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Rasoi Vineet Bhatia


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If you put all the words written about Rasoi Vineet Bhatia since it opened 7 weeks ago end to end, you would be a very sad person indeed and almost certainly in need of some sort of councelling. A far more intelligent thing to do would be to cut and paste them into a word processor and discover that the likes of Terence Conran, Marina O'Loughlin, Carolyn Stacey, Jan Moir et al have penned 6,729 words between them about this Indian restaurant.

You'll also discover that they have pretty much said all there is to say about the place and that you are left with a lot of dead intelligent observations about what could turn out to be the best meal you will eat all year that have already been articulated. So while I try and figure out something interesting to say, lets look at how this diminutive chef has made a big splash in the UK food press.

It is not unknown for AA Gill to use up 800 words of a 1000 word column talking about anything but the restaurant he is suppoing to be reviewing, and then dismissing it entirely in the last paragraph; Rasoi Vineet Bhatia gets 679 very positive words out of the 1088 available.

In my Daily Gullet article The Stars Are Going Out I said "...(Michelin) has achieved generic status, such that restaurant critics, who don't even feel comfortable acknowledging each others existence in print, will quite happily confirm that a chef is Michelin starred." As if to disprove that statement, Terry Durack begins his review "I would love to say that I don't care what any other restaurant critic thinks about any other restaurant, but the sad truth is I do. I pore over Fay Maschler, nod happily at Jan Moir, and laugh out loud at AA Gill."

Gill and Durack broadly define the critical response to what is arguably the most ambitious Indian restaurant London has seen so far. Gill adores it, going so far as to declare a personal fondness for the chef and admit that he was not allowed to pay for his meal. On the other hand, Durack feels that it is simply "ambitious mucking about" and that "by aiming for the top, Bhatia has doomed himself to competing for rich customers, rave reviews and Michelin stars against some of the biggest kitchens and budgets in town. I don't think he and his modest kitchen and means are up to it."

Further afield, there is much wringing of hands about what is or isn't "authentic" and whether that should impact on one's enjoyment of the food. Jay Rayner weighs in on Bhatia's side "The cult of authenticity is one of the greatest culinary red herrings there is, never more so than when I hear critics attacking the food of acclaimed Indian chef Vineet Bhatia" and Marina O'Loughlin apparently agrees: "Culinary authenticity is all very well but it's pointless trying to track it down outside of its native habitat".

Terence Conran, subbing for Fay Maschler appears to be less convinced however, "Vineet is trying to escalate Indian food into a category which might be loosely called "international haute cuisine" ....Sometimes it works but very often it doesn't". In true Conran "lets keep it simple" mode he continues "Don't disguise the flavour of a delicious scallop (in Rasoi's case) with all sorts of other flavours; instead, spend the money on the very best ingredients and save money on chefs primping and ditzing the food and presenting it like a BritArt work rather than a plate of food that makes you hungry to look at it". He finishes on a positive note however by saying "very good luck to Vineet - he is trying, along with a few others, to alter our perception of Indian food and restaurants, and he deserves to succeed."

Cost is highlighted in a number of the reviews. Rayner: "Was it cheap? God no, but the idea that Indian food always must be by dint of provenance is as bogus as that bankrupt notion of authenticity. Good food costs, and the cooking at Rasoi Vineet Bhatia is very good indeed" O'Loughlin: "But, be warned, even with entry level wine, it doesn't come cheap." Conran: "Our first courses were the scallops....expensive at £16..." and Durack: "Ah yes, the sea-scallop trio; £16, it is a lot to pay for three scallops adhered to the plate by squishes of mashed potato and topped with crushed herbs"

So all of this rather takes the wind out of my sails, but the real knock out blow to my hopes of saying something of my own came in yesterdays review by Matthew Fort in the Guardian, who not only ate the same meal as I did (the 9 course tasting menu) but drew the same conclusions.

"This is bravura cooking of the very highest order, creative in a wholly and purely individual way"; "The dinner had an effortless rhythm. The contrasts within each dish and between each course were as interesting as they were seductive" ; "it is better to judge Bhatia's cooking against that of Gordon Ramsay, Tom Aikens and Richard Corrigan than against that of conventional Indian restaurants, and by the standards of those masters, Vineet Bhatia must be seen to be at least their equal"

Shall I tell you about the wild mushroom khichdi, mini papad and makhani ice cream? No need, Fort has been there done that "The creamy khichdi had something in common with an Italian risotto." Well, thats what I would have said, and might have added that it is thickened with yoghurt rather than butter or cream. "The mini papad was a neat, crisp barrier between the hot khichdi and the cold, intense makhani ice cream. The khichdi proposed a kind of easy-going comfort and the papad released a breath of spice before the rich, creamy tomato base of the ice cream swept all before it." Well, I would have said something similarly as enthusiastic whilst informing you that the ice cream is a version of the sauce that you would be served with a classic Indian butter chicken, frozen in a pacojet machine.

What I can tell you is that if you have the tasting menu, you will be eating it from £250 worth tableware with crockery partly supplied by Little Red Hen in Staffordshire and cutlery by Guy Degrenne that would not have looked out of place on the set of David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers.

So, a stunning meal, a sequence of one highlight topped by another, some of the best food I've tasted in London so far this year. Not authentic, not cheap, but if you love great cuisine, whatever its stripe, you better go now.

Restaurant Website

As menus are not yet posted at the above site, I thought you might enjoy reading the full tasting menu (spellings as per the restaurant):

Watermelon and ginger shot

Grilled spice crusted scallop, chilly mash

Wild mushroom khichdi, mini papad and makhani ice cream

Spiced crab and lentil soup, crispy crab cake

Grilled lobster, curry leaf and broccoli khichdi, spiced lobster jus, bried broccoli florets, sour spices and cocoa

Tamarind glazed quail, masala mash and basil naan

Aspargus, mustard and curry leaf ice cream, tomato-ginger juice

Lamb and morel korma laced with truffle oli, steamed rice cakes, coconut chutney

Chilled mango and cumin lassi, coconut ice cream

Crispy marbled chocolate, chenna and roasted almond samosa, Indian tea ice cream

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As I type, Bhatia is in Dubia sorting out a consulting deal, but he'll be back on Wednesday and is very much hands on. If you read the reviews you'll see much play is made of the fact that the chef mortgaged his home to purchase the lease. Its his business and there is probably not a lot of spare cash for him to sit back and employ someone else to head up the kitchen.

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seems like he is trying hard to amortise his pacojet :raz:

He told me that he paid for it out of his own pocket rather than from the business and says he will pay himself back once the money is there to do so. But you are rigth, there is a fair amount of ice cream on the menu at the moment, although it really is no hardship to eat.

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As I type, Bhatia is in Dubia sorting out a consulting deal, but he'll be back on Wednesday and is very much hands on. If you read the reviews you'll see much play is made of the fact that the chef mortgaged his home to purchase the lease. Its his business and there is probably not a lot of spare cash for him to sit back and employ someone else to head up the kitchen.

that is very respectable, gutsy i would even say. possibly part of conran's "deserves to succeed" comment. and rightly so.

-che

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I went last week, and was really impressed. I did have a few reservations though. As well as many delicious taste and textures, there were a few unpleasantries that stick in my mind. The famed tandoori salmon reminded me of a pret a manger sandwich thanks to the slightly soggy fish and copious amounts of dill, and the samosas had rather thicker pastry than I would have liked.

My main issue however was with the service which was really quite irksome. Our waiter had travelled from Kent via the East end and Australian, and was far too full of the joys of summer. He was a bit of a mismatch with the elegant room and graceful food, and was a bit cocky. I think we were just unfortunate because it is not a complaint of anybody else.

I had a chat with him afterwards and he is certainly a busy man. I only hope that having sunk all his dosh into the place, that he can drag enough people out to Chelsea, as I cannot see it working as a local. It is far too good.

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Here's the Rasoi lunch menu, which is a bit cheaper. We really enjoyed it last week.

It is as delicious as it sounds, expecially the minced lamb. And you get a bowl of poppadums with the restaurant's own home made chutneys.

Grilled 'gun-powder' prawns, cold tandoori potato salad

Tamarind chutney and roasted cumin flavoured chicken salad, assorted leaves

Back mustard seed and curry leaf infused masala paneer, savoy cabbage and red onion salad

******

Pan grilled swordfish skewers, yellow lentils, ginger khichdi and crispy squid fritters

Tandoori pouissin infused with clove, cinnamon and herb marinate, tomato and ........raita

South Indian coconut-coriander lamb mince, spicy spring onion and semolina dhokla, potato bonda

******

Saffron and cardamom tandoori pineapple, pineapple carpaccio and coconut ice cream

Chilled 'chikki' filled lychees, lychee rabdi, lime ice cream

2 courses - £19

3 courses - £24

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Just an aside that I forgot to mention in earlier posts- Vineet told me that Marco Pierre White, who is a long standing supporter of his and who talked up his restaurant in Hammersmith to anyone that would listen (including AA Gill), was due to dine at Rasoi last Saturday.

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I only hope that having sunk all his dosh into the place, that he can drag enough people out to Chelsea, as I cannot see it working as a local. It is far too good.

He's not too far from the original Zaika location on Fulham Road and is apparently welcoming back a lot of customers from that period.

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I only hope that having sunk all his dosh into the place, that he can drag enough people out to Chelsea, as I cannot see it working as a local.  It is far too good.

He's not too far from the original Zaika location on Fulham Road and is apparently welcoming back a lot of customers from that period.

It was worryingly quiet when I had lunch there with a friend last week: just two tables of two (the others were restaurant spies :shock:) but the nice waiter assured us that they're very busy in the evening.

Food's lovely: strongly recommend anything with paneer, the grilled lobster, the breads and the biryani.

clb

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cold tandoori potato salad

How do you cook a potato in a tandoor?

It's quite common actually, not sure if they parcook the potatoes first, but I have definitely had them several times as part of a tandoori mixed grill kind of affair.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Rasoi Vineet Bhatia on Monday night, Am I the first to use RVB?

After Andy's dissection of the other reviews there is not a whole lot to be said but I'll reiterate some of it. The cutlery and crockery looks wonderful the long thin blades of the knives look great but Rachel complained that hers wasn't sharp enough. The service was amateurish. This is a restaurant that is going to serve high end food - lets call it Haute cuisine with an Indian influence to try and take the stigma out of paying top notch prices for Indian food. At £65 a head I want that service to be smooth and effortless. Unfortunately we have a Maitre D' who seemed intent on taking our order for drinks after our waiter had already done so and then managed to do the same with our food order. Waiters didn't know who was eating what (on other tables at least, we had the tasting menu). The waiter with the bleached hair ran around doing everything in our area on the ground floor at the front of the restaurant he was not ably assisted and I felt the service should have been a slightly more formal, unfortunately it was more akin to my local curry house.

The area we were sitting in was too small and felt a little crammed and private conversation was impossible so while we listened to the man next to us give his wife a credit card for her Birthday and his son hand over a handbag we had to keep our conversation low to the point that we couldn't hear each other. A little background music required perhaps?

Anyway onto the food

Watermelon and ginger shot - watery and lacking a punch

Grilled spice crusted scallop, chilly mash - good quality scallop, lightly dusted with spice which didn't overpower the flavour of the scallop. Chilly (restaurant spelling) mash was a nice foil and contained little heat.

Wild mushroom khichdi, mini papad and makhani ice cream. Our waiter described this as a Risotto - this is something the restaurant needs to get away from. Its not risotto so in the interests of individuality don't call it one. Excellent khichdi, balanced delicately with some truffle oil and a wonderful ice cream which was predominantly tomato. Sounds awful but this worked a treat. Wonderful use of spices

Spiced crab and lentil soup, crispy crab cake - Outstanding, this was quite heavily spiced with pieces of crab throughout the lentil soup and a small crispy crab cake balanced above the soup. Unfortunately I felt this dish was at the wrong point in the menu as it was a very full flavour and perhaps overpowered the next course

Grilled lobster, curry leaf and broccoli khichdi, spiced lobster jus, fried broccoli florets, sour spices and cocoa - The cocoa was perhaps unnecessary and I can't help but get the feeling that it was used because he enjoyed the method used to deploy it (i.e. tapped from a bag at the table Fat Duck style). In conversation afterwards he did acknowledge the Fat Duck and an American restaurant for the idea which he then started trying to incorporate into dishes. Anyway the Lobster was half a lobster with unnecessary Broccoli florets and a sauce which was a little lost after the soup. Possibly the weakest dish of the evening, nice but not amazing.

Tamarind glazed quail, masala mash and basil naan - a very small piece of breast of quail (half a lobster but only a single breast of Quail?) with a sweet, slightly acidic sauce, nicely spiced mash which I think may have had some meat in it (anybody else notice this?). Then there was the Naan bread - with basil no less. There is no way this should have worked but what came out was the lightest most delightful piece of Naan bread I have ever eaten and the basil was unexpectedly complemetary.

Asparagus, mustard and curry leaf ice cream, tomato-ginger juice - Now this was heavily influenced by the Fat Duck again although Chef Bhatia denied he had ever seen this dish although he had eaten there and referred to "Heston". A Delicate ice cream that could have been a little more distinct. It sat on top of chopped pepper, tomato, cucumber and then had a tomato and ginger juice poured around it - sound familiar?

Lamb and morel korma laced with truffle oil, steamed rice cakes, coconut chutney - Well this was just excellent, meaty sliced morels (it would have been nice to leave them a little larger) with spicy and korma sauce which had excellent depth to it and a nice amount of chilli heat as well. Delicate lamb finishing it off. On the side small rice cakes with an inconsequential coconut chutney. The rice cakes were perfectly OK but I would have like to have seen a nod back to the roots of the cuisine and had just a small portion of wonderfully fragrant basmati.

Chilled mango and cumin lassi, coconut ice cream - I can't remember this too well but I do remember it being a salt lassi which might surprise some people!

Crispy marbled chocolate, chenna and roasted almond samosa, Indian tea ice cream - The Indian tea ice cream could have been the twin brother of a tea ice cream I had at the St James incarnation of Petrus, it was delicious and the warm samosa was a great way to end the meal.

Nice Petit Fours including a lovely Betel nut chocolate.

Overall an outstanding meal that needs a few tweaks to service and the room if it is going to be truly successful at the highest level. At these prices the level of service needs to stepped up otherwise it will become a one visit restaurant.

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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  • 3 months later...

Ok, finally making down to RVB for a birthday dinner on Thursday night (treating the girlfriend).

Question is: What do we order ? Or what have others eaten which should not be missed ? I hear there is a tasting menu. Is that the best way to experience the best of the food ?

Thanks in advance

Rick

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