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India's most expensive eateries

By Anoothi Vishal
December 24, 2005 14:07 IST
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Now that the entire world is partying, are you tempted to splurge too? Go to a smart restaurant and celebrate, champagne, caviar and all the works? There is nothing quite like a stylish - and expensive - meal to induce that sense of well-being and make one feel truly pampered.

After all, the only thing that is more satisfying than earning big bucks is spending them. The good news is that restaurants in India are now making serious efforts at divesting guests of heavy change, and while we may still be far away from the world's most outrageously expensive menus - a $320 truffle menu at Alain Ducasse, a $ 1,000 ice-cream sundae at New York's Serendipity - sundry beginnings seem to have been made.

In Mumbai, Hemant Oberoi, the Taj top chef, has taken the lead in the matter. He has just introduced Casa Blanca, a chef's room, above the Souk right at the rooftop.

Strictly private, and very romantic, here is a table for two, available, officially, only by the chef's invitation. "If you wish to impress someone or propose to someone, this is the place, I wish I could tell you who all have been here. . ." Oberoi trails off.

The sequence of events runs something like this: a rose champagne brought out as a welcome drink, a cold mezze platter followed by hot mezze, a light soup, a grilled course, the main course, two desserts, baklava and Arabic coffee.

Oberoi, hitherto, better known as Atal Bihari Vajpayee's chef, is in personal attendance and each of the dishes is presented by one of the nine sous chefs. The price? Only Rs 15-16,000 per couple.

While Casa Blanca's has to be one of the most expensive meals available in India, all the currently hip sushi-sashimi places give it close competition. At Wasabi, the other exclusive restaurant at the Mumbai Taj, a sashimi platter can famously set you back by up to Rs 10,000.

The consolation being that all the fish is imported from Tokyo and you can have your choice of oysters, scallops, tuna, yellow fin, salmon and what not -- 12 pieces per platter.

At the Oberoi's 360 degrees, the Delhi snob-haunt, on the other hand, the 'Grand 360 Special,' a platter comprising sushi, sashimi and maki (six pieces each) comes considerably lower at Rs 1,900 and you can have a go at the likes of salmon, tuna, scallops, sweet shrimp, and marinated mackerel.

While this would be a meal in itself, at the newly-opened Shangri-La's signature 19 Oriental Avenue, just two pieces of tuna sushi set you back by Rs 950, while a platter of tuna belly sashimi (five pieces) comes for Rs 1,600.

If you are determined to spend, another option could be the various tasting menus, increasingly becoming fashionable. That is, if you don't mind shelling out in the range of Rs 1,500 per person for bhindi and dressed up bhel (Veda, Delhi), or Rs 4,500 without the wine (Zodiac Grill, Mumbai).

Then, there are places which charge you only for the pleasure of allowing you into their haloed precincts. At Orient Express, Delhi, the 'train restaurant', for instance, you pay Rs 2,395 for a frankly mediocre four-course meal.

And Bukhara, despite its uncomfortable seating, or probably because of it, will charge you in the range of Rs 3,500 per person, though the Sikandari raan is rightfully its most expensive dish at Rs 1,450.

Liquid pleasures naturally involve higher expense; each bottle from the Rare Whisky Collection now available at the Maurya Sheraton, Delhi, costing Rs 70-80,000.

But what's that when you have juice (canned) in the range of Rs 600 at the Dome, the Intercontinental, Mumbai, not to mention coffee at Rs 850 per cup. The last, no ordinary cuppa at the Shangri-La.

The beans are ingested, digested and excreted by a cat before they are roasted and ground. There's just been one taker so far, and no, the price, we believe, wasn't the deterrent.

The World's Most Expensive Sundae

Like some other big restaurants in the Big Apple, Serendipity is famous for spoon-feeding famous types, particularly from Hollywood. In fact, Gene Hackman and Gwyneth Paltrow even shot a scene from The Royal Tenenbaums here.

In September 2004, the restaurant honoured its 50th anniversary with the creation of a "Golden Opulence Sundae". The decadent creation consists of five scoops of ice-cream made from the world's most expensive vanilla beans, rare and exotic chocolates, imported candied fruits and 23-carat gold-leaf topping.

It is served in a Baccarat crystal goblet -- which consumers get to keep -- and eaten with a golden spoon. Not surprisingly, the concoction made it to the Guinness Book of World Records.

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