The secret to an Indian restaurant getting a Michelin star is 80 per cent in the food and 20 per cent in the service, décor and other factors.
“If you look at the Michelin-starred Indian restaurants in London, they are don’t just serve good food, but they have good designs, are hygienic, and offer good service,” explains Michelin-starred chef Vineet Bhatia.
“The linen has to be crisp and nice. When you are going out for a good meal, you don’t just want good food, but the right service, the right attitude, and you want to feel good as a guest,” he adds. “There is no room for error.”
The 42-year-old, who lives in London, is conceptualising the menu for Azok, a new poolside rooftop restaurant and bar opening at the end of the month at Oakwood Premier, luxury serviced apartments, in Juhu.
Azok will serve Indian food with a Bhatia twist. The chefs are from Oakwood but Bhatia is involved on a consultancy basis for the long term.
Bhatia, who lives in Dubai, got his first Michelin star with Zaika in London in 2001 (which he is no longer involved with) and his second star with Rasoi in London in 2006. His Geneva restaurant also earned a star in 2009.
“Some people think you have to do molecular or fusion cuisine to get a Michelin star but that’s not true,” he explains.
“Some of the Michelin-starred Indian restaurants are classic and some are modern but the cuisine is always bold. There are no heavy oils in the sauces and the flavours are good,” he says.
Amaya serves kebabs and tikkas, similar to Bukhara in Delhi, while Quilon specialises in south Indian cuisine.
His Rasoi restaurant serves creative Indian cuisine and he uses elements of fusion cuisine —for example, his Tandoori Chicken is not red, but black with tomato chutney inside, and he has a Lobster and Scallop Biryani — but he also has classic dishes like Lamb Biryani, Butter Chicken and Dal Makhani.
He feels it’s about serving an organic, fresh chicken in Butter Chicken. “The ingredients have to be very good. You can’t buy a frozen product and pass it off as fresh.
“A lot of my cuisine is classic, but it’s not ghee-based, we don’t use heavy sauces and there isn’t lots of masala. The spices should not camouflage the food.
“If you’re having lobster you want to taste lobster. Often in Indian food, you don’t taste anything except the spices as the quality of the product is not good — so, instead of tasting cauliflower, you are eating spices. I use the European approach, which is that you taste the product,” he explains.
A meal at Rasoi in London costs approximately Rs 9,000 per head. Located inside a converted Chelsea house, you have to ring the doorbell to enter. Indian artefacts give it a classic look, and it is frequented by the Royal family and top footballers.
Azok will serve a range of traditional Indian snacks such as pakoras and kebabs, as well as fusion dishes like spicy crumpets.
“Michelin stars haven’t started in India, yet. But I think they will come in a few years,” Bhatia concludes.