I bit into the pork belly bao and sighed. It was a combination of the softest bao, the most-melt-in-your-mouth pork belly doused with a dose of homemade barbecue sauce. That one bite hit the spot and I truly believed, at that moment, I was in bao heaven. As a lover of Asian flavours and textures, I’ve had plenty of baos but I can say the ones created by Chef Akshay Bhardwaj at La Roca, Delhi’s newest ‘world tapas bar’ at Aerocity, was one of the best.
La Roca recently opened its doors in Worldmark near the IGI airport and the restaurant has already been turning heads. The concept of tapas or small bites isn’t new but here the extensive menu has been curated so any dish one orders can be consumed in four bites. Perfect for sharing and tasting, tapas can be eaten as appetisers or combined to make a full meal. And why have they called themselves a world tapas bar? The menu draws inspiration from cuisines around the world like Japan, Spain (but obviously), Thailand, Mexico and India to name a few.
La Roca can accommodate about 100 covers. As one walks in, it is the high ceilings that grab the attention. Not usually found in restaurants, it creates a harmonious rustic-yet-chic art deco vibe that immediately puts one at ease. The bar in front is well lit and to give it an oompf factor, Nectar ensures the cocktail infusions are natural. Give the Saffronisation a try, Nectar’s take on a bourbon cocktail with coffee.
A menu can tell a lot of tales and here, there’s no shying away from proteins. Eel, salmon, pork, octopus, lamb…just chicken-eaters will have to wait for more options because currently there are only five among the 70 dishes listed. The menu is divided into sections is how I’d put it—fresh, dough, umami etc.—to give the visitor an idea of what the small bites are going to entail.
The salmon carpaccio with chilli jam and Thai nam plah hit the spot and it was just the first dish laid out. For vegetarians, the beetroot carpaccio with goats cheese, candied walnuts and dressed with a vinaigrette is a great tapas to order. Extremely fresh and delectable, the salmon and beetroot were thinly cut and with their respective dressings, made it an extremely pleasurable introduction to the chef’s menu.
As a dumpling lover, I take full responsibility of urging you to try the prawn hargao and the truffle mushroom dumplings if you don't like seafood. Served with sauces made in-house (actually almost every condiment is made in the kitchen), they are an excellent appetiser to whet the appetite for more to come.
Eel isn't really something so easily available in the country. Thus, the unagi nigiri served freshly sliced with a special soya glaze, is just delicious. But here I must mention the enoki nigiri—the batter fried mushroom was so good that instead of focussing on my eel, I concentrated more on my lunch partner’s plate, waiting to see if he would eat more of his tapas or if I could help myself to the remainder.
Chef Bhardwaj loves to travel and its his journeys across South America, France and a stint at Noma in Copenhagen that makes the menu so interesting. He looks after Unplugged Courtyard too, the one in CP and Gurugram’s Udyog Vihar. When I was at the Udyog Vihar restaurant some months ago, the seafood risotto had fallen short of expectations at an otherwise great meal. Here, too, the mushroom risotto with three kinds of fungi and truffle oil just didn't hit the mark despite a great flavour profile. But despite the surprising miss, the dessert choices—peanut butter ice-cream and a chocolate tree with edible gold dust—lifted the mood. I’m a sucker for peanut butter and this my friends, was the real deal. I would go back just for it.
While the lunch was a staid affair with just another customer for company, I heard La Roca transforms post evening to add to the city’s nightlife. Well, I will just have to check that out, won’t I?
Where: Aerocity, IGI Airport, New Delhi
Pocket pinch: Rs 3,000 approx for two