
For everything else, yes. I’d go back. Because Yauatcha is good.
Our bill was steep: Rs 3,488, inclusive of taxes and service charges. A non-discounted meal, I can imagine, would be much more expensive than that. On the other hand, our meal left us feeling so very full (even though we’d skipped soup), I think if we ordered à la carte, we’d have ordered a whole lot less.
Nelson Mandela Marg