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Rasoi: New Indian Kitchen – Book review

07 January 2010 by

Rasoi: New Indian Kitchen Vineet Bhatia
Absolute Press £30
ISBN 978-1-906650-19-3

Since his arrival in London in the early 1990s, Vineet Bhatia has been hugely instrumental in altering our perceptions of Indian food.

In his introduction to this beautifully illustrated book, which comes swaddled in a sassy black cover of embossed silk, Bhatia recalls his dismay at discovering that the British Indian food experience was "aggressively macho, illogically hot and spicy, and usually washed down with a pint".

Bhatia made it his mission to refine and elevate the Indian food served in this country. The Michelin stars he won at Zaika restaurant in 2001 - the first time an Indian chef-patron had ever received such an accolade - and at Rasoi in 2006, suggest the mission is on course.

In his foreword, Bhatia's friend and fan Marco Pierre White compares Bhatia's lightening of classical Indian dishes to the way Fernand Point refined French gastronomy in Vienne, in the middle of the 20th century. Praise indeed.

Bhatia's light touch produces dishes like spiced home-cooked salmon, red onion, cucumber and dill raita. His signature dish, it involves rubbing chunks of salmon with a marinade of mustard, dill and honey and then smoking them using charcoal sprinkled with cloves and cardamom pods.

This is cooking of the highest level of accomplishment and with a breadth of ingredients to match. Sea bream combines with coconut, cashews and purple potato chips; lamb fillet comes with chenna - soft cheese - filled morels; and foie gras is encrusted with lemon grass and served on a wild mushroom and truffle oil naan.

Just as mould-breaking as Bhatia's interpretation of Indian cuisine, is his plating up. Lisa Barber's stunning photography showcases a presentational style whose cones, pyramids, cylinders and stacks are a million miles away from the metal bowls of rice and curries that define most high street Indian restaurants.

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