Where ever we go in the world whatever we eat, but nothing beats our desi cuisine. Now imagine flavors from all across India being paired together like never before with high degree of finesse, and Indian food being taken to a level that Pune has not seen before. That’s Zora for you, modern version of local Indian favorites paired and combined together in a unique way.
Zora is not a fine dine gourmet restaurant, but its food travel diary of Joravar Sachdev and Priyanka Sachdev, the minds and souls behind this place. Consider it to be a modern food experiment lab, as what is created in this kitchen doesn’t have benchmarks to be compared with, at least not in Pune.
Few weeks into its opening we were invited there for a food tasting at dinner time. As we walked in, first thing that impressed us was the huge space they have, two thirds of the restaurant has outdoor seating with nicely spaced seating options. Then we stepped inside and this section is pretty spacious as well. The articulately done interiors really impressed us, 5 or 6 decor elements chosen very thoughtfully, nothing over the top or garish.
All settled in we started going through the menu, and were more and more curious as we turned the pages, they have components of each dish that will sound familiar to you but you wouldn’t have tried them paired together. Everything you know as Indian cuisine is served here with a Zora twist to it, with some unique or foreign ingredients as well. Good thing about the menu is it has equal number on Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian options to choose from, so no one is neglected here, same is with cocktails almost all of them come in alcohol base and virgin versions.
Culinary blending of cultures offering a true gastronomical experience, that’s the Modern Indian Cuisine that Zora is all about.
On to the food and drinks we experienced. Simply put most of the dishes we tried had a wow factor in them, and that is the definitive thing I look for in my food.
Starting with Royal Red Wine Sangria, had added flavors of rose and coal, giving Sangria a very mature taste.
We also tried array of cocktails the most intriguing one was Fatafat Martini, remember those black churan balls that came in an orange packing named FATAFAT; those are olives of this martini that is elder flower, rose and pineapple. The Summer Martini had mild flavors of Cucumber and Litchi. The Indian Long island Ice Tea is served in a big konch and had coconut water instead of the usual coke. My favorite was the Whiskey Masala that was smoked in front of us with flavors of cinnamon, cloves and apple, perfect cocktail for people like me who prefer flavors in the drink but don’t want the sweet juice based cocktails. The drinks kept going in parallel of the food, and other cocktails everyone tried were also prepared in a very innovative manner. I also liked the Asian Lemongrass and Orange Daiquiri that I sipped from a friend’s glass, very pleasant and refreshing flavors.
For all those who itch for a Soda / Cola with their food this is the place to be, they have prepared in-house made and bottled sodas having most unusual flavors. 13 flavors of flowers, fruits and more. We really liked the few we tried - Kumquat, Elderflower, Hibiscus, Sandal.
We tried 2 soups, The Indian Summer Chicken had slivers of chicken and bell peppers in a double walled glass cup and served with a piping hot broth in a French press. Amidst the Pune rains this soup was such a warm hug, the flavors were comforting. Khumb Adraki and Broccoli Cream Soup was the other one, a thick soup that was the next level of cream of mushroom, with the ginger flavor.
Next course we tried 2 salads, Spicy Okra Salad with Amchoor Vinaigrette was an adaptation on the kurkuri bhindi but instead of the usual amchoor or chaat masala on it, this one had the liquid amchoor as the Vinaigrette that added complexity to the texture and flavor, loved it.
The other one was Stir Fried Kalimiri Fish with kadi patta dressing, it was a mish mash on a plate, kali mirch flavor ruled the dish with hint of kadi patta flavor in the dressing that we would have loved to be a little more prominent.
We tried a number of veg and non veg starters and all had at least one or more ingredient in the main dish or as a side that was very innovative and unusual, and it worked almost for everyone. Be it the Bhut Jolokia Tandoori Chicken that had the right amount of that insane chilli used such that one person could enjoy entire serving and not rush for fluids after a bite or two.
Bombil done Amritsari fish style and served with Mango Chilli Chutney packing together the sweet spicy flavors with the delicate fish.
The Indian Spiced Lamb Chops were absolute delight falling of the bone, one of the best we have tasted in a long time.
Then there were these Mushroom Galouti Kebabs that were absolutely delicate and subtle of flavors that worked well, they were served with an interesting Bell Pepper Achaar that was good but didn’t gel with the kebabs that cohesively, need a milder achaar in this one, yet the kebabs were so good we could have them without any side.
Next we were served very theatrical Mint Shikanji palate cleanser; we just had to take the small crushed ice placed in a soup spoon beneath which was the glass with green potion with dry ice creating all the mystical drama was happening.
For mains the dishes are paired so the curries and sauce based options are served with a preset side of certain Roti, Naan, Kulcha or a Rice preparation – different one in every preparation and very interesting ones again.
The very well prepared and flavorful Laal Maas was served with Cheddar Naan Pancakes complemented it perfectly.
Goan Prawn Balchao was with Gujarati Theplas and Maharashtrian Thecha, every element had its own identity and when had together to created something very pleasant.
Then there was Roasted Chicken Tikkis served with a rich Pink Peppercorn Gravy and Onion Basil Kulcha again a stellar preparation.
Soft and delicate Mushroom Koftas served in a Spinach Cream Cheese Sauce with Ajwaini Kulchas. Every mains preparation we tried was a winner and we couldn’t say which one was better than the other.
Then it was time for Biryani, and time for more innovative flavors, be were floored by the Reshmi Malai Tikka Biryani, a more moist that usual Biryani with subtle flavors of Malai Tikka. They have 5 more Biryanis on menu like Green Chilli Squid Octopus Biryani, Achari Prawn Biryani and more.
The desserts are also signature reparations of Zora, and leading the pack is Chocolate Puri – dark chocolate coated puris (panipuri sans pani) served in DIY way with Chocolate and Butterscotch Sauce in lieu of the paani and Nutties, Sweet Faux Cherry and Popping Candy replacing the base stuffing of aloo/vatana and toppings of sev, mix it all in and in a bite you will transcend to oh so sweet childhood.
Dark Chocolate Gulab Jamun in a tart served with Almond Icecream was equally delectable and drool worthy. The Falooda Pannacotta with Rose Compote and Gulkhand Chikki in best creamy texture of Pannacotta I have had in Pune, when everything was included in one bite the chikki and compote made it a highly sweet concoction, worked for heavy sweet tooth but not for all, we mentioned this to the team and they assured us to tone it down a bit. There are 5 more equally tempting desserts to choose from, a very though choice to make.
We were very joyous after such a startling meal, every aspect of this restaurant speaks of amount of efforts put behind bringing this experience to us. Zora is one place every food lover in Pune should visit I visited again same week. There is still a lot more dishes to try out, will keep going back.
Zora, Yerawada, Pune, India | Food Prowl - The Hunger Stories
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