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‘We first need to break boundaries in our minds and then on the table’

At Ziya, Chef Vineet Bhatia has steered clear of the formality of having meal courses. Instead he has designed a menu categorised by ingredients.

Raj puri, beetroot yoghurt, sev from Ziya's new menu

Ziya, the modern Indian restaurant at The Oberoi Mumbai, helmed by Chef Vineet Bhatia, now has a new menu. The team has been working on this new offering for a while, keeping in mind the unique guest profile of the hotel. “Their expectations are very different. In south Mumbai, sometimes guests walk in and ask for Jain-inspired dishes. On some nights, 80% of the diners at Ziya are vegetarian. So, we have included quite a number of vegetarian dishes,” says Bhatia, who feels it’s a myth that veg dishes don’t need as much innovation as the meaty ones. Rather the former allow for a lot of play in texture and flavours.

Instead of going for a formal menu, broken down by courses, he has chosen to be led by ingredients. Hence the dishes have been characterised by earth, featuring veggies, land with poultry and meats and sea, which as the name suggests includes bounties from the oceans. Some of the highlights include charcoal edamame samosa with ragda and coriander raita, Parsi sambhar masala crusted pomfret and lamb gucchi korma with truffle oil. There is also a special segment called Ziya Journey, which highlights Bhatia’s signature creations and are a reflection of his culinary journey.

Chef Vineet Bhatia
Chef Vineet Bhatia

In its conceptualisation stage, the menu had close to 80 dishes, but these had to be toned down to the 45-47 ones chosen finally. “These are not single-platter or bowl dishes. Each one has many components. So, a lot of work goes into their creation,” says Bhatia, whose two outposts in London and Geneva have won Michelin stars. By steering away from convention, he encourages the diners to lose their inhibitions and order from across the menu. “This is a more democratic way of eating, instead of ordering one main course, one starter, so on and so forth,” he adds. However, in case some purists want to go the usual way, the menu can be converted to courses as well for them. Also, every dish comes in multiples of two (2,4,6, so on and so forth), so that sharing becomes easier. “If you put five pieces of chicken on a platter for two people, the last one is always left untouched, ki dono mein se kaun khaayega,” laughs Bhatia.

At each of his restaurants, Bhatia has made a conscious effort to be vocal for local. At Ziya too, the lobsters come from Kerala, the burrata from Bengaluru, edamame from near Mumbai, and more. Nearly three years back, he had included kadaknath chicken on the menu as well. Not everyone took to it as the meat was really warm. “But if you don’t have these ingredients on the menu, then your whole ethos goes for a toss. We need to break down boundaries in our minds first and then on the table,” says Bhatia.

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