Continental shift

It’s that of the year, again. Of wish lists and awards, of compilations, and critiques of everything in 2014 that deserved a second mention. So, when we went about glossing over the restaurants that spiced things up on the city’s food-scape, a few surprises tumbled out.

Continental food, multi-cuisine menus, patisseries, brunch-happy bistros, lounges, and takeaways ruled the roost. There was very little buzz as far as restaurants serving Indian food, and its rich, diverse, regional flavours went. Apart from the odd biryani deli or new additions to fine-dine restaurant chains, barely a ripple or two was created. Such a pity.

In the past, we’ve spelt out in this column of the need for city restaurateurs to fill this gaping hole, as far as serving up India’s vast treasure of cuisines go. Mumbai has often been dubbed the melting pot for entrepreneurs and experiences, and culture but, sadly, not for cuisines.

At the cost of sounding like a stuck record, one is really baffled of possible reasons that stop the big daddies of the restaurant industry from giving Indian cuisine a shot. Of course, we’ve heard of a few casualties that have shuttered over the years, after promising the moon. Then again, this was a common curse across cuisines not just with desi khana. The one-year-itch, as we like to call it.

Perhaps, it’s become an aspirational trait, where the well-heeled and the well travelled prefer to take the global route instead. Little wonder why we read about all kinds of global cuisine (read: Italian, Greek,
Pan Asian, Mexican), artsy bistros and ornate menus with exotic sounding names wooing patrons throughout 2014.

This could be the year to change things, look inward, and bring more India into the restaurant kitchen. While cooking contests and trippy cuisine shows on global TV channels ensure that Indian food is always part of their schedules, especially with travel-culinary experiential kinds, our own restaurateurs seem to be missing a trick from our own book. The past few years have also witnessed NRIs introduce the Irani café model and Raj era-type classical menus to the West. Indian food is being mentioned and quoted with regularity across international publications unlike ever before. What’s reassuring is that it has moved beyond being dubbed collectively as ‘spicy, Indian cuisine’. High time, we think.

But, we also think that it’s high time we, in the Maximum City, celebrate this legacy and raise a toast to our cuisines and flavours, more than just a flash in the pan.

The writer is Features Editor of mid-day

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