While Bangalore is no stranger to North Eastern food, Lethorn gives us a glimpse of how the humble can turn into gourmet at The Lotus OrientalMar 05, 2023, 21 38 | Updated: Mar 06, 2023, 11 44
Food, travel and learning more about new cultures is what brings Anagha Maareesha the most joy. Though a travel-bug at heart, you can mostly find her at home with a frayed paperback and a large mug of tea.
On a Friday evening, we drove across town to The Leela Bhartiya City. Now, we don't make a habit of braving peak hour traffic without good reason, but The Lotus Oriental at The Leela Bhartiya City played host to a one-of-a-kind pop-up by chef Alistair Lethorn.
The pop-up was "The Essence of The Northeast" and it showcased Naga cuisine. It also showcased Chef Lethorn's mission to elevate the humble to the gourmet. Lethorn said he is of Anglo-Indian roots, and was born in Dimapur, Nagaland. He is known for presenting native ingredients and dishes in a more modern avatar that would be familiar to diners across the country.
At The Lotus Oriental, a live band serenaded us with classic rock. And the hostess told us to put on blindfolds. Intrigued, we followed orders. Soon, we knew why — diving nose first into the experience was a fun way to start the meal.
A fragrant range of spices greeted us on the table — small bowls of Michinga (a type of Indian ivy), dried bamboo shoots and Axone or Akhuni (fermented soya bean) were presented. The funky and fermented notes of these spices set the tone for what was to come. We took off the blindfolds, eager to begin.
“Naga cuisine doesn’t use any masalas and it's quite healthy,” the chef said, pointedly. By this meant that the cuisine doesn't hide behind layers of spices, oils and gravies.
It was a leisurely seven course meal. The popular Smoked Pork in Dry Fermented Bamboo Shoots was one of the signatures of the menu. The charred smokey flavour of the meat and the funky bamboo shoots came together to create a remarkable balance of flavours. Chef takes pride in smoking all the meats himself in his smoker back in Goa, where he lives.
Another personal favourite was the Bitter Brinjals in Fermented Bamboo Shoots and Charred Chilli. The bite-sized bitter brinjals, also known as "likok", were served on a bed of creamy eromba potato chutney. The sharp taste of the vegetable played very well against the charred notes of the sauce. Some other dishes we were served included Pickled Buff in Naga Ginger, Stir Fried Veggies with Axone, and Ghalo, a comforting Naga-style Khichdi. The dishes were served with Manipuri black rice and white sticky rice. We wrapped up the meal with a black rice pudding. A subtly sweetened dessert that was topped with zingy citrus and nuts.
Overall, the dinner was a unique combination of delicate flavours, the sting of chillies, and a play on textures.
Our hostess was Akshina Sauhta, the Head of PR Marketing Communications at The Leela Bhartiya City. She told Explocity that the hotel opened more than a year ago, but this is the first pop-up they are hosting at the property. “We want to highlight many different cuisines at the restaurant, not just the familiar ones. We are happy to have Chef Alistair here with us. We also have many more pop-ups coming up,” she said.
The Lotus Oriental is in the Explocity Bangalore City Guide. Click here for more details.