‘The conductor, not the musician.’
Ask Zorawar Kalra to describe his work and that’s the answer you’ll probably get. One of the most successful Indian restaurateurs in the recent past, Kalra is the founder and managing director of Massive Restaurants—the name behind some of the best restaurant chains in the country like Farzi Cafe, Masala Library, Made In Punjab and Pa Pa Ya. His latest ‘dramatic dining’ venture, Kode, is a cuisine-agnostic modern ‘freestyle’ bar and kitchen offering a progressive drinking and dining experience. Equal parts curious and excited, we decided to visit Kode as well as speak to Kalra about his brand, vision and a lot more.
‘Dramatic dining’ at Kode
Two things stand out when you visit Kode—the top-notch hospitality of its servers and its incredibly stunning décor. It all counts for nought if the food isn’t great, of course, but the cuisine at Kode is a synthesis of culinary innovation and exploration of over three continents, featuring hand-picked dishes and delicacies from around the world, while also giving each dish a unique modern twist. In fact, the restaurant is unique in almost every aspect—it pushes the envelope with its exemplary service and an innovative bar that has an extensively curated list of spirits, wines and the largest selection of whiskies in India. The new concept also focuses heavily on a liquid degustation menu, for the first time in the world, revolutionising the way drinks are served and perceived. “Our bartenders, called Liquid Chefs, showcase a unique, never-before-seen range of innovative and unique cocktails,” says Kalra.
But what makes Kode different from his other successful ventures?
“At Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, the aim is to offer its patrons a never-before-undertaken gastronomic voyage, capturing the grandeur of centuries-old customs and the long-lost essence of one of the oldest known culinary traditions in the world,” Kalra explains. “The cuisine served is a synthesis of over four decades of research and exploration across various Indian kitchens. Pa Pa Ya is a complete reinvention of Asian cuisine on a global scale, revolutionising the cuisine and turning it around completely on its head. The culinary philosophy at Pa Pa Ya focuses on deconstructing and reinterpreting some of the classics from across the Asian continent.”
At Kode, Kalra says, the plan is to redefine culinary innovation on a global scale. “The culinary philosophy is reflected in the interiors and ambience, albeit in a minimalistic style. Kode presents a breathtaking contrast between natural stone and cutting-edge industrial design, which is highlighted by the use of 40 tons of specially excavated, hand-picked, natural stone from the quarries of Rajasthan. Its beauty complements the hand-picked dishes and delicacies that we serve at Kode.”
The fascination of the urban Indian with a performance art-like dining experience
Thanks to globalisation and an increase in the purchasing power of the urban Indian, diners are now more aware of different cuisine and specialities from across the globe apart from just ‘popular’ dishes from various cultures. Kalra agrees that the diners in urban India have become more adventurous. “They are curious to sample new cuisine and dishes, thereby facilitating innovation and creativity to step in and transform the way we consume food,” he says. “To cater to the evolved palate of today’s diners, restaurants are raising the bar by adapting a modernist approach to food. Using progressive cooking techniques, chefs are innovating with unique flavours and artistic presentations, creating an iconic dish that delights all the five senses.”
On being a pure restaurateur and not a chef
“There is not just one quality that goes into the making of a successful restaurant concept or restaurant business, as a lot of factors are at play,” says Kalra. “It is essential to know your market well and create products accordingly. One of the key requisites is having a sound understanding of what the guest wants and having your hand on the pulse of the market to create products that will eventually fulfil these needs. Moreover, I have a dedicated team that is enthusiastic and passionate about innovating, ensuring the ultimate guest experience and maintaining strong levels of quality and consistency.”
What can we expect from massive restaurants post Kode?
Kalra says that the domestic expansion of his brands is already underway. There are plans to launch Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra in multiple parts of the world. He signs off by adding, “Some of the key international cities will witness the launch of Farzi Café and a few other brands under the Massive Restaurants umbrella very soon.”
Image Credit: Kode