Black buns, bamboo biryani, chocolate bombs and the novelty of popping in a liquid nitrogen-cured pill-sized macaroon that would make one's mouth literally spew white vapour are some of the novelties that Paprika restaurant at Courtyard by Marriott here offers as part of its Sunday brunch.
Added to the culinary experience, the guests can also enjoy the artistic works of painters like Pradeep L. Mishra, Madhu Venugopal, K. Sudheesh and P.P. Pradeep (as also place orders for their works).
"Just a wide spread of items at the Sunday brunch buffet is an old concept. We are trying to make it different so that the guests go out with a memorable experience," Executive Chef Sanjeev Ranjan told IANS.
"For instance, the black bun is not a common item. We make it with edible charcoal and not by using colour. The food has to be elevated without playing with its authenticity," said Ranjan, serving rosemary cookies topped with mango spheres.
One has to close the mouth after putting the cookie in and bite it. The thick mango sphere will burst inside and, along with the cookie, makes for a unique taste.
This was followed by mango-paneer and mango-chicken salad in a bamboo stem and both tasted good.
Ranjan said there are several live counters where the guests can choose their favourite dishes.
A range of salads includes a ceviche station, a sushi bar that offers tempura/California roll, salmon and cream cheese/vegetable and tinkas.
By this time the wraps -- mushroom, vegetable, prawn and chicken -- arrived at the table. Though the stuffing was a bit spicy, they were great. The vegetable stuffing was well garlicked.
The chat turned towards the paintings on the display and the Sunday brunch concept of "Art meets Food" at Paprika.
"Cooking and painting are works of art. We thought they would go well together," Ranjan said.
Curiously, both are first consumed by the eyes and then one goes into the tummy while the other gets hung on the walls.
Does art work get sold in restaurants? Yes, said artist Mishra from Mumbai, who paints mainly animals, birds and nature.
"In Mumbai, art camps happen in five star hotels and even in restaurants art works are exhibited. Sales do happen at such venues," Mishra told IANS.
"While impulse purchase of paintings does happen, most of the purchases are made by art lovers," Mishra, who is best known for his painting of a sarus crane couple.
Speaking about a painter's brand equity, he said: "It is built over the sale of his/her art works over a period of time. The price of a painting goes up based on his/her previous works and their sales."
Unlike a movie star who can succeed with a set template, there is no such success formula for artists, Mishra remarked.
"Some artists do work with architects so that they do get a steady stream of orders. I have not worked with architects. But my paintings do find a place on the walls of corporate offices," Mishra said.
On a jocular note he added that, for a painter in India, getting a life partner in an arranged marriage is sonewhat difficult as girls are married off to boys with steady jobs or incomes.
While listening to Mishra, small portions of black ravioli, black rice with scallops and risotto cup arrived at the table and soon vanished.
Ranjan said that vegetable/chicken quesadillas were also on the menu.
"Art brings out several emotions. With the refurbishment of our rooms almost complete -- only six rooms are to be completed -- and the metro rail work outside the property getting completed, business is expected to look up further," Hotel Manager Stephen D'Souza told IANS.
"Some of our old clients have agreed to come back. They had gone away due to the Metro rail work," he added.
It was time for main course which was bamboo chicken biryani -- chicken biryani cooked inside a bamboo stem after sealing both the ends. There was also bamboo vegetable biryani.
Both were flavourful, tasty and enjoyable.
One should not miss out the chocolate bomb for the dessert, the setting up of which itself is an elaborate ritual.
What: Art meets Food -- Sunday Branch
Where: Paprika restaurant at Courtyard by Marriott, Chennai
Cost for one: Rs.1,700 (without liquor, inclusive of taxes)
(Venkatachari Jagannathan's visit was at the invitation of Courtyard by Marriott- Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)