Pleasure comes in packages of three at beautiful Tres.
Before I get down to my comments on my meal, let me first exhaust the superlatives. Tres is a beauty to look at -- it has the uncomplicated beauty of a woman who's self- assured about her looks and not some dolled- up hooker. It is quintessentially a Bob Puccini restaurant -- the San Francisco designer is a force to reckon with in the hospitality business and he owes his reputation to his insistence on forsaking visual noise for minimalist chic.
When Tres was being built at the Lodi Colony Main Market -- a heritage spot that came up in 1942 to serve the American GIs stationed around it for World War II -- Puccini would call up at odd hours ( 3- 4 a. m.!) to guide the people working at the site. His intervention was a must when the workers were erecting the restaurant's spotlessly white backdrop wall built with Corian, a marble- lookalike solid surface developed by DuPont, to play up the geometric patterns created by the 300 LED lights positioned behind it. There's warmth emanating from the glass- panelled open kitchen built around an ancient peepal tree and the porcelain roosters on the tables lend an element of mystery.
The music had a similar surprisingly magical effect. They say you eat with the ears as much as with the hands, the eyes, the nose and the tongue. Restaurants ignore this fact, so the music is invariably out of sync with the dining experience on offer. At Tres, the Mediterranean menu is complemented by the Latin music, which is a first for the city -- so, one moment you could be transported to idyllic Cape Verde on the wings of a Morna rendered by Cesaria Evora and the very next moment you could be tapping your feet to the Cuban music of Francisco Repilada, the Compay Segundo of the Buena Vista Social Club and a master at playing the three- stringed armonico. The atmosphere causes your digestive juices to go into an anticipatory churn and the effect only gets heightened when the comfortingly warm bread basket arrives.
Tres owes its name to the three people behind it -- chefs Julia Carmen de Sa, who set up the kitchens of the restaurant formerly known as Zest, and UKreturned Jatin Mallick, and Fatima Lobo, the business brain behind the venture.
IF JULIA and Jatin bring with them a creative instinct that can turn even swamp spinach into a gourmet experience, Fatima gets along her understanding of good food, honed to perfection after years of marriage with one of the country's finest hoteliers ( and walking encyclopaedia on food and wine), Ronnie Lobo -- hers is the voice of the consumer.
And the three have given their best to a menu that's wholesome without trying to be dramatic ( or needlessly overpriced). Like the decor, the menu turns simplicity into a fashion statement. Go for the baked artichoke hearts with plum tomato jam ( (` 399), the sensational warm seafood sausages with scallion or the chicken croquettes with tomato jalapeno relish ( both (` 359), the finger- licking good ( sorry, KFC!) chicken liver parfait with wine jelly and toasted brioche ( ` 449), the brilliantly executed ovenroasted sea bass with mushroom crust ( ` 699), the soft- as- butter sous vide- cooked chicken with pancetta roulade ( ` 599) and the slow- cooked pork belly ( the city's best!) with root mash, sauteed Malabar spinach and apple quenelles ( ` 629).
Sorry, the menu doesn't brim over with veggie options, but I would still recommend the baked camembert with plum and Szechuan pepper sauce ( ` 549), warm tart with roasted pumpkin and braised onion ( ` 399), and open ravioli with borlotti beans (` 499). Don't miss the Tres experience -- it doesn't have a liquor licence yet, but it still manages to leave you with a high.
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