|Chef Marc Thuet and Biana Zorich|
Tattoos. That’s the first thing I notice while talking to Marc Thuet, celebrity Chef, Restaurateur and Writer. My eyes quickly scan whatever bits I can see, and then I look up and see that he has caught me in action. A quick grin and a handshake later, I feel perfectly comfortable asking him all sort of questions.
Of course, this is after the rather superlative lunch I just had. Marc admits freely he has ADHD, and if he cooks for two, while plating, he will ensure that one dish is slightly different from the other. And since he had plated each and every dish today, I’m sitting and wondering if I missed out by not snatching pieces off my friends’ plates.
And I notice other things too. The man who was the face of Conviction Kitchen puts a protective hand around his wife’s shoulders while taking a photograph. Unlike most, his hands are hard and his clasp is a strong one – and he conveys a sense of quiet strength which accentuates his charming French-laced accent that he delivers in a manner that can only be called no-nonsense. He loves going with the flow, cooking the way he wants, and not following the rigid methods of traditional French cooking. Rather, he infuses new elements of cooking, experiments with the old recipes, and comes up with things which are different.
Plus, he makes a mean risotto, even though his wife claims he doesn’t like Italians much.
|Cold Cucumber Soup, Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomato|
But rather than speaking, he lets the food do the talking for him. What can you say when your meal begins with a thick cucumber soup, topped with a dash of olive oil, with little chunks of goat cheese and sun dried tomato hiding in its creamy depth? Fishing the bits of cheese out and consuming them first is what I do best, and then P realizes she can do that too!
Slices from a Baguette is placed before us, with a bowl of olive oil which is slightly floral in flavor. The bread is made by letting it rise four to five times, before punching it down, and then carefully folding it before baking. The result is a bread which has a lovely crunchy hard crust outside, and soft, delicate innards which is a delight to dip in the olive oil. Of course, I use it to mop up the remains of whatever was placed in front of me. Now I know why they are diversifying into supplying bread to the Ritz-Carlton. Good stuff, this!
I am excited by the presence of duck and lamb in the menu, but well, there’s prawns too. However, neither P nor me are in any way deterred from our determination to decimate the crustacean in question. We pop our anti-allergy pills, and look into each others’ eye. All for food, and food for all, and all will be well (or at least, we hoped so!) in the world!
|Cured Quebec Duck Magret, Sweet Water Prawns, Black Cumin Caramel, Mango|
The Duck is house-cured, and has been flown in from Canada. Quebec duck is force fed to yield the most deliciously fatty meat which is then cured for four to six days. Marc later told us that he was interested in getting Beaver meat, but then was warned that they don’t eat Beaver in India. I sighed morosely at that, and he could see my desolation. “Come to Canada, and eat Bear Meat,” he cajoled, and then regaled us with tales of hunting bear. Ethical hunting during the Hunting Season is quite a common feat in Canada, and the good news is, whatever you hunt, you eat.
Slices of the cured duck is wrapped around a small pile of deliciously sweet prawns marinated perfectly in a bit of ginger and cream and tops it with some slivers of Alphonso Mango. He admits to his love for marrying seafood with Mango, and although I am not much of a fan of the mango, the rest of it is perfectly harmonious. In fact, when the Chef sent in a plate filled with the slivers of duck, covered with some Parmesan shavings, rocket leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil for M, we shamelessly attack her plate with our forks.
|Gremolata Crusted Lamb Rack, Basil and Goat Cheese Mashed Potato|
I have always been a fan of anything topped with gremolata, but at times it tends to take over the dish, rather, the meat in question. I remember eating a particularly fine Osso Buco after removing a thick layer of gremolata rather unceremoniously from its top. The lamb is rare, perfectly red and tender inside, with a touch of gremolata on top. Underneath it is a small pile of mashed potatoes, covering a small huddle of goat cheese. Baby carrots, asparagus, Shimeji mushrooms, sun-dried tomato and Brussels sprouts finish the dish. The meat is au jus, but the jus is special – made from the pan juices and a broth that has been cooked for days in the end.
|Wild Mushroom Risotto with Parmesan Shavings|
I did not think anything could top the lamb, to be very honest. But just when I was finishing off the lamb, plates of Wild Mushroom Risotto, topped with Parmesan shavings were placed in front of us. I am always inclined towards a well-made risotto, and this one was exactly what I wanted out of one – rice which is naturally creamy thanks to a lot of stirring, a lovely conglomeration of wild mushrooms (I spotted Shiitake and Shimeji), a hit of truffle, and a hint of wine hitting the nose almost like an afterthought, but still potently present. It was a dish which I would fight for.
|L- Chocolate Caramel Mousse Verrine, Sea Salt Crumble. R – Saffron Tartlet, golden peach and Alphonso Compote, Maple Syrup and Walnut Crumble|
As we are finishing off our mains, the desserts come in. I start with the fruity one – a creamy custard base inside a buttery tart shell, crumbly walnuts and biscuit on top, and a hit of maple syrup. I like the concept, I like the custard, but fruits were never the stuff with which my dreams were made of. I finish it off to start on the other dessert.
And what a dessert.
The chocolate, dense and smooth. The sea salt flakes in the crunchy crumbly top which cuts through it. The caramel which leaves me in peace, a state of perfect harmony, I daresay.
The meal over, we sit and chat with Marc and Biana, and soon, I am seen stealing Biana away for a quick shopping trip to New Market. My evening sets gloriously.
|L-R – Me, Amrita, Marc, Biana, Priyadarshini, Manjari|
The Le Thuet Food Festival featuring some of Chef Marc Thuet’s signature dishes will be featured in Taj Bengal’s Lunch and Dinner Menu at The Hub till the 18th of April, 2014.
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined as a guest of Taj Bengal courtesy Rediffusion.