Cuisine, art and history come together for an incredible culinary experience on the spice route, The Imperial
When food engages all of your senses, not just your taste buds, you know you’ve eaten well. My recent visit to The Spice Route, The Imperial, gave me a feeling of satiety heightened with euphoria, which only a great restaurant can provide. The Spice Route promises a food crusade like no other, which begins as soon as you enter the restaurant. The intricate ornamentation of the interiors wowed me at first sight and it only piqued the more I gazed at the beautiful ornate artwork of antique rosewood and Burmese teak wood beams. I could believe it when I was told that the restaurant had been painted entirely by hand with vegetable and floral dyes by wall painters who had come specially from a temple in Guruvayur in Kerala, but what was quite incredible was is that it took them seven years to build it. . There is a story behind every illustration, mural and painting that is nothing less than an architectural marvel.
The name Spice Route signifies the journey of spices that crosses the Malabar Coast in Kerala through Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia to Thailand and Vietnam. The restaurant itself is built on the concept of a “lifeboat”, delineating the different stages of life through its nine distinct sections.
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Odyssey Of Life – A Living Representation
As soon as you enter the restaurant, you enter the “Knowledge” section in the corner cluttered by four 16th century pillars of a temple marking a narrow entrance into the world. It houses the main base of centuries-old culinary flavors. The next section takes you through the three stages of life that come after birth – Artha (materialism) Kama (lust) and Moksha (the ultimate salvation). As you progress, you come across the “Help and Support” section filled with an ancient Kerala ceiling. This is followed by the “Creativity” section, then the “Relationship” section which houses only two seats – for you and your life partner. Needless to say, this section is the perfect place for a romantic date.
The “Fate and Fortune” section that comes after takes you to his “Wall of Fortune” – a wall of wishes – if you believe in luck. The “Wealth” section is adorned with 24-karat gold leaf on the wall and ceiling, and a real gold crown of an ancient Thai prince. This place is extremely popular for business lunches. The eighth section – “the Ancestral” – is dedicated to our ancestors and is depicted through murals with closed eyes, indicating that we are still supported from beyond. Interestingly, murals are the craft of a blind artist. The courtyard in the middle of the restaurant is the “Food and Health” section decorated with traditional Thai carvings from the Chiang Mai region in northern Thailand.
The beautiful visual depiction of life as it is stirred my heart and led me to my table which overwhelmed me with ambrosial food infused with the nuances of our primitive traditions and culture. The foodie in me adored the creations of celebrity chef Veena Arora.
The Culinary Journey:
The artisanal Spice Route menu contains a few culinary nuggets such as Chemeen Thoren (Kerala-style prawns, sautéed with coconut, curry leaves and black tamarind; flavored with mustard seeds), Tom Yum Kung (the famous Thai soup with prawns, flavored with lemongrass, lemon leaves and galangal), Kung Nang Phad Khing (lobster sautéed with ginger and Thai black mushrooms, served in the shell). The fusion of South Indian and Thai cuisines created a striking platter and whetted my appetite.
Kaeng Kheow Waan Kai (with eggplant with peas and cherries) and Phad Phak (chef’s special stir-fried spinach with black mushrooms, flavored with soybean paste. I could feel the depth of flavors in every bite; of course, a lot of thought went into creating the flavor profile of these dishes.
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There are always a multitude of luxury restaurants that promise you a good time, but only a few remain in your heart; The spice route is one of them for me.
What: The spice route
Where: The Imperial, Janpath Lane, Connaught Place, New Delhi
When: 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Cost for two: INR 6,000 (approx)