Big Bandha takes a walk in The Park










A few months ago there was a tiny stall at a food exhibition that emitted some damn good smell. Intrigued, we walked in and sadly very few items were left. Clearly, the aromas reached more nostrils than I thought. Baked Parota. Lasagna styled Parota. Paya Ramen. Mexican Bhel. Clearly the guy who is doing this was nuts, I thought. We got the baked parota and as we dug in, we couldn't wipe the smile off our faces. Soaked in a 'salna', a form of thin gravy found in South Indian households, the parota was fabulous. Plus it had a smoky cheesy notes that probably came from the oven in which he baked something else before our dish.

Three days back, I met the guy behind this. He is nuts. What else can explain a finance company's CEO with no chef training going around creating confusing flavours that is supposed to be the exclusive property of molecular gastronomy? As Manoj and The Park hosted me for dinner, course after course, came dishes with varying influences connected by two things. A story and no compromise on flavours. Everyday Exotics at The Park, curated by Manoj is an exotic take on every day dishes, but each one has been loved by somebody before going on the menu.

Like the Bombay Toast stuffed with chicken and pickles. Uh? Yes, uh! A sweet bread dish with pickles and chicken? Inspired by his son's breakfast. That is the story. A Panko fried idly with spicy molaga podi (spicy chilly powder mix). Idly and Panko? Like really? I missed the Mexican Bhel at the exhibition, but thankfully it was on the menu here. All things Mexican tossed in Indian Bhel puri style.

Jack Slider. While I would call any vegetarian burger as Vada Pav, Manoj's burger made me eat my words. A beautiful vegetarian slider. A Thai inspired burger, it had jackfruit in it and the lemongrass in the bun. In the BUN! So the flavour of lemongrass was unmistakable and overpowering, like it should be, but the jackfruit held its own as the patty. This is a vegetarian burger! Something that doesn't have to be called the Vada Pav.

A vegetarian paya. Simply, that cannot exist. Cooked the ramen style, this had top ramen noodles in a paya. While they have the mutton paya, the veg paya was able to bring the soothing elements that the mutton paya brings. I almost wished I had fever, to relish it. Since a paya goes great with idiyappam (String hoppers), the stringy noodles were able to do justice.

The baked parota. Yay! As I was digging in, I could not but notice the smoky cheesy smell. I looked up. Did he bring the same oven? Or did he cook another dish that the parota took up the flavour? Apparently not. Apparently, it was intentional. To have a smoky flavour? A parota lasagna is creative enough, but to add a smoky BBQ flavour to an already Indo-Italian fusion? Are we aiming for World war here? So, Manoj keeps visiting Nagoor Dargah and in the streets of Nagoor, apparently they dole out parotas using stones that have been smoking for over two or three decades. And that infuses a smoky flavour into the parota that he wanted to recreate. Now, I want to go to Nagoor and eat that parota. More importantly, I could sleep. The baked parota at the food exhibition wasn't a borrowed flavour.

I was too full for dessert, so I just picked a spoonful of the beautiful saffron ice cream and the chocolate, but was too overwhelmed to judge it. Maybe I will go back and have that. And the jack slider. And maybe the parota as well. Let's see.

On till the 30th of July, Every Exotics is available both as a four course degustation and a-la-carte. At 899 for a four course degustation, it is ridiculously priced. A 5 star four course for under 1k? Awesomeness.

Look out for Big Bandha in Facebook and Twitter for more events by them. There are pop ups, pop downs and closed door events!