Sunday, May 18, 2008

Raj Rao and…… Ron

No folks. This is not a title of a Bollywood movie, but if King Khan has made a hit with Om Shanti Om, so has Raj Rao with Republic of Noodles(RON). We happened to meet with Big Daddy aka Raj Rao, at his ‘Star Republic’. His logo also vouches for that. A big black star against a red background wrapped around with noodles.

‘So what is the concept of noodles,’ I ask Sukriti Singh, who is responsible for public relations smiles and answers, ‘the Republic Of Noodles is an experience like none other. We serve South East Asian fare from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Burma.’

‘Along with this we also serve authentic noodles,’ pitches in Raj a naughty smile playing around his face. One thing I must warn you about is that he always has a quip for every statement….sets the mood, you see. One can believe that he was the General Manager of Ananda, in the Himalayas that has been voted as the world’s number one spa by Conde Naste magazine for three consecutive years. He has the demeanor that puts one at ease. ‘Well,’ he continues, ‘we serve stir-fries and clay pot dishes with curries from the various regions that are not typical of what you might find in other restaurants.’

Well was that an idle boast? The starters arrive… Barbequed Honey Glazed Pork Spare Ribs with honey sauce, Cambodian Style Grilled prawns with coconut curry sauce, Giant Goan Chilli(green Capsicum) stuffed with Thai Chicken Kraprao…no, no the Rao was not added to the must be his naughty humour again, Grilled mushrooms with Oriental marinade. I could go on and on. I have just named four of the seventeen starters listed there. Does the big list daunt the Chef Yu Hing, who has worked along with Professor Kobkaew Njanpith, who has been the head chef of Thailand’s Royal Palace. No way. I would run after those honky pigs to savor those spare ribs, and the Cambodian style prawns? To die for. But despite the size of the menu…I will get down to the noodles and the Teppanyaki and the Claypot dishes later…..Chef Yu Hing runs a live interactive food theatre. And he has the lead role there.

And now here comes the main course. If you had seventeen starters to choose from, you have around thirty-five to forty main course dishes to sample…and after your first experience I am sure you have enough to sample for a week. Just check with Mr and Mrs Lyndon Alves. They were seated on the table next to us, and confessed to this being their favorite haunt.

But now coming to the fare. How much can one eat? So on came the Jungle Curry of chicken with Vegetables and green peppercorn from North East Thailand, the Javanese Duck curry with potatoes and onions, Coconut and turmeric curry of red snapper from South Thailand, the Char Kway Teow Malaysian style stir fried seafood with flat rice noodles…..well this is apparently street food in Malaysia, just like we have our pau bhaji and bhel puri. We also tried a fusion dish of chef Yu-Hing. Glass noodles with our very own Balchao sauce. Boy was he creative. He has even combined Mayonnaise with Wasabi..that dynamite Japanese accompaniment, to create a sauce which is unique and tasty. ‘One word of caution,’ he states as the glass noodles reach the table, ‘this dish has to be eaten hot or else the noodles will stick to each other.’

Do I need to tell you about the preparations? Yes I forgot to mention that Raj Rao was also the Food & Beverage Manager of the Oberoi group of hotels where he created and launched 360, India highest revenue generating restaurant at the Oberoi in New Delhi. The research gone into the food was fantastic, perhaps when he worked with the World’s finest hotels like The Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton where he was on the Ritz Carlton Corporate Task Force for Food & Beverage…. his primary role was to do all the pre-opening and post-opening functions in setting up F&B outlets in various Ritz Carlton Hotels. And coming back to the food taste…..AWESOME.

Among the Clay pot dishes were Western Sumatran Lamb curry, Fiery Sri Lankan Fish curry with red tomatoes, Indonesian Fish Gulai Curry Padang special and under the Teppanyaki stir-fries..Thai style Drunken Prawns, Singapore chilli king crab with bell pepper, Vietnamese Scampi with roasted chiil…… One must admit, that these are not common dishes one could sample in any restaurant…they were the type of food as Raj aptly put it ‘we serve stir-fries and clay pot dishes with curries from the various regions that are not typical of what you might find in other restaurants.’

Well if you need a breather after all that food, you can have Asian influenced gelatos and sorbets. Yours truly always has space available for that. I will let you into a little secret. Elasticized waistlines are the best. There is always room for expansion. So down went the Belgian chocolate, the Baileys Irish Cream and the Chocolate hazelnut crunch gelatos. For the more adventurous there is the Indonesian banana fritters or the sweetened sticky rice cakes with pumpkin custard. Well, warned you before…Raj Rao…and RON does things in style.