There’s something intensely beautiful about watching someone make a stir-fry.
The concentration is what you aim for – a second’s hesitation can take a dish from being beautifully caramelized to burnt, and leave the consumer with a bitter aftertaste, both on the palate and inside their head. The drama of the high heat with freshly chopped produce hitting the pan in a pretty well-thought out succession is another factor – and my proclivity towards theatrics is always looking for something to occupy my senses with. The ‘breath of wok’ (wok hei) is the star – the charred, smoky flavours appeal to our most primitive selves – something our body is genetically pre-conditioned to love, thanks to our forefathers who had the good sense of introducing fire to their meat.
I ask the man to make me a stir-fry with plenty of vegetables in it, and a touch of fish sauce and ginger if possible. While he rustles up this particular masterpiece, I wander around, looking at the food on display. Arguably, the JW Kitchen has an impressive buffet – an Indian/Local segment, the Italian counter where fresh Raviolis and Gnocchis are made to order, the Cold Cuts and Cheese segment, and there is a plethora of dishes which is aimed to satisfy even the finickiest people.
We are also invited to taste some of the signature dishes from the kitchen, and before I know it, a plate is placed in front of me with Burrata on it. I am never shy when it comes to cheese, and here is paired with fresh San Marzano tomatoes that add a burst of tang to the palate, and I admire the thin slivers of red onions which are almost transparent, but adds a little extra texture to each mouthful.
I wander off again, walking around, looking at the mounds of crustacean, cooked and ready to be whisked into a prawn cocktail, huge salad bars where you can make your own salad with the dressing of your choice, or pick your poison from the pre-mixed ones. I look at the cheese counter, where among the usual suspects (Emmenthal, for example), I spy a lovely chunk of Edam, and some Brie, which of course I can never resist, and so, after hacking a slice from a crusty loaf of bread and slathering some some butter on it, I settle down with my spoils, completely forgetting to pick up some of the preserves, but well, that’s life.
The Chef at this point sends out another dish, and these are Jackfruit Sliders, with strands of jackfruit, cooked till tender but not mushy, then pulled and served with a tangy slaw and Chipotle mayo in rather fluffy sesame buns, with fries that K, D, and I fight over, and are rather disheartened when the table is cleared, and with that, our last few fries, which K look longingly at while they are whisked away.
A salmon dish hits the table, but my allergies have made me cautious, so I steer clear of it, sampling some of the asparagus it comes with instead. Its nice but unremarkable, so I ask for some coffee and then pick up a plate for some cold cuts, and a smear of grainy mustard (they also have Dijon, but why go for smooth when you can find something funky?), the tiny beads of semi-crushed mustard adding a dash of piquancy, perfect on some chopped, hard-boiled eggs.
The Italian section of JW Kitchen boasts of a ravioli and gnochhi counter, apart from their freshly cooked pastas, and I order a serve of ravioli with browned butter, mushrooms and artichokes. It does take a bit of time to get my order across, but in the end, it does reach my table, unfortunately not cooked enough, so after a couple of bites, I give up on it, and move towards the Indian section where I see several interesting additions.
An assortment of Rajasthani and Gujarati food, including a chaat counter, a counter with Daal Baati Churma, and plenty of Farsaan to soothe the crunch-lover’s soul. I like the Khandvi from the Gujarati section, and they also have Dhokla and the more unusual Patra, something that both R and I comment on.
At this point, the Chef again sends out another dish to our table, and its some Khow Suey to warm up on a cold, wintry night. The version made by Chef is not too overboard on the coconut, and I ladle generous spoonfuls of it in my bowl, adding crushed peanuts, fried onions, squeeze some lime, and finish with a generous sprinkle of spring onion greens. The noodles are soft and comforting, with a generous dose of chicken and egg, and I happily finish my bowl.
I do love Kababs, so the Afghani Paneer Tikka and the Kalimirch Chicken Tikka are both added to my plate as I make another round around the buffet spread. To this, I also add a steamed bao, generously stuffing it with some chicken filling kept on one side, a portion of which D2 very calmly swipes off from my plate with her bao, and for a few seconds I forget which plate I am supposed to be eating from, such is her degree of ownership on my plate.
The paneer is one of the things which I am slightly picky about, being raised by a finicky grandmother who would turn up her nose at the sound of low-fat and (heaven forbid!) fat-free paneer, preferring full-fat, smooth slabs of the stuff instead. I’m happy to note that JW Kitchen sports the full-fat version, soft and melts on the tongue. Its enough to bring me back towards this table for a second time, but then I get distracted by the biryani.
By the time I return to my table with my plate of Biryani (an absolutely stunner of a dish of white fungus and mushroom is right beside the biryani, by the by), others are already onto the dessert course. However, there is, among good Bengali people, the case of ‘Biryani Envy’, and three forks attack my tiny portion from different angles, leaving me with a few bones and some rice which they deign to leave for my poor soul. The dal makhni on the other end of my plate, thankfully, is left untouched, and I savour it solo, the creamy lentils filling up the nooks and crannies of my already overfilled stomach.
However, the dessert stomach, for me, is a real thing, and I am drawn to the display of deliciousness like a moth to the fatal flame. Here lies my downfall, from little tart shells filled with lemon curd, to cupcakes piled high with frosting, I am spoilt for choices.
I tentatively move towards the ice-cream counter, and find some coffee ice cream and chocolate ice cream. Although there are many toppings to choose from, including honey, jam, and syrup, I don’t see chocolate sauce, so I make do without it, piling some milk and dark chocolate chip to compensate. Then I add a slice of dark chocolate tart, a bit of the coffee flavoured mousse cake, and a strawberry eclair, oozing pastry cream.
As I sit down with my bounty, the Chef sends in one last dish – the pièce de résistance, which goes by the name Berry Classico, with an assortment of berries – raspberries, blackberries, strawberry and currants, coming together seamlessly – light as air, with a little pile of biscuit crumbs to add to the texture, and a dollop of cream for a bit of creaminess, served with a scoop of raspberry swirl ice cream which is cool and I fight for the last bits of this with the rest, a mini fork war over some coffee.
The buffet at JW Kitchen presently is very reasonably priced – Breakfast for Rs 650/-, Lunch atDinner for