The Taste Drive: What's it like to eat blindfolded?

Phorum Dalal sat blindfolded, ploughing through 4 courses of a mystery meal. Could she tell potato from cauliflower? 

A blindfolded participant tries her dish at Olive Bar and Kitchen.

Mumbai: The rules are simple – take a seat; place your drink at the centre; put on the PlayClan eye mask. To ensure you don’t spill your drink, refrain from reaching for a sip (Go for it, when the eye mask is off between courses).

Before every course, the first bell is an indication to put on the blindfold; the second indicates plates have been cleared.

We take our seats in the inside seating area of Olive Bar and Kitchen at Bandra’s Pali Hill, and prepare our taste buds to take on Chef Sujan Sarkar’s four-course mystery meal.

Chef Sujan Sarkar from Olive Bar and Kitchen talks about one of the dishes that he created at the Blind Tasting Event for MasterChef Australia

Our host for the evening, Anjali Batra of FoodTalk India, a Delhi-based digital food event firm, takes us through the instructions.

First Course

Goat cheese & burrata choco-bar, heirloom beetroot, plum, hazelnut, orange

The bell rings and a cacophony of confusion ensues: “Are the plates on our table?”; “Can we start eating?”; “Have we got the ingredients right?” All participants are shouting guesses to each other.

The hosts put us at ease as the server places a stick in my hand. In the darkness, I take a bite. It is definitely goat cheese. But what is the crunchy outer covering? Through the first course, we clank cutlery and take clumsy bites of a crunchy salad. Beetroot, for sure, as the taste of plum, peach and orange hits the palate. Fresh arugula leaves are the easiest to identify. Servers are nice enough to help us when we falter, guiding us to spot the last bite.
We sit back and wait for the plates to be cleared. As the bell rings again, we remove our blindfold.

The dish, Chef Sujan explains, lifting the cover of the Mystery Box a la MasterChef style, was a Goat cheese & burrata choco-bar, heirloom beetroot, plum, hazelnut, orange.

Some hits and misses, we realise.

Second Course

Cauliflower mouse, apricot gel, pine nuts & sweet garlic crunch, truffle oil

By the time the bell rings for the second course, we are more confident of rummaging in the dark.
Batra announces, “This time, you will need only a spoon.”

A creamy potato mash topped with garlic, pine nuts and truffle oil hits the palate. I am sure I have got the ingredients right; I lap up the dish.

This time, the entire floor gets it wrong. “It wasn’t mashed potato; it was a cauliflower mousse,” chef Sujan smirks.

Third Course 
By now, our eyes and senses have adjusted to the absence of light and we are able to do a decent guess job.

While it is easy to identify the meats and sea food, it is the vegetables and herbs that leave us stupefied.

In this course, we get the meaty taste of the pan-fried chicken breast and crispy chicken wings spot on, along with the kale, potato and hazelnut purée, potato and black rice puff.

Fourth Course
Valrhona chocolate ganache, poached kumquat, orange sorbet, caramel popcorn mousse, quinoa and cocoa nib crunch

Until now, we have prided our clumsy selves for not having spilt a drop of food or drink. The eaters, including me, have taken up the challenge to guess every ingredient.

Once the bell for attacking the dessert is rung, we dig our spoon in and a bitter chocolate mousse hits the roof of our mouth. A cool lemon sorbet adds tartiness along with a hint of orange. And, wait, was that a popcorn we munched?
A poached fruit is the only thing we cannot nail.

The dish was a Valrhona chocolate ganache, poached kumquat, orange sorbet, caramel popcorn mousse, quinoa and cocoa nib crunch.

MasterChef Australia Season 7 airs on Star World and Star World HD Monday to Friday, 9 pm

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