In a culinary tradition as varied as India’s, it is only natural that one tradition tries to incorporate elements from other culinary routes into its dictionary, retaining the ethos of both as genuinely as possible. The result can be a mess; it can also be incredibly delicious, like a jalebi chaat, a savoury rendition of the popular sticky dessert.
Tapa translates to lid; in olden times(as it is believed), drinks at bars would come with a small piece of bread on top to prevent anything from falling into the concoction. The word tapas refers to small Spanish savoury dishes that are served hot or cold. While the Indian appetite is large and embodies a variety of cuisines, one thing ties it all together - food is an emotion, and it is best savoured when shared. Amaltas, Indian Tapas and Bar, a venture by Chef Udit Maheshwari, aims to merge Spanish love for finger food with India’s gastronomic diversity.
Our starters are a meal themselves, so what does Indian Tapas mean? “Nothing embodies the true spirit of Tapas better than Indian food. Indian meals/spreads were designed to be shared, never portioned for a single person. Our main courses, our bread - never designed for one. It would not be economic; think of the paraphernalia required in making the humble chapati. Being a family-centric and community-centric society, sharing plates makes sense and comes naturally to us; think of the Kashmiri Wazwan,” Maheshwari says as he explains the concept over the opening dish, Jalebi Chaat.
Born with general intemperance for fusion, I scratch my head. This tapas is fantastic. A savoury and crunchy jalebi, laced with yoghurt, pomegranate, chutney and sev. And it all slowly makes sense. Typically, we’d order a few standard dishes and be done with dinner. At Amaltas, the idea is to allow diners to explore India’s varied cuisines and local ingredients in small portions.
The menu’s stars are the hyperlocal ingredients that feature prominently in dishes that sound regular but are far from it. Kalimpong Cheese Tart features Kalimpong cheese custard and tomato chutney in a shortcrust tart. The Mangalorean Cauliflower Roast highlights what a spectacular combination of cauliflower florets in regional masala paste served with hummus is.
There is also a Jwar salad - red and white jowar salad with mango, kale chips and a passion fruit-sabja seed dressing. The combinations border on bizarre, but Maheshwari’s deft hands ensure all ingredients sing together. “Why is the Parmigiano Reggiano world famous and not the Bandel Cheese from Bengal? Or, for that matter, Kaladi cheese or any other local cheese. We have a huge variety of produce which we don’t know. I have a passion for Indian-grown ingredients, and I don’t see why we can’t produce world-class ingredients. It can boost rural economies and save many dying culinary traditions from neglect,” the chef adds.
Most Indian tapas bars usually serve Indian cuisines’ mini versions with alcohol (the latter is sacrosanct in the original idea of tapas). At Amaltas, experimentation with local ingredients is deeply rooted in regional Indian cuisines. Kuchampuli Chicken Wings are a modern take on the classic barbequed wings, while Sweetcorn Momos with Lebu broth seeks inspiration from Kolkata’s momos and soup. This tapas is meant for a food connoisseur with a global palate. Are people ready to move on from Dal Makhani and Kadhai Paneer? “The food scene in Delhi is evolving, along with the taste buds of our customers. People want something new and lots of variation. Tapas makes sense. Small portions, well presented, to allow people to sample a larger variety of food,” quips Maheshwari.
Amaltas: Indian Tapas & Bar
Where: M25, First Floor, GK2, M Block Market