In the kitchen with Lavaash by Saby

Thanks to all manner of comical and usually ill-advised food experiments (butter chicken cannelloni anyone?), much like the word ‘foodie’, the term ‘fusion’ has had a fall from grace. But even so, blending flavours from all over the world has never been more widespread. We’re always happy to sample a mash-up of geographically discrete flavours when they’re well-considered, and that’s exactly what we found at Lavaash by Saby. We certainly weren’t thinking fusion food when we sampled their fare, but fuse it does, the unlikely flavour-pairing of Armenia and Bengal.
Named for the thin, unleavened Armenian bread cooked in a tonir (what we call a tandoor), Lavaash is a vibrant restaurant that’s best visited in the afternoon, when the sun pours in through large windows, or for sunset. Followers of India’s ever-evolving food scene will know Saby’s name, but even if you don’t, all you need to know is that he is the chef at the helm of this very inviting space where the food is inspired by Saby’s memories of his Armenian upbringing in West Bengal.

In Mehrauli’s Ambawatta Complex, Lavaash is settled under a sprawling Neem tree and awash in details (you know we love our details) that include hand-embroidered kantha chairs and dancing parrot and peacock tiles. Take your time and read the menu because it is home to all sorts of stories from Saby’s childhood. The food on those menus largely build on Armenian techniques or concepts, but are recreated using local ingredients so you’ll find, for instance, creamy coconut milk paired with sharp kasundi mustard. On the drinks menu we found the Blast Furnace, a vodka cocktail that is reminiscent of tangy rasam; we loved it so much that we asked for the recipe (you’re welcome). In Saby’s own words, this fiery drink recalls the memory of an orange-red night sky owing to the 24/7 whirring blast furnace in the iron factory of Asansol, his hometown. The onion-prawn tolma was delicious, with buttery onion wrapped around perfectly cooked prawns and a delicious mustardy dressing to mop up with every bite. Try, also, the pumpkin manti, divine, plump ravioli in a fragrant sauce. Desserts are designed to share, although we were inclined to keep that paan ice cream and ponchiki (an Armenian doughnut) just for one.
Chef Saby answered three rapid-fire questions for us before sharing two recipes from their menu, both a little simplified so that you’re actually able to attempt them in your own kitchen.

One little known eating place in Kolkata:
Bhajori Mona

Your top three eating joints anywhere in the world:
Nobu for Japanese food, Tetsyua in Sydney, Rockpool in Sydney

Top tip for budding chefs:
Rather than focussing on molecular gastronomy and fancy techniques, first solidify the basics. Put your head down and work.

Find those two recipes here.