Chef Rahul Akerkar calls him a thinking chef and Sashi Cheliah, the winner of last season’s Master Chef Australia, visits his restaurant even while on a hectic trip to Mumbai.
Chef Prateek Sadhu has impressed the culinary world with his innovative dishes that are as much about ingredients as about flavours and cooking techniques. They call his the experimental kitchen.
Every 30 to 40 days, Sadhu changes the offerings on his ten-course menu. In fact, there is not really a menu. The guests aren’t told what they would be served. The entire dining experience at Masque is like a gift that is unwrapped slowly and leaves a smile on your face.
We got a Ladakhi treat, a special meal made from rare ingredients sourced by the chef on the severe mountains, on the occasion of his popular restaurant Masque’s third anniversary. “I am from Kashmir and have visited Ladakh often. This time the trip was to source ingredients and bring them to the kitchen,” says Sadhu.
First comes in a shrub. The waiter urges us to taste seabuckthorn, tiny berries that grow amidst thorns. “This little thing has as much Vitamin C as a lemon,” says the waiter. We are then presented with pineapple seabuckthorn, a dish with a savour and savour flavour delightfully put together.
Next comes in a dish, almost like a toast, made with quince, barley and stinging nettle. “The leaves of this plant sting and ladakhi mothers are known to, sometimes, use the plant as a stick to whack their children,” says another service staff, smiles. But, this, of course, is made from the stem, which doesn’t sting, but its subtle flavours can definitely please your palette. “We are all about unique ingredients,” says Sadhu. “The attempt is to showcase the different things India has to offer.”
The chewy turnip and onion flower, wait, onion flower bhel, is unimaginable, but it’s there, for real.
For the next dish, made of pear, fennel and smoked chilli, we are invited into the spanking clean, calm kitchen. It is unlike what we have seen in any high-profile culinary shows. “We like it this way,” says a woman chef. And I can imagine that nothing less than a state of Zen is required to think these dishes – barbequed breadfruit and amarnath. Yes, there is an ingredient by that name and it’s not just a place.
Next up is patra leaf, fermented tomato and farm vegetable sandwich. Yum! There is more – morel, sunchoke and turmeric; yak cheese, apricot and buckwheat. That was the best-ever main course I have had. The flavours were perfectly balanced and each dish super fresh and super light on the stomach.
The next one deserves applause – kabuli channa ice cream with farm lemon zest and banana honey. So, what they call banana honey is the fine yellow, caramel-like liquid, derived from banana after exposing the fruit to solar heat for about two months. The black mango ice cream is also prepared over months of slow cooking the mango until it turns black. “When it does, it changes flavours and textures. That’s what I like doing, experimenting,” says Sadhu. And to do more of this, he is opening a food lab, right next to his restaurant, in October. It will have one table for the lucky guests who will get to see Sadhu’s mad skills.
Masque, Unit G3, Shree Laxmi Woollen Mills, Shakti Mills Lane, Off, Dr E Moses Rd, Mahalakshmi
Price for two: Rs 3800 without taxes