“Vidya, What an amazing experience!” Biswajit and Shalini, of the ForumArtGallery, tell me.
“I don’t think I have seen so much innovative cooking in an Asian themed restaurant before. It was an extraordinarily refined, interesting and excellent cuisine with great presentation, fantastic and researched combination of ingredients and flavours!” Dominique and Andy chime in.
Our journey through the Orient at The Pan Asian in The Grand Chola was a totally incredible experience. My fellow travelers were Shalini of the Forum gallery and her husband Biswajit, and Andy and Dominique. Chef Vikramjit Roy led us through a food journey par excellence, that will remain etched in our collective memory.
Biswajit is a caboodler who creates endearing characters, layered with a sense of humour to give life to a happy congregation of people that populate his art. He portrays socially inspired situations with graphic detail. A professional cartoonist who has had solo shows in India, London and Malaysia, he has published in various magazines, newspapers and books. Shalini is a painter, sculptor and is the Director of Forum Art Gallery, who delivers a holistic art experience – Art exhibitions, Art consultations, education and therapy. She has exhibited her works in India and overseas in New York, Singapore and Malaysia.
Andy Crighton is the CIO of BNP Paribas in Chennai. Originating from Scotland, he has travelled extensively and lived in Europe and South America before settling in Paris. Dominique Rastoin, the quintessential French lady, beautiful and always elegant, grew up on her family vineyard in Provence and honed her taste for food and fine wine in her travels with Andy all over the world. Both complete Indophiles, they have spent their years in India travelling to see as much as they can of our country. All my four guests are self-confessed foodies, who travel the world and can name their favourite restaurant in any country.
It is a near impossible task to describe the experience at the Pan Asian, Chennai’s latest Oriental restaurant, showcased at The ITC Grand Chola. The uber cool Chef Vikramjit Roy has crafted a menu that keeps a delicate balance between authenticity and “progression of food”. With his expertise and passion for food, he is sure to capture the imagination and hearts of all of us Chennaivasis! Chef Vikram has worked at various hotels all over the world and has headed the Wasabi in Delhi. This super fit biker is a fitness addict and runs an easy twenty kilometer every morning. We almost immediately become a part of his fan club, and that was even before we had begun to taste the incredible array of food that he would be sending out to us.
Chennai needs to totally forget any previous ideas of Chinese or anything Oriental and come to the Pan Asian knowing that they will become converts to Chef Vikram’s style of Asian cuisine. Banish all thoughts of ‘Fried rice and Gobi Manchurian’ forever and enjoy a diverse and complete gastronomic experience. We left ourselves in his hands and just sat back enjoying the champagne and conversation while the journey began through China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand.
While we were waiting, we sipped martinis of Gin and Yozu, which was spicy, tangy and a very refreshing taste, with the rim of the glass dipped in soy salt served with freeze fried tomatoes. The Green Apple Carpaccio, with a red plum and Ponzu sauce was spicy and tangy with the sweetness of the apple coming through .It was flavoured with salted kelp and ginger. The Thai Banana Blossom Salad that came next had basil flavoured slivers of potato, with banana blossom. The Tofu Steak blended with avocado was chill dried on ice, a wonderful mix of edible chrysanthemums, and flavor of oranges – totally yummy. The Grilled Hockhaidu Scallop and the Corn patty were served with a mango relish and Korean Khimchi. This was presented with a ring of crunchy zucchini and looked almost too pretty to eat! But I can assure you that when the plates were removed we had eaten the last sliver of zucchini.
The Stir Fried Water Chestnuts were a masterpiece and stir fried in a light sauce, served with crispy lime slices and organic yam chips with sour cream; an amazing blending of flavours. The House Smoked Salmon was from the North Atlantic, smoky tasting, balanced with soft melon and salmon roe. Both Dominique and Andy gave an A Plus for these. For us vegetarians, there was an unbelievable spinach in a blended sesame sauce so creamy and delicious I could have eaten the sauce by itself!
Then came the soup served with great panache on a bed of Crunchy Green Apple pieces, Yuba and the soup was blended with a paste of Soya, Apple and Fennel; an delicious blending of flavours. All four of us were amazed at the superb blending of the flavours and textures. Chef Vikramjit sent out a Wasabi Sorbet, chilled to perfection, giving us a chance to change the tastes on our palate. The offering of Sushis came next, presented beautifully. A Spicy Shitake Mushroom Roll, wrapped in a sheet of Tofu, a Yellowtail Mango Roll, A Tuna Avocado Mango Roll each one with its own very individual flavor. Totally satisfying!
The Baked Chicken Puff was excellent and light and crisply BBQ’ed. The Spinach and Mushroom Tart was superlative. The Prawn Har Gao was a spicy Sichuan style, rather crispy and tender, The Fish Cake too met with the approval of both Dominique and Andy, our two non -vegetarian tasters! Then came the ‘Piece de Resistance’ Chef Vikramjit’s masterpiece, the dessert. It was a Ghanian bitter chocolate, served with a coulis of mango and passion fruit, served with Spearmint ice cream, there was fruit compote and Japanese baby orange with buck wheat crumbles! An unbelievably delicious mouthful! We were happy that we chose to share one between us or we may have had to join Chef on his morning 20 k run the next day.! Our journey has been wholly satisfying, a gastronomic experience and we took back with us memories of our dinner that will bring us back to be with Chef Vikramjit at the Pan Asian very soon.