The huge Golden Ratio-themed wall that greets you as you walk into the cosy Kiara Soul Kitchen is indicative of the mathematical minds of its co-owners -- one of them an IT geek and the other a management consultant, who decided to throw up their cushy jobs to feed vegetarians and vegan food of a kind you wont find in other outlets.
"The fact that our father and both of us are vegetarians helped. We figured that there are no fine diners to cater exclusively to this category and so we decided to give it a shot. We, in fact, are 50-60 per cent vegan," Madhav Windlass, the younger of the two brothers, told IANS as a chilled watermelon martini lightly spiked with lemon juice was served up. Elder brother Manav is the IT geek.
"We were determined that not only would the food be different, but so would a lot of other things. To that extent there is only a moderate use of oil and fat and we have completely eliminated ajinomoto (because of its documented harmful side-effects).
"This apart, we prepare all our dressings and sauces in-house, use only environment-friendly and hand-crafted crockery and use only farm fresh ingredients, some of which we grow on our own farm in Mehrauli," Windlass added.
There was ample evidence of this in the Kiara Flower Pot quinoa and kale salad with chili garlic dressing that Chef Siddharth Choghle placed on the table, with the quinoa, kale, broccoli, red cabbage and crunchy peanuts blending perfectly to provide the ideal start to the meal.
"We conducted three to four months of internal trials to research on the menu and ultimately zeroed in on a pan-Asian cuisine. We also worked closely with a nutritionist to ensure we got our mix right," Windlass explained.
Was it not taking a huge risk to open a vegetarian-only outlet in south Delhi, which can boast of only one other such outlet?
"It was a question of positioning ourselves differently and we estimate that 35-40 per cent of those who dine out are pure vegetarians. In a short while, we've built up a clientele in the 25-35 age group and the fact that we ourselves are vegetarians helps to spread the word faster," said Windlass, as a Vietnamese cream soup with a heavenly aroma arrived at the table.
Quite a lot of effort had gone into its preparation. A whole cauliflower was first boiled, then pureed and then boiled again in milk with the addition of a hint of cinnamon and star anise. In fact, if combined with garlic bread, it would make a meal by itself and I reluctantly had to stop at the half-way mark to leave room for the other items that were to come.
It proved to be a wise choice because next up were steamed pok choy dumplings -- vegetables and mushrooms stuffed in a pok choy wrapping. It was a novel presentation with the crunchy and juicy pok choy leaf enhancing the flavours of the stuffing.
The okra tempura sushi that followed was rather disappointing, being rather hard to chew, but this was more than made up for by the rather unusual offering that came next -- gobhi paratha with pumpkin curry. What's so unusual about that? Well, the paratha wasn't your conventional paratha but a bite-sized dimsun base rolled and stuffed with cauliflower and mushrooms, first steamed and then grilled. It actually tasted like a paratha with the pumpkin curry providing the ideal accompaniment.
Being a light eater, I called it quits but Chef Choghle would have none of that. "If you want something light, try the eclectic Asian kulfi," he suggested.
It soon arrived in a three layered jar and I chose the coffee flavour over pan and lemongrass.
"No sir, you must try all three; it's a complete package," Chef Choghle said.
I did, and not surprisingly, it all vanished in a jiffy.
One last question remained: How was the name Kiari Soul Kitchen chosen?
"Kiara means ‘God's precious gift' in Hindi. The cooking is from the soul," Windlass explained.
Overall, the evening provided much proof of that.
What: Kiara Soul Kitchen
Where: M-30, M-Block Market, Greater Kailash II
Timings: Lunch - 12.30 pm to 3.30 pm; Dinner 7.30 pm- 11.30 pm
Cost for two: Rs 2,000
(Vishnu Makhijani's visit was at the restaurant's invitation. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )