Frozen assets

Often considered the “holy grail” of gourmet, French cuisine has a definite and strict set of rules that govern the flow of courses. For instance, in a multi-course meal, a palate cleanser—by way of frozen preparations like the granular ice crystals of granitas and the smoother textured sorbets—serves as a crucial transition between dishes. Not only do they play a significant role in enhancing the overall dining experience, but they also provide a moment of palate refreshment and anticipation for the next course.

Taking this idea and giving it a localised fillip are a range of Indian chefs and restaurants. Each bringing something new to the table; infusing the traditional palate cleanser with smart innovation and oodles of desi nuance.

Freeze Tried

Offering a tart and mouth-puckeringly delicious black jamun sorbet to his diners is Jude Fernando, executive chef at the Four Seasons Mumbai. “In the past, we have experimented with various palate cleansers, ranging from traditional sorbets to innovative herb-infused granitas. We believe that palate cleansers should not only cleanse but also intrigue the palate, leaving a memorable impression on diners. By incorporating unexpected flavour combinations and textures, we strive to elevate the dining experience and stimulate conversation around the table,” he says.

For Kolkata-based consultant chef Shaun Kenworthy, it’s all about seasonality and locality. At a recent pop-up dinner—organised as part of the Spring Tea Trail foraging trip by Gurugram-based OMO CafĂ© in association with AMPM Cafe and Bar Calcutta—held at the Glenburn Tea Estate close to Darjeeling, he did just that. His slightly astringent-tasting granita made with the estate’s second flush tea and salt-pickled baby mangoes was a well-received ‘Act 5’ in an eight course meal. “It was almost an on-the-spot decision to work with tea as I was cooking on a tea estate and combining it with mangoes that had fallen in my garden in Kolkata. These, I went on to pickle in salt and serve atop the granita in small cutting chai glasses,” says Kenworthy who’s originally from Manchester, UK.

Ice Appeal

For a fine dining restaurant like the ITC’s Avartana (with outposts in Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai) and one that is built around the concept of multiple course menus, having a vast number of palate cleansers seems de rigueur. They do this with an interesting quartet of a cucumber-apple sorbet, a lemon leaf sorbet, an orange-ginger one and perhaps the most unique of all being the prickly pear sorbet.

“We wanted to evoke nostalgic memories while offering a refreshing break for the palate. Each sorbet reflects a blend of familiar flavours with a twist, tapping into childhood memories and cultural traditions. Ingredients like cucumber, lemon and ginger work exceptionally well in refreshing the palate without overwhelming it,” says Diptii Jadhav, senior sous chef at the Mumbai branch.

Innovations Galore

But moving away from the traditional construct of a palate cleanser by making everything from sugar-free versions to alcoholic ones seems to be the need of the hour for other chefs. Take for instance, the sugar-free kachchi kairi (raw mango) sorbet by Chef Virendra Rawat of the Mumbai-based delivery kitchen and catering outfit Good Food Concept. “We came up with this flavour as it brings back childhood memories. We have all grown up eating kairi slices with masala. Who hasn’t tried gola sherbet or chuskies (ice popsicles) as children? We thought, why not bring back this to our clients’ tables while reminiscing the past,” he smiles.

Providing a boozy balance to the concept of a palate cleanser sis the refreshing prosecco and passion fruit granita at the Indian fine dining restaurant Taftoon’s Mumbai outposts in Powai and BKC. “To truly enjoy the explosion of flavours in Indian cuisine, it’s important to prep your palate, just like you would for appreciating fine whisky,” says head chef Nilesh Singh, adding, “I have a weakness for this combination as the bright, fruity profile of the passion fruit works well in granitas with the bubbly Prosecco.” And if you’re skipping alcohol, that is not a problem at all. They can whip up a non-alcoholic iteration with other ingredients like bubbly water infused with fruits or a chilled floral tea. A slurp made in heaven.

Lemon Mint Granita


● Fresh lemon juice: 2 cups

● Water: 1 cup

● Granulated sugar: ¾ cup

● Chopped mint leaves: ¼ cup


● In a pan, combine water and sugar over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat

● In a mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice, cooled sugar syrup, and chopped mint leaves

● Pour the mixture into a shallow dish and place it in the freezer

● Every 30 minutes, use a fork to scrape and fluff the mixture to create a granular texture. Continue until fully frozen, about 3-4 hours

● Serve in chilled glasses

Courtesy: Jude Fernando, Executive Chef, Four Seasons Mumbai

from Food

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