Restaurant Week India: In conversation with Mangal Dalal

Restaurant Week India is back in its 6th edition, with an exciting range of over 70 restaurants on the platter. Yahoo! India talks to to Mangal Dalal as he shares his insights into the evolution of food culture and cuisine in India.

It’s that time of year again. Despite the scorching summer sun, foodies around the country have reason to gleefully look forward to April. Restaurant Week India is back in its 6th edition, with an exciting range of over 70 restaurants on the platter.

Puttu and Kadala curry at Ente Keralam, Bangalore.
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| Photo by Restaurant Week India
Thu 28 Mar, 2013 8:30 AM IST
For those who’ve missed out on all the excitement, Restaurant Week India (RWI) is a pan-country culinary event, the largest of its kind, showcasing a handpicked selection of restaurants across ten days - April 1st to 10th. These restaurants include stand-alone restaurants and fine-dining spaces within established hotel chains, offering a range of cuisines and culinary experiences at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost. Aimed at encouraging diners to experiment with restaurants they might not normally consider due to restrictive prices, RWI in collaboration with these restaurants have created a three-course prix fixe menu that has been priced very affordably. In Delhi and Mumbai, lunch during Restaurant Week is priced at INR 1,000 and dinner at INR 1,200. In Bangalore, dinner and lunch are priced at INR 750.

Inspired by New York Restaurant Week, RWI began as a passion-project that has grown from 7 restaurants to 71 in its third year. Mangal Dalal, founding partner of Desi Restaurant Week Pvt Ltd, says he still views it as an unfinished project, hoping to take it to much greater scale, taking over entire restaurants and extending its reach to include many more cities. “India is on the cusp of a very exciting food scene. The restaurants we’ve selected offer experiences that range from French bistro cuisine to molecular gastronomy, high-end dine-outs, dim-sum bars and simple, classic Indian food.” RWI is also a great opportunity for restaurants and chefs to expand their clientele and showcase the best of their work. “We encourage restaurants not to think about costs. The more people they welcome and the larger variety they have on offer, will ensure that more guests enjoy the experience and be more likely to return.”

Chef Manu Chandra of Olive Beach sees Restaurant Week India as a ten-day-long celebration of good food, diverse cuisine and a medium of reaching out to food enthusiasts in the country. Chef Prashanth of Likethatonly says he expects a lot of excitement, buzz and footfalls this April. “It is the perfect platform for participating restaurants to reach out to a wider audience. At the same time it opens up opportunities for diners to experience different cuisines and restaurants, which they may not do on a regular basis.  Being a newly opened restaurant with a unique food and space concept, RW is a perfect opportunity to open our doors to a gamut of diners from different walks of life.”

Organising RWI over the last three years has put Mangal in a unique position, privy to nuances in the evolution of food culture in each city. He offers some interesting observations. “While Delhi is more open to luxury dining, Mumbai is all about the product and value for money. Bangalore on the other hand, seems to have two ends of the spectrum – a community that cares about high-end gourmet food and another that is very price-conscious and cautious about eating out; there appears to be a gap in the middle waiting to be filled.”

The way that the food community in each city responds also speaks volumes about its food culture. “Bangalore’s online community is very vibrant. We used social media to reach out to the Foodies in Bangalore group and it turned out to be the best, most effective way to reach food enthusiasts. In Mumbai, word of mouth is still the best way to learn about new restaurants and what to try, while in Delhi the newspapers and magazines still rule that sphere.”

While this edition of RWI promises to be exciting overall, is Mangal looking forward to a few restaurants in particular? “Well, this is completely a personal choice and not any sort of recommendation, but I love traditional Indian food and the ITC’s execute the simple classics so outstandingly well.  In Bangalore, I enjoy Blue Ginger and Café Noir. Delhi’s Rara Avis does French bistro food really well. I always enjoy Vetro and Hakkasan in Mumbai. But if I had to pick an absolute favourite, it would be Indian Accent at The Manor, by far. “

So if you haven’t made your bookings yet, what are you waiting for? Check out which restaurants are on offer, try out a few, and spend the hot summer months unwinding with some of the best food and drink your city has to offer.