Take a small glass, fill it up with shredded onions to the brim, then take a bite-sized ulte tawe ka parantha, which sits perfectly atop the rim of the goblet and put a melt-in-your-mouth galauti kabab over it. Familiar dish served with a simple twist that makes you look at it with new, admiring eyes and immediately reach out to put it in your mouth. Or take a specially designed wooden tray stacked with a variety of papads on the four sides and several small bowls of innumerable colourful chutneys and relishes in the middle. Inviting enough for you to make a meal of it.
Indian food, which has tasted good and satiated a diversity of palates the world over, is now also trying to look spiffy. “You don’t just eat with your mouth but with your eyes too. It’s all about a dish looking good, smelling great before putting it in your mouth,” says Deepankar Arora, chef and owner of Noida’s Indian and pan-Asian restaurant Tawak. So gone are the days when the only visual relief in the middle of slapdash bowls of dal, chicken and rice used to be the intricately carved flowers of carrots and radish (which would anyhow be left on the plate, not eaten). The art of plating is getting pride of place not just in fancy, fine-dining restaurants but even in smaller, neighbourhood joints. What’s more, courses on presentation of food, almost non-existent a few years ago, are becoming integral to training in Indian catering and culinary schools.