This story was originally published in TravelDine India by Vernika Awal.
Haoma, Bangkok pop-up at The Leela Palace New Delhi served us a peek into Chef Deepanker Khosla’s vision of sustainable fine dining. The end results are poster kids of a new generation of Indian cuisine for the world.
Browse through the webpage of Haoma, Bangkok, and you get the air of a movement in its composition. It’s not quite all mysterious and enigmatic — think of it as a movie with Rowan Atkinson and Daniel Craig in the same frame. It resembles the slow jazz on the piano at the climax of a classic ‘70s Hollywood whodunit, interspersed by a light ukulele from the South of France on a breezy Autumn vacation.
The above intro may sound over-dramatised. But, once you meet the fare served by the brainchild of Chef Deepanker Khosla, or ‘DK’ as everyone calls him, you’d realise that this isn’t too far from the in-person experience. There is no single word that can describe what Haoma serves.
The cuisine — or if you’d rather call it the genre of theatre — that Haoma serves has been self-styled by the restaurant’s management as ‘neo-Indian’. It is Indian fare, made typically at its Bangkok eatery with locally sourced Thai ingredients. But, it is not just theatrics that Haoma seeks to serve.
A snippet from Haoma’s site states that they “grow vegetables, herbs and fish hyper-locally at (the) restaurant, and create zero waste.” The venture is clearly defined by this philosophy – that of being responsible and sustainable at their core. This shows in tiny but very evident ways when you look at what is served to you.
There is plentiful opulence in Haoma’s fare, and an air of drama, too. For instance, its ‘Bite My Lemon’ — an appetiser of scallops, mango chutney and potatoes — is served atop a tiny wooden stage, as if like a tiny piece of rare stone perched atop its needlessly velvety cushion.
The ‘Pondicherry Pulissery’ — the lobster and tomato soup with fennel foam — is served inside a glorious, untarnished sea shell, with steam billowing out of its pebbled base. For a moment, you’re reminded of the iconic Sound of the Sea by Chef Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck in London. The dish, while of undoubtedly lofty standards, gained worldwide stardom out of its sheer concept – that of involving all your senses to evoke likeness to the sea, when savouring seafood.
While the taste is paramount, it is this concept that elevates a dinner from a meal to an experience – and this is something that Haoma likens itself to. Their fare is created to ensure that while you savour the caviar, the management ensures that you’ve done your bit to leave no additional waste for the world to clean up.
All of the above theatrics are where the jazz on the piano plays itself out. Then, follow the ukulele — the cheery, happy parallels that you draw to how Haoma isn’t really Indian, but at the same time, is.
For instance, Haoma’s ‘Green Pea Pops’ looks like a well-preserved coral reef. Yet, it tastes like matar kachori — a full-bodied, savoury, taste buds-popping one at that. The base has a light-handed bite, and yet, everything simply melts together in your mouth.
‘Sunchoke’ offers you a deceptive, intricately beautiful femme fatale of a chilli cracker — paired with DK’s version of Madras curry, and either lump crabs or sunchoke depending on your dietary preference. The chilli cracker, paired with the curry, is akin to what I described as above simply because of how just tiny hints of it have enough oomph to set your mouth on fire. It’s as if the dish goes from a happy acoustic jaunt to a riveting heavy metal riff – and back to country folk again. Needless to say, this is a journey that you would thoroughly enjoy.
What brings the dish back to country folk here is the excellent sake served in pairing with the dish — the Dessai 45 by Daiginjo from Japan. The pairings, coupled with the theatrics, all show a level of maturity that goes beyond just serving a good meal — it is an experience, indeed.
As we wrapped up the meal, I found myself thinking of the larger picture as a sidenote. Given that New York City’s Semma brought Indian fare back to the Michelin fold less than a month ago, I’m thrilled to see how chefs are leading our diverse cuisine ahead in a world that beckons you to be modern, progressive, gentle, yet fiercely passionate about your trade.
Haoma, Bangkok was on a two-day tour of the national capital as a pop-up at The Leela Palace, New Delhi.