Indulge in little-known desserts from 35 countries in Thane, Kemps Corner

Jan 07, 2018, 18:32 IST | Anju Maskeri

A new joint brings little-known desserts from 35 countries to Thane and Kemps Corner

Chef Abhiru Biswas with restaurateur Nishek Jain who are introducing Russian, South African and even little-known Indian desserts to the city this year.
Chef Abhiru Biswas with restaurateur Nishek Jain who are introducing Russian, South African and even little-known Indian desserts to the city this year. 

It was in 1998 that Mumbai-based chef Abhiru Biswas visited France for the first time. Employed with a chocolate-making company, he was on an assignment to Paris. "After working from Monday to Friday, I finally requested my boss to extend my stay by a day just so I could explore the city," he says. Armed with a road map, he headed to Leon, a commune in Lande, south-western France. "While gallavanting about town, I stumbled upon this serpentine queue, and thought it might be a sale at a fashion store. Later, I realised that people were waiting for the millefeuille at a bakery!" he laughs. "It was love at first bite," sighs Biswas, recalling his tryst with the classic French pastry.

The interiors of Treats of the World in Thane
The interiors of Treats of the World in Thane

A shared love
When we meet him on a weekday morning at his Malad bakery, the 45-year-old who is the techincal advisor of a leading Belgian chocolate brand, has just finished baking the millefeuille, just the way the French make it. Crispy, flaky, and decadent in all the right places, it's a dessert that he wants Mumbaikars to familiarise themselves with. His partner in this very sweet crime is Nishek Jain, founder of the restaurant 29 at Kemps Corner and the duo will launch Treats of The World (TOW), a first of its kind vegetarian café at Thane, and Kemps Corner. The mission? To take guests on a journey of 35 countries through eggless and gelatin-free desserts.

Both Jain and Biswas have harboured a desire to explore world desserts for years now. And, it came together when they were introduced through a common friend in 2014. "I am a restaurateur, but not a chef. So, while I had all these ideas in my mind, I wanted somebody who could put my vision to action," he says. For Biswas, a Bengali, the attachment to desserts was almost emotional.

"For me, the idea was born during one of my backpacking trips to Scotland when I saw a bunch of students eating a decadent chocolate bar for breakfast. When I asked them, they said it's the Scottish Mars bar, a long-standing tradition among university students there," says Jain, who soon figured that the dessert is essentially a humble Mars bar fried in a peculiar batter that has somehow found its way into Scottish culture. "The chocolate bar is typically chilled before battering to prevent it from melting into the frying fat," he says. After returning to India, the 33-year-old tried making it himself but failed. "Biswas, I realised, had the expertise and technical know-how to optimise it as far as taste and quality is concerned. I felt people in India would love it if done right," he says.

One continent at a time The duo have been spending many a waking hours brainstorming and conducting trials at the bakery for over a year now. "To the extent that our wives have given up on us," laughs Jain. But it's a concept that they were aware required ample investment in terms of time and effort. "We are trying to get authentic world desserts to India, and it is a challenge to nail it," adds Biswas. As per their plan, each quarterly menu will introduce 20 new desserts. Phase one will see the Basbousa, a native Egyptian moist cake-like sweet using semolina, cream of wheat, baked and soaked in a sugar syrup, and flavoured with orange blossom. "If I have to explain it to an Indian, I'd call it a halwa. It's quite popular in the Middle Eastern belt. It's heavy on the tummy, but there's a balance of flavours — thanks to orange and coconut — so you won't find it cloyingly sweet," says Biswas. There's also the popular Russian dessert Medovik, a delightful orange honey cake with bourbon vanilla charlotte.

Many ingredients, therefore, are imported from the country of origin. For instance, the bokbunja or the berries in the Korean black raspberry mousse come from a rainforest plantation in South Jeolla province, South Korea. They have also sought inspiration from Australian chocolatier Max Brenner who made a fortune selling chocolate fondue. Here, it'll be sold in three creamy dips — white, dark chocolate and pure milk chocolate accompanied by fresh fruits like strawberry, melon, churros and butterscotch sticks. Interestingly, all the cocoa beans at TOW have been sourced from a plantation in Coimbatore in order to promote indigenous ventures.

Moving beyond kheer
The menu will also see desi desserts that many Mumbaikars might not be familiar with like ghevar from Rajasthan. The disc-shaped sweet cake made with all-purpose flour and soaked in sugar syrup from Rajasthan is traditionally associated with the Teej Festival. They had to drop makhan malai, a creamy dessert so light that it melts in the mouth of its patrons made in Lucknow, due to environmental factors. "The key to preparation of makhan malai lies in exposing the milk to dew at 4 am. It wasn't possible to do it here," says Jain.

For Jain, the challenge lay in sourcing a healthy alternative to gelatin. "We found out about agar-agar, a gelatinous polysaccharide derived from red algae. It is expensive, but completely natural and without any synthetic properties." The difference is hard to figure, he adds. But both Jain and Biswas are confident in their creations. "There used to be a time when Indians liked their desserts to be extremely sweet, but now our palates have switched to darker, cocoa-based. It's a good time to experiment," says Jain.

Korean Raspberry Mousse

Korean Raspberry Mousse
Korean Raspberry Mousse From: South Korea A dessert from the rainforest plantations of Mokpo, South Jeolla province, this is a slightly bitter mousse made of bokbunja (Korean berries). The berries add a slight crunch to the dessert offering a change in texture. Rs.240

SMD RECOMMENDS

SMD RECOMMENDS
South African peppermint Tart, South Africa A mint-flavoured brownie with dark chocolate ganache and pepper mint infusion Rs.160

Millefeuille, France

Millefeuille, France
It's a 1,000-layered pastry with raspberry cream, milk and chocolate ganache Rs.175

Basbousa, Egypt

Basbousa, Egypt
A Middle Eastern semolina-based cake prepared for Ramadan Rs.225

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