When food stimulates all your senses, and not just your taste buds, you know you've had a good meal. My recent visit to The Spice Route, The Imperial, gave me a sense of satiety enhanced with euphoria, which only a great restaurant can offer. The Spice Route promises a food crusade like no other, which begins the moment you step inside the restaurant. The intricate ornamentation of the interiors enamoured me in the first look and it only piqued the more I looked at the gorgeous artwork adorned by antique beams in Rosewood and Burma Teak wood. I could believe it when I was told that the restaurant was completely hand-painted with vegetable and flower dyes by mural painters brought in especially from a temple in Guruvayur in Kerala, but what was quite unbelievable was that it took them seven years to build it. There is a tale behind each and every illustration, mural and painting that are nothing short of an architectural marvel.
The name Spice Route signifies the journey of spices that travel through the Malabar Coast in Kerala through Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Indonesia to Thailand and Vietnam. The restaurant itself is built on the concept of a 'life boat', delineating the various stages of life through its nine distinctive sections.
Odyssey Of Life - A Vivid Depiction:
As you step foot in the restaurant, you enter the 'Knowledge' section in the corner thronged by four 16th century pillars from a temple marking a narrow entrance into the world. It ensconces the primary basis of age old culinary flavours, The next section takes you through the three stages of life that come after birth - Artha (materialism) Kama (lust) and Moksha (the ultimate salvation). As you move forward, you come across the section of 'Help and Support' replete with an antique ceiling from Kerala. This is followed by 'Creativity' section, and then the 'Relationship' section that houses only two seats - for you and your life partner. Needless to say, this section is the perfect spot for a romantic date.
The 'Fate and Fortune' section that comes after brings you to its 'Wall of Fortune' - a wish wall - if you believe in luck. The 'Wealth' section is embellished with 24 karat gold leafing on the wall and the ceiling, and a real gold crown of an ancient Thai prince. This spot is extremely popular for business lunches. The eighth section - the 'Ancestral' - is dedicated to our ancestors and is portrayed through murals with closed eyes, indicating that we are always being looked after from the beyond. Interestingly, the murals are the handicraft of a blind artist. The courtyard in the middle of the restaurant is the 'Food and Health' section decorated with traditional Thai sculptures from the Chiang Mai region in northern Thailand.
The beautiful visual depiction of life, as it is, moved me to the core and led me to my table that overwhelmed me with some ambrosial food imbued with nuances of our primitive traditions and culture. The gourmand in me loved the creations by celebrated Chef Veena Arora.
The Culinary Journey:
The artisanal menu at the Spice Route contains some culinary gems like Chemeen Thoren (Kerala style prawns, stir-fried with coconut, curry leaves and black tamarind; flavoured with mustard seeds), Tom Yum Kung (the famous Thai soup with prawns, flavoured with lemon grass, lemon leaves and galangal), Kung Nang Phad Khing (stir-fried lobster with ginger and Thai black mushrooms, served in the shell). The amalgamation of south Indian and Thai cuisines made for a striking platter and worked up my appetite for more.
Kaeng Kheow Waan Kai(with pea and cherry aubergines) and Phad Phak (Chef's special stir-fried baby spinach with black mushrooms, flavoured with soya bean paste. I could sense the depth of flavours in each and every bite; of course, a lot of thought went into creating the flavour profile of these dishes.
There are always a slew of luxury restaurants promising you a good time, but only a few remain in your heart; The Spice Route is of those for me.
What: The Spice Route
Where: The Imperial, Janpath Lane, Connaught Place, New Delhi
When: 12:00 noon - 10pm
Cost for two: INR 6,000 (approx.)
About Shubham BhatnagarYou can often find Shubham at a small authentic Chinese or Italian restaurant sampling exotic foods and sipping a glass of wine, but he will wolf down a plate of piping hot samosas with equal gusto. However, his love for homemade food trumps all.