I read this quote somewhere on the internet – ‘What Masala Library did to Indian food, Pa Pa Ya attempts to do to Asian cuisine.’ If there is even an iota of truth in that statement, it is only fair for me to have sky high expectations from Pa Pa Ya. Zorawar Kalra’s Massive Restaurants group pulls yet another rabbit out of the hat with this new age spin on an Asian bistro. The philosophy behind Pa Pa Ya is simple – present Asian food and drink with a twist. And my meal was filled with tons of twists and turns that night. Buckle up!
You know this Asian restaurant’s going to be different when you don’t spot Oriental motifs on the walls. Metal exoskeletons and cuboids that look like molecules jut out from the wall, forcing me to think of organic chemistry lectures from a decade ago. The food is however, the catalyst in creating this ‘high energy dining’ formula. Throughout the menu you’ll see the influence of newer cooking technology such as molecular gastronomy, and mixology making the meal here a treat for all senses – umami included!
Highly recommended are the Pa Pa Ya Tales – cocktails that each come with a back story, that your enthusiastic server will be more than happy to narrate to you. Infused spirits, and cocktails with Asian ingredients set the drinks apart. Foam, fumes, and fire – expect all three! The Lighthouse – that comes complete with lemongrass fumes, in a light bulb that you have to unscrew every time you take a sip – was my pick of the night.
In true Kalra Hospitality, the meal began with an amuse bouche – a basil infused watermelon cube, with lemongrass and chilly foam, served on a dainty shell – a sign of good things to come. Also insist they bring you their signature palate cleaner in between courses – a wasabi and yuzu sorbet. Spectacular balance between the pungency of the wasabi, and the citrus yuzu flavour, without either overpowering.
Get the highly Instagrammed ‘Sushi Matrix‘, where assorted sushi rolls come perched atop a cuboid matrix, making it a visual treat as well as a gastronomical delight. Also try the Har Gao Green Curry Prawn Farce, which is a twist on a regular prawn har gao, as it comes on a bed of Thai green curry which can be mopped up by the dimsum. Best of both worlds!
You’ll see experimentation in the tapas and dimsums, attempting to merge the best of two cuisines. The Mandarin Zest Infused Lamb Goutie were pan seared dimsums filled with a lamb kabab like stuffing, which tasted like a Indo Oriental fusion, and was one of my favorites that night. The Crab and Scallop Asian inspired ravioli, and Grilled Chicken Tacos are other examples of fusion dishes – out of which the former stood out.
If you’re a meat lover, you must try the Butayakatori – succulent, skewered pork; chargrilled with mirin and soya and served with an innovative apple and betel leaf tartar. Also get the Lamb RendangCurry where the perfectly cooked meat comes enveloped in a spicy, thick curry to be mopped up with flaky rotti parotas.
As the night progressed, the entire vibe of the place began to morph – from a restaurant to a club like space with dimmer lights, and electronic beats. By now, the entire experience left me with a high, and I could not wait for dessert! The Chocolate Ball on Fire came highly recommended by the staff, and everyone who is anyone in the food scene. It makes for quite a visual treat when you see the blue flames envelope the chocolate ball, and it melts away. However, on the inside I found a mushy cream center, with molten chocolate, and a tinge of orange at the base. Our chocolate ball also failed to melt away completely, leaving behind a hard, inedible shell. Spectacular to look at, average to taste – not repeat ordering this one for sure.
My entire meal was more than a meal – it was an experience which extended beyond delicious food. From projectors throwing images on the walls, to a theatrical show behind the bar every time the bartender whipped up a drink, my meal was quite entertaining. The food is the star however, with the use of modern techniques which somehow don’t feel forced or overdone. Precision and perfection is key here with the finest and freshest ingredients, sushi fish flown in all the way from Japan, and state of the art equipment such as sous vide machines and paco jets. All of this is evident when your dish arrives at your table; makes for a visual delight, your olfactory senses get aroused, and the texture tantalizes your palate. Of course, all of this comes at a price, but I promise the experience is worth every penny. You must Go Pa Pa Ya!
(The author was invited to dine at Pa Pa Ya. The views are unbiased and completely her own.)