There was a medallion of lobster and some caviar in the middle of the soup bowl placed in front of me. As the thick bisque was poured out to cover the seafood, I sighed. These were the kinds of soups I have grown up on--heavy, indulgent and a meal in a bowl. But the soup definitely could not be a whole meal on this night. There were five more courses to go and the bisque was just the second. And the little servings of chicken pate and liver pate with ‘chotte’ breads on the table didn’t help my cause.
I was sitting at Taj Palace New Delhi’s famed Orient Express for a three-day pop-up by former head chef Bakshish Dean and current master chef DN Sharma. The Orient Express is one of those iconic restaurants in the capital where you at least have to dine in once. Inspired by the legendary namesake train that plied from Paris to Istanbul till the late 70s (in case Agatha Christie is more your forte, there’s always her famous ‘who dunnit’ read to give you an idea), the fine-dining restaurant is of course in a train and has been serving continental delicacies to patrons since 1982. In fact, some of the dishes still served today have been on the menu since its inception. But more on that later.
‘The Tales of Orient Express with Chef Dean and Chef DN’ was just getting started and the first course (crab salad with cucumber and celeriac) had whetted the appetite. My lobster bisque was delicious while my companion tried the vegetarian option of butternut squash which had a hint of smoked paprika.
Then placed in front of me was the cheese soufflé or specifically the Camembert soufflé. It’s a dish that has been kept on the menu since 1982, no matter if other dishes have been replaced or re-invented. It was a dish created by Chef Dean and thanks to its popularity, is always asked for by patrons. I remembered the last time I was at Orient Express, my love for Camembert was the reason I indulged in the soft and light delicacy. This time round, the soufflé was light and airy and the taste no different. With a sprinkling of cracked pepper to heighten the taste, I would ask fellow cheese lovers to try this when there.
I would have to go out on a limb here and say that the sorbet to cleanse the palate was by far the tastiest I’ve had in recent years. Blood orange with champagne is a winning combination and I must say I’ve been inclined to make it at home on nights when I’ve craved a Popsicle.
Palate cleansed and the glass bowl cleaned till there was nothing left, it was time for the entrée: the non-vegetarian trio of lamb, duck and chicken. At the end, the only evidence left of a delicious plate of food was the remains of a baby carrot top. The meats were tender and the portion sizes were fine for one.
By then I had eaten more in one sitting than I usually do during an entire week. My stomach was full but I had to try the cheese, white honey and figs platter before taking small bites of the crème brulee and chocolate pudding. As someone who really relishes Continental food, the seven-course meal was fabulous but in hindsight, I should have just asked for a takeaway dessert bag to eat in the confines of my home, in pajamas, in the middle of the night, Nigella Lawson style. Oh well, there’s always a next time.
#TalesofOEwithDeanandDN was held at Taj Palace, New Delhi in May 2019