Farzi Café has finally made its way to Pune, opening on the corner of Fortaleza in Kalyani Nagar. Using a blend of theatricality, modern cooking techniques and presentation to create a multi-sensory experience, Farzi Café means to appeal to a new generation of gourmands.
Farzi Café, Pune
The advent of Farzi Café in Pune is a foot in the door for the country’s more progressive culinary entrepreneurs and chefs, and one can hope we’ll see more contemporary and experimental cuisine make its way to our city. I was pleasantly surprised that they even chose to open in Pune, because in my experience, the audience here isn’t as receptive to new types of cuisine as say, Bombay or Bangalore – though this is slowly changing for the better.
Having attended the launch of their Bombay franchise this past summer, I had an idea of what to expect: avant-garde food and decor.
Armed with curiosity and ample appetites, my friends and I decided to pay a visit to them on a Monday night. Despite making a reservation a couple of days beforehand, we were (eight of us) offered a table with three different levels of seating, which you can imagine made it quite awkward, but the staff were friendly enough and agreed to lend us extra chairs and re-arrange the seating upon our request.
Once we were settled, the franchise owners and PR Team (who happened to be dining at the next table) came over to say hello and offer suggestions on what we should try. We settled on drinks first, half my table ordering beer and the rest of us picking a couple of their signature cocktails.
I chose the Farzi Apple Foamintini, made with green apple and mint, served over a bowl of smoking dry ice, orange peel and mint (for aromatics). I actually enjoyed the candy-like flavour of the foam, and would suggest ordering it if you prefer your cocktails on the sweeter side. I also tasted the Farzi Idea – a white rum-based drink which had light and refreshing tones of fennel and kaffir lime, and Three Musketeers – a whiskey and cinnamon spiced cocktail. Do ask the staff for recommendations, they are quite well informed.
We began our meal with the Mishti Doi Spheres an amuse bouche of sweet yogurt with a drop of fruity coulis. It reminded me of my meal at Gaggan, and was really pleasant on the palate.
I would usually roll my eyes at something like Dal Chawal Arancini on a menu, but Farzi’s famous dish did not disappoint. Having heard horror stories of other restaurants trying to imitate this signature dish, I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype, but it exceeded my expectations. Topped with achar-papad-chutney, it was surprisingly comforting to eat, and it’s something I’d be happy to eat again.
The Goat Cheese & Walnut Tikki with basil chutney spheres was much more subtle on the palate than the usual bold flavours that one would expect from the iconic street food that inspired this dish – but I guess that’s the point, here. Though I loved the goat cheese they used, I’m not sure I would order this again.
Another popular street food, the Mini Raj Kachori, came dressed with a billowing cloud of chutney foam, and a crispy okra salad. Fancy presentation aside, the flavours were still big, bold, and beautiful, and had us reaching for seconds.
We were served the Karela Calamari – compliments of the Chef – tempura fried and tossed in a sweet and sour mango chutney. Tasty and crispy, with just a slight edge of bitterness from the karela (bitter gourd) to contrast the sweet and tangy chutney – worth a try, especially if you don’t usually enjoy eating karela.
Of course, a table of meat lovers had to try the Delhi Belly Tikka! Tender chunks of pork belly served on a smoking hot grill, topped with roasted russet apples, murabba glaze, and a light smokey char. This was an absolute delight to eat. The fat was rendered perfectly and each tender cube of meat came apart at the nudge of a fork.
Another dish I really enjoyed was the Prawns Tempura with a nimbu-mirch ‘air’. Anything but ordinary, the crispy battered prawns are coated in a tasty sauce and topped with the lightest chili-lime foam ‘air’ that packed a punchy kick of sourness and spice, as if you were eating the solid forms of chili and lime themselves.
The Chili Duck Samosa with plum chutney was reminiscent of the Peking Duck pancakes I’d eaten in Singapore recently. The pastry was cooked perfectly, but the filling of duck was a little too gamey on the palate. I’d give this a second chance maybe on my next visit, because I love samosas and duck individually, and hope they can do better.
In addition to the amuse bouche at the beginning of our meal, we were also served a Khandvi Sorbet as a palate cleanser before our mains arrived. Served on long skewers in a tall ceramic tree, it was a nice touch. Unfortunately, I’m not the biggest fan of Khandvi and though I attempted to eat the sorbet, I could not finish it entirely.
Farzi Café had served mini versions of their Galouti Burger at the Mumbai launch, and so I was excited to try this dish once again. I have a weakness for galouti anything, frankly. Making a meat kebab so tender and flavourful is a truly under-appreciated art. Our galouti burgers came two in a box with potato wafers, served with a roast tawa boti and raw onion rings in a buttery brioche bun. I loved it, but would have preferred a bite-sized version simply for the sake of eating it neatly, without spilling the meat out of the bun.
We decided to try the Asparagus & Water Chestnut Korma with fresh coconut appam upon the suggestion of the staff. Though the flavours of the curry were good, and the appam was fluffy, it felt like something was missing.
One of my friends ordered for a Nalli Nihari with naan, and unfortunately, this dish missed the mark. The flavours fell flat and the meat was also not as tender as it could have been, which was terribly disappointing as it is a beautiful dish when cooked well.
With some trepidation after the Nalli Nihari, we ordered the Chorizo Pulao with sunny-side-up. This is probably one of my favourite ways to eat the celebrated chorizo, but much to my dismay, this dish totally missed the mark. The chorizo they used is a processed kind without much fat and does not lend itself well to most dishes unless cooked thoroughly through. I’ve had several failed experiments with it at home, and find that the local smokey Goan kind is a much better choice for a pulao. I made the mistake of biting into one of the chorizo pieces from this dish and am still regretting it.
The Baked Egg Curry with Masala Poha, kaffir lime and cashew nuts was sadly, just ordinary.
At this time, I had my fingers and toes crossed that dessert wouldn’t be a disappointment. We ordered the Parle G Cheesecake with milk custard and cookie dough essence, the Tres Leches Rasmalai with carrot cream, rose petal net and the Warm Suji Halwa & Banana Syrup Cake with saffron & pistachio ice cream (my choice).
We all agreed that the Banana Cake was best of the lot, and I know I’ll be going back to eat that again. Simple, comforting flavours – kind of like a sticky toffee date pudding, but thankfully, not as sweet. Everyone had strong opinions on the Parle G Cheesecake – I rather liked it, because it tasted like a dessert I had grown up eating. The texture was interesting, the touch of Gems had most of us grinning like kids and it was a fun dish to eat (if not messy). The Rasmalai was just as it should be – fluffy, juicy and delicious.
All said and done, we had a fun evening at Farzi Café. Though it’s barely three weeks old, there’s a lot to look forward to here, from their high standards of food and hospitality to their future endeavours – like the rooftop bar that will be opening this week. Make a visit with friends, it’s more fun with company and also easier to experiment with more choices. The pricing is also quite reasonable – we spent not more than Rs.1500 per head (including taxes and drinks). Keep in mind that reservations beforehand are necessary if you want to be seated at a table, and this isn’t your typical sit-down dinner kind of place, it has a more modern, casual lounge-y vibe.
Go for: Dal Chawal Arancini, Delhi Belly Tikka, Prawns Tempura, Galouti Burger, Banana Cake.
This entire meal was independently paid for, excluding the Karela Calamari sent by the Chef, and the Nalli Nihari which was removed from the bill at the discretion of the management at Farzi Café Pune.