The first time I saw Heston Blumenthal walk into Masterchef Australia, he seemed just like any other chef on the show. The amount of respect he got from the judges and the way contestants were scared said something more. They kept using the term Molecular Gastronomy, and I had no clue what it was. Then the camera panned to his restaurant ‘The Fat Duck’ in London and I saw what all the hoopla was about.
Smoke everywhere, syringes on the table, fire guns, blades and what not – you would have thought it was some sort of science lab. Well, this was a kitchen where chemistry and physics were mixed with the cooking to introduce flavours, textures and plating hitherto unheard of. Heston with his large goggles was in the middle of it all like a mad scientist about to discover a new chemical or blast the whole lab. The dish looked like one thing, tasted like another and still ended up being something totally different. More than Molecular Gastronomy, this was some sort of science fiction meets sorcery meets cooking.
So, what is Molecular Gastronomy you ask?
Molecular Gastronomy is the application of scientific principles to the understanding and improvement of small scale food preparation. The term was invented by the Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti in a 1969 presentation to the Royal Institution called “The Physicist in the kitchen”, and popularized by his collaborator the French scientist Hervé This. (Science of cooking)
In simple terms, all foods have a combination of elements. In normal cooking, these elements combine, react, breakdown or evaporate. Molecular gastronomy understands this behaviour and then goes on to control it, change it or eliminate it with the use of science. Sounds scary right, but it’s absolutely safe. Someone cannot just start experimenting with food like that, there are proper courses and permissions before this is served on your plate. And more than the taste, quantity of food and filled stomach, it’s about the experience of such a meal. Think of it more like a show with lot of eye catchy, click worthy, instagramming, FB Live, etc. kind of stuff.
Few basic techniques involved in Molecular Gastronomy are –
- One of the most common ones is sous vide, a French term that means “under vacuum.”
- Spherification involves making liquid-filled beads that are meant to “explode in the mouth with a pleasingly juicy pop”
- Flash freezingis used to freeze the outside super quick and still have liquid texture on the inside.
Quattro Ristorante is one of the first Indian entrants into this food scene and they started off in Mumbai. Farzi Café too does its own play-around with Molecular Gastronomy, but they have a long way to go before doling out a proper experience. So after running successfully in Mumbai, Quattro has now entered the Hyderabad food scene in the ever so happening Jubilee Hills area on Road number 36.
The place looks chic and nice with a sense of calmness prevailing on the floor. But that’s only till the food starts coming in. Then all cameras are out, people go ooo aaahh and what not. For a place that banks upon the showmanship, it’s not a bad thing for sure. The menu is vast and will take a long time just to go through the options one by one. The staff around it perfectly trained to handle all your doubts, and believe me, there will be plenty of doubts.
Since this was a pre-launch invite session, we were to get a few items from the menu across the courses. But we dint know what was about to hit us when we sat down for the meal.
Molecular Gastronomy at Quattro Ristorante
Minestrone Tea Set was a pretty confusing name for a soup. As it came to the table, it began to justify the same. The bowl was placed with a tea bag and some glass Ravioli pasta made of starch. The glass like Ravioli was the first Molecular Gastronomy twist of the day. The soup was poured through a kettle and the Ravioli just melted away to dissolve in the soup. Tea bag was taken out and the whiff was amazing. Tomatoes dint overpower the whole thing and the tea added a nice angle too.
Aerated Mushroom and Leeks looked just like any other creamy soup, but with bubbles on the surface. A combination of Mushrooms – Porcini and Shiitake – with Leeks made up the base of the soup. The creamy mix was then given the aerated twist which gives it a very different consistency. Think of the feeling you would get on eating foam and whipped-cream together.
Chilled Melon and Feta Salad looked nothing like a salad. It was more like a colourful candy bowl with smoke all over it. Watermelon and Muskmelon, turned into spheres as per Molecular Gastronomy, marinated in Red Wine and then rolled in a mixture of Pine Nuts and Balsamic Pearls. Final touches of some green leaves and then the Feta to make the whole dish. A chilled salad with a burst of flavours with the spheres and the pearls.
Classic Caesar’s Salad was as classic as classic can get at a place like this. This is one salad where there isn’t much scope for twists. But then since it is more like a star of all salads, you have to add a twist. The dark green Olive Burst at the centre is more like a blast than a twist. And for someone who had never experienced a blast like that, it does make you go WOW in the head.
Until then there wasn’t any of the stunts with smoke and ‘oooo aahhh’ moment that we were expecting. But right then the chef walked in with a trolley loaded with ingredients. We were asked to gather around and in no time all the cameras were out.
Fresh Guacamole done right by the table. Avocado peeled and then tossed with tomato, onions, salt, lemon juice and pepper. The show begins with liquid nitrogen poured onto the mix and then mashed together. This one is not as smooth as the ones we get outside and granular of sorts. Presented in the Avocado peel, ready to be had with the Nachos.
Speciality of the House Nachos were a little different than the usual Nachos on the menu. This was more like a top it all, have it all, kind of setting. Huge dish lined with Nachos and then loaded with toppings. To then go and top it all we had cheesy drip sprinkled over the whole thing. And if you still miss any of the flavour, there are 8 dips ranging from pesto to chilly to sweet on the table.
Jalapeño Queso came looking like some fried balls with foam on top. Cheese mixed with Jalapenos and then batter fried. The foam cloud was with Jalapeno flavour and one touch on the palate and you knew it was hot. The inside was soft and nice to soothe the hotness.
Mexican Spiced Queso on a cute little sigree was next. A tex-mex twist to the Paneer tikka and added with Molecular Gastronomy with the Chilli Oil Foam. Some broccoli, zucchini and bell peppers to provide the crunch countering the softness of the cheese. And like the Jalapeno foam, this foam is also pretty hot.
Tex Mex Loaded Skins brought in another taste with the foam on top, but this time it was just sour cream. The potato shells crisp baked with stuffing of asparagus, cheese and corn. And to provide the little kick of flavour, it’s placed on a spread of Chipotle moss.
By this point, it felt like we were in a war and food was being bombarded from all around. Usually the problem is slowness of the service, but here we were begging them to slow down. The flavour burst, running to click pics, tasting stuff and a new dish would be served right up. This was more like a Breathless version of service. But then you gotta just stay strong and go on.
Taquito came looking all pretty and just sat there on the plate in shot glasses. We could see the tortilla cone on the outside and some fresh salsa on the bottom. The top scoop seemed like some sauce and later was the shock! It was Avacodo Ice Cream, yes that’s right! If I had to pic my most favourite thing from the day, it was this ice cream. And popping the whole cone was like instant Nirvana.
Margherita Upside Down seemed a weird name for a Pizza where with just 2 ingredients, what could go upside down. So the twist was that cheese was loaded first on the base and then topped off with the tomato sauce. This is their signature pizza. But for some one who loves my toppings, I wasn’t wow-ed by this one.
Penne Pink just sounds the prettiest Pasta around. And what gives it the Pink color is the Pelati Tomatoes right from Italy. So when the normal tomato brings out the reds, this one gives the base a pink hud when mixed with cream.
Risotto Quattro Formaggio is the kind of Risotto you would want on a cold day, when you snug into a blanket. It’s warm, gooey, rich, cheesy, filling and just perfect. With a combination of Parmesan, Cheddar, Cream and Blue Cheese, very little can go wrong anyways. And when combined with the rice and herbs, just goes a notch higher.
Tacos is your quintessential Mexican star. On the go food, sit down meal or even snack, it fits right in. The hard shell with a crunch filled with lettuce, beans, cheese and sauces. And if that wasn’t enough, cheese, sour cream and salsa can be added too.
Enchiladas came out in a grunge plate and looked perfect with all the sides. Tortilla filled with beans, cheese and veggies topped with Ranchero sauce and some more cheese on the roll. The sides matched up as well with the Mexican rice, pickled veggies and Pico de Gallo.
And phew! That was one long battle and we were happy that the foodathon was over. Molecular Gastronomy can concoct some crazy desserts and for sure there was ample space in the stomach to savour them.
Chocolate Ganache Torte was like a tart taken to a whole new level. That chocolate cake was so rich that one could easily get lost in the layers. The beauty touches provided by the sauces laid out like a new flag of Molecular Gastronomy. The salted caramel icecream and chocolate combo is a match made in heaven.
Tres Leches is one thing I look forward to in a Mexican place. It’s a relatively simple thing but then most places get it wrong. Here, they went ahead and deconstructed the whole thing. The sponge cake is cut out in circles and scattered on the plate. The super frozen milk crystals sprinkled on top with some toffee sauce. The stickiness and the soothing cake is what makes this one stand out.
Quattro’s Magic Candle is the perfect showstopper for a show of this magnitude. There had to be a WOW moment to end it and make it linger on and on. A while chocolate shaped in the form of a candle with a wick on top. The waiter comes in, does the show-act and even lights the wick. When the candle becomes the main cake-kind, you just blow it and then cut the candle. Once the shell falls off, the inside is loaded with chocolate goodness. I would have loved to see the candle wither on its own and open-up, but then for now this will do.
So overall an amazing experience and the introduction to Molecular Gastronomy couldn’t get any better. Lots of WOW moments and some good food to complete the whole experience. The place is in the fine dine category and plus with the experience factor coming in, expect it to be a little expensive compared to the usual affair.
Location – 8-2-293/82/A/1217, Plot 1217, 4th Floor, Shreshta Aura, Road 36, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad