Javier Rodriguez and Nikhil Agarwal titillate people’s palate

Javier Rodriguez and Nikhil Agarwal titillate people’s palate

At a recently held seven-course sit-down dinner held in Mumbai by All Things Nice, the Argentinian Chef Javier Rodriguez impressed the Indian foodies

Shruti PanditUpdated: Friday, April 05, 2024, 06:52 PM IST
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Argentinian wines have always intrigued me. They are known for their Malbecs but their Torrentes is equally enticing, though lesser known. And trust Nikhil Agarwal to bring out the best of Argentinian wines by pairing them with curation of food by an Argentinian chef. He also paired Prosecco, Pinot Noir and a Classic Rose with some of the courses served at a recent sit-down seven-course dinner at the Grand Hyatt. The dinner was a combined effort of All Things Nice of Nikhil Agarwal and Argentina Consulate.

Why would Nikhil choose wines from different regions other than Argentina for a dinner by Argentinian Chef? “Answer is simple. The food is not all Argentinian. And food is the hero. So… wines were selected after the menu was decided,” informed Nikhil.

Chef Javier Rodriguez was super happy to be in India as he had tasted Indian food during his tenure in Singapore, but this was his first trip to India. “Oh… I love dosa, chicken tikka masala, paratha… And the rich cultural history. It’s fascinating.” Javier exclaimed. “I consider Indians as Masters of Breads. The variety of breads that they create is super amazing.”

Coming from a family of academicians, choosing cooking as a profession was quite a challenge for Javier. “But I love challenges,” he admited. “Everyone in family is doctor, accountant, lawyer etc. never a chef. But cooking was always my calling. I did try to study law for a while… but naa… soon I realized it was not my cup of tea.”

Javier faced a challenge while curating food for the dinner in India. “It is very difficult to surprise Indians,” he said. “I have worked most of life in Singapore and met a lot of Indians. Have a lot of Indian friends as well… but… I always found it difficult to surprise them or satiate them with my creations. Their creativity, their use of spices in so many different ways is just amazing.”

Is it because you are an Argentinian chef? “No… I am not a typical Argentinian chef. I cook more of non-Argentinian stuff than the typical Argentinian,” Javier shared. “Though my comfort food remains to be Empanadas – especially the ones cooked my by grandmother,” he said while showing off the tattoo of empanadas on his arm.

That he is not into just Argentinian food is quite obvious at the dinner when one looks at the menu. “It’s primarily created from local available food,” he said. “Though, yes, few ingredients like caviar are imported,” he revealed.

Despite his claim that he cannot surprise Indians as they have an evolved palate, Javiers did surprise with Pani Puri hors d’oeuvres. Delightfully filled with corn and topped with caviar, the puris were surely a surprise to go with the DOCG Prosecco that Nikhil had selected as the welcome drink. The connoisseur is sure to recognize the quality of prosecco with the DOCG prefix.

Except for the first and fifth course, Javiers had chosen to go vegetarian all the way. “I wanted to experiment. India loves its vegetables and most on the list for dinner were vegetarians. Therefore, I decided to keep most of the dishes vegetarian.”

And trust me, his vegetarian dishes were delectable. The Fennel and Orange Soup with Smoked Provolone Cheese served with Pecne Te Torrentes from Mendonza area of Argentina was a delicious combo. The Ember Cooked Argentinian Bread that was served with chimichurri was a perfect course breaker served with a Californian Pinot Noir.

Nikhil paired both non-veg dishes with Argentinian wines. The Lobster presented with charred eggplant and almonds (an interesting presentation) was paired with a smooth, buttery Chardonnay. And Chargrilled Lamb with Jerusalem Artichoke and Coffee Puree was paired with an elegant Malbec – jewel in the crown of Argentina. Both pairings were really remarkable and brought out the best flavours of the food.

In the desserts, the first one – Strawberry Consommé, White Chocolate and Matcha Mousse - didn’t impress much, but the Pineapple, Coconut and Curry Leaf ensemble (coconut and pineapple pannacotta with interesting condiments) delighted the palate. Though I preferred having Malbec with it and not the coffee liqueur that the served in espresso cups. The thickness of the cups kind of restricted us from enjoying the liqueur to the fullest and it also didn’t go well with the desserts.

“I was very happy with my first trip to India and I am looking forward to more so that I have time explore and experiment with the local ingredients,” Javiers concluded.

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