Regional tastemaker of the world: Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar

Atul Kochhar is back with a bang on home turf. The London-based, twice-Michelin-starred culinary innovator has been serving gourmet fare over a decade at his prized cluster of tony eateries. Now he has Saga, set up in partnership with Delhi restaurateur Vishal Anand, to woo gourmets and gourmands alike.

Atul Kochhar plating Lake District New Season Roasted Lamb Rump with Turnip and Paya- Nihari Gravy

Over the years, Kochhar has come to be known as one of the high priests of progressive, edgy Indian cuisine with a signature touch. From quaintly poised puri aloo tacos to his singular dalim shakarkandhi (sweet potato with ruby pomegranate and yoghurt swirls), and a delicately spiced curry leaf martini (a perennial favourite on the Benaras menu) he is the story teller of food. Kochhar said farewell to Mumbai, following the debacle of both his restaurants N.R.I. (Not Really Indian) and Lima.

“I love Mumbai, but I made a wrong business decision,” he confesses. “Failures often teach and strengthen us. In retrospect, I feel we overlooked the basic mantra —location—when we established the two restaurants. I believe that now we have hit the right spot with Saga,” he hopes. The restaurant spreads across two levels of swanky expanse on the Golf Course Road in Gurugram— a 175-seater dining experience with outdoor space.

Trio of tadka daal, mangodi, and baigan bharta

With Saga, Kochhar seems to have perfected his philosophy of ‘getting the notes right with the right music, service and ambience.’ The bar is almost 40 feet tall, perhaps making the highball a literal experience. The menus are leatherbound. The staff uniforms are by Raghavendra Rathore. The USP of Saga? Tales. There are dedicated storytellers titled SAGA tellers who act as guides to engage diners with the backstory of every dish and cocktail.

But Kochhar’s favourite pick on the menu is khichri. “I have fond memories of eating different types of the mash while growing up. Bihari food is very close to my heart and I have always flaunted its flavours in my menus across the world. Ayam tikka and goat curry are my all-time favourites.”

Shilpi Madan for Sunday Standard

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