Of late, there seems to have been a surge in Michelin star-standard world-class eateries in the city. Two Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola was the latest entry when he set up a branch of his international chain, Arola, at J.W. Marriott, Juhu, earlier this month. About a year ago, Alan Yau’s Hakkasan set up an outlet in Bandra. Its London branch had received a Michelin star in 2003. A few months later, KA Foods also launched Yauatcha, which earned the prestigious star in 2005.
The recently-launched F Bar Lounge Diner is being led by India’s very own export, Vineet Bhatia, who became the first Indian to receive a Michelin star in 2001. The celebrity connoisseur, who was awarded
another star in 2009, is associated with the lounge as a consulting chef.
Even though most of us aren’t aware of the rating’s significance, the association seems to have caught on like wildfire. “Being awarded two Michelin stars, chef Arola knows the importance of understanding the pulse of the city in which one is to set up a new operation,” explains Thomas Guss, general manager, J.W. Marriott. “He has spent time visiting markets and vendors personally to select the ingredients.”
Bhatia, who two years ago was also associated with Azok at Oakwood Premier in Juhu, insists that at the end of the day, it is the quality of food that these ratings recognise. “You have to plan where to source prime-quality products. For one Michelin star, 80 per cent of what matters is the food. The ambience and the music get critical for the second or third star,” explains Bhatia.
The managements at Hakkasan and Yauatcha have gone to the extent of even customising the ambient music. “The original mixes come from London. On special occasions, we even request for a certain style,” says Jeetesh Kaprani, vice president, operations, of KA Hospitality. Their wine selection process is even more intricate. “All our wines are palatable with our cuisine.”
Arola also introduces the city to a unique culinary concept called ‘Pica Pica’. “It’s a style of dining where a variety of creative dishes is served on a platter for all to share,” says Guss, adding that even though chef Sergi has branches of Arola across the world, “he will be visiting the city every quarter.” Which, as Bhatia explains, is essential to maintain standards. “You cannot slip. It’s like a hospital, very methodical and clinical. Consistency is of key importance. After all, it is also the reputation of the Michelin Guide, and not just the restaurant and the chef,” he says.
So why is India an untapped market for Michelin? “The book has to sell for them to make money. Restaurateurs (in India) know about it, but the book is not aimed at them. It is meant for normal people, who probably don’t know of the guide.”