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    Chef Abhijit Saha, Bangalore’s celebrity chef

    Hat’s new, I asked Chef Abhijit Saha, Bangalore’s celebrity chef and the city’s best known culinary export to the world. “Plenty,” he laughed, “I’m growing older, the kids are growing up, and I’m spending less time at home than I should.”
    No surprises there. Ever since he opened his restaurant SAHA in Singapore 14 months ago, he’s been racing down the fast track. First, he scooped up the Epicurean Star award within its first six months, especially thrilling for him since this was an award by his peers. “Eight judges visit your restaurant incognito over two months before the winner is declared.” SAHA beat seven other top-notch nominees. Now, SAHA is moving to new premises. The new National Gallery Singapore situated in heritage buildings which once housed the Supreme Court and City Hall will open its doors in November. Besides the array of spectacular South East Asian art will be six specialty restaurants (Aura, National Kitchen by Violet Oon, Odette) which have been invited to share its hallowed space – including SAHA. The new SAHA will expand to 5,000 square feet, and work is on at a frenzied pace for inauguration by the president set for November 23. Changes from the current SAHA include extensive tweaking of the existing a la carte menu and six tasting menus.
    Saha believes that while Singapore has been a hotspot for culinary innovation, with world famous chefs like Joel Robuchon, Wolfgang Puck and Tetsuya Wakuda setting up shop there, Indian food has remained primarily stuck in a rut. Until now. “Most restaurants were doing the same old traditional fare despite the inspiration available,” he says. “SAHA can take a little credit for churning the market. After all, Singapore is traditionally close to India in many ways and mindsets are changing.” Indeed, SAHA signature specialties like Kerala vegetable ishtew espuma and kasoor methi-seared foie gras have given diners new gastronomic perspectives on Indian food.
    But there’s more. Saha’s newly launched café in Cinnamon, Café Cassia combines Saha style with an old-style Bangalore feel. “You’ll get addicted to it,” he tells me. Then there are his first babies, Caperberry and Fava, whom he vows never to forget. “One can’t rest on one’s laurels, one must keep moving forward.” No wonder then that an 18-hour work day seems insufficient, given that he’s also putting finishing touches to his precious three-year project, his cookbook. “I sifted through 6,000 photographs, every recipe I created, to put it together. It will trace Caperberry’s journey from the start — a unique, glossy, coffee table experience.”
    There’s still more on his plate. Reluctant to share details publicly yet, he does talk about the new food and drink concept he’s setting up in Kuala Lumpur. “I want to call it Jaipur Pink, a revolutionary new bar concept with Indian-flavoured cocktails, tapas, small plates and large bowls.” Finally comes his dream project, a culinary art school on Indian cuisine. “Every country has its centre for national cuisine. We need one too.” Whew. He explains, “I understand my priorities. And one of them is giving back to my industry, city and country.”
    m firstimpressionbangalore@gmail.com

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