Could you tell me about your own culinary experiences – your time at Le Cordon Bleu institute?
I was always fascinated by the way chefs worked in a professional kitchen. like all of us, I loved watching videos of Nigella Lawson and other TLC shows about different foods around the world when I was young. I stumbled across this book by the famous Julia Child and fell in love with French pâtisserie. On learning that she went to the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu to pursue a career, I had almost decided then that’s where I want to go to learn.
Le Cordon Bleu was a once in a lifetime experience. Full or burns, cuts, and bruises, I learnt a lot there. My favourite part of school was definitely the pastry and the boulangerie. Hopefully, In the near future, we’re able to introduce breads at Ditas.Udita Khaitan, Founder and Owner of Ditas
How did your love of baking and European food translate into your opening this unique resto-bar in Ambawatta?
With my extensive travels though Europe, I discovered a number of cuisines and various pâtisserie techniques. I was heavily inspired by Italian and Spanish cuisines, and loved the concept of tapas-style dishes and classic Italian fare. My love of baking was further enhanced when I studied French pastry techniques at Le Cordon Bleu. The amalgamation of my travels, taste, and education translated into Ditas which according to me, is a perfect blend of tastes from all across Europe.Mexican Rice Bowl
What cuisine are you particularly drawn to, and how does this reflect in the menu?
I am particularly drawn to Mexican cuisine as I feel that it is very similar to the Indian palate. Unfortunately, good Mexican food is still a rarity in our country, even though most ingredients required for the cuisine are pretty widely available in India today. Our menu has a number of Mexican and Mexican-inspired dishes, including the Mexican Rice Bowl, The Fish Tacos, and our signature Jackfruit Tacos.
Have you travelled to Mexico, and what flavours do you most like from there, as well as from the Middle East?
I have not travelled to Mexico yet although it is on my list as soon as the pandemic ends. I am fond of most flavours associated with Mexican cuisine, especially the spice derived from jalapeños and a number of different peppers, all with their unique tastes and characteristics. I have travelled to the Middle East many times and have always enjoyed the cuisine. I love the concept that a number of different textures and flavours can be enjoyed together when it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine. Our Mezze Platter is a direct result of the many flavours I have discovered during my travels in the Middle East.Galangal and Z’atar Spiced Prawns
There are a lot of vegetarian options as well as a lot of non-veg – from Korean to pulled pork – what makes your menu so eclectic? And could you tell me about the non-veg South-East Asian dishes, as well as veg staples like the veg taco and the burgers with beetroot?
I was conscious of delivering a number of options for all kinds of dietary preferences when I first conceptualized Ditas. Often times, I have found that restaurants are known either for their vegetarian or non-vegetarian dishes. I wanted to create a dining space where both vegetarians and non-vegetarians have an abundance of choices. I never wanted Ditas to be known for offering a specific cuisine. Our patrons have different tastes, some enjoy South-East Asian cuisines, some American and some European. We want to offer them the best from across the world. Our Laksa Curry is one of our bestsellers and people love the flavours that the dish offers. It is extremely palatable to our Indian tastes, with a strong flavour profile. Being a vegetarian, I experimented with a number of different options before coming up with the menu. The filling for our tacos is made with jackfruit, which has a very meaty texture, yet can be enjoyed by vegetarians. The Beetroot Burger is slightly sweet but is balanced out due to the garnishes we use and is highly appreciated by our patrons.Beetroot and Orange Salad
Have you experimented with some of the dishes to suit local ingredients – did you pick up the recipes along your travels?
One of the best examples of experimentation would be our Cottage Cheese Steak Ratatouille. We have taken a classic French Dish and paired it with a local favourite – cottage cheese – to create a dish that feels homely yet exotic at the same time. A number of recipes used in the restaurant have been inspired by dishes that I discovered during my travels.
Which would you say, are your 8-10 Signature Ditas dishes?
Our signature dishes would include the following: Hickory Smoked Mushroom Stroganoff; Five Spice Scottish Pork Ribs; Grilled New Zealand Lamb Chops; Hydroponic Penne Arrabiatta; Cheesy Pull Apart Garlic Bread; Mezze Plank; Ditas Signature Hot Chocolate Fudge; Decadent Cocoa Coffee Entremets.
I read that Ditas is the short form of Udita – did you want to give a French twist to your resto-bar?
Yes, Ditas is derived from my name. I did not want to intentionally give a French twist to the resto-bar.
And with online delivery – is this the model you will be following for this time period?
We have started online delivery and have created a menu more suitable for the medium as well. Although I must confess that the majority of the business we are doing even during the pandemic is through dine-ins. People are desperate to get out of their homes and we provide a perfectly sanitized and safe location for them to enjoy their outings.Mango pineapple smoothie bowl
You also have smoothies – that one can make oneself – what is special about these?
We do not offer traditional smoothies but offer smoothie bowls instead. The texture is completely different and it is a concept that is somewhat virgin to the Indian market up until now. Smoothie Bowls are a great option for the health conscious who wish to indulge in a filling meal while keeping a close count of their calorie intake.Mixed berry bowl
Can you tell me about your cocktails – the Ditas Old Fashioned and the Gringo in Tokyo sound exceptionally good!
Our cocktails are a highlight of the restaurant, and our bartenders have taken a lot of time to come up with innovative and great-tasting cocktails that can cater to a number of different tastes. The Ditas Old Fashioned is perfect for those who like their drinks to have a little punch and compared to regular old fashioned; we use charcoal in ours and serve it with a toasted marshmallow as a garnish. The Gringo in Tokyo is another exceptional cocktail that offers a unique matcha flavour, and is a must-try for those that are aware and fond of the flavour.
How big is your team here and where is the cloud kitchen for online?
We have a team of about 25 people including the kitchen and service staff for the time being. We have one kitchen that caters to both dine-ins and delivery. By maintaining a single kitchen, we are able to keep a strict control on the quality of the food that we provide to our patrons.Ditas interiors with a European touch
Love the bistro itself – with its Moroccan touches – who did the interior decor?
Our interiors were designed by a company called Uberdogg Design Pvt. Ltd., and the project was headed by Tutu Thomas who has the experience of designing more than 100 restaurants across the country. The interiors are inspired by my travels and love for Europe. I have a keen sense of design and aesthetics, and I wanted to use that at my resto-bar to showcase my personality. The Uberdogg team helped me convey that brilliantly.Large French windows at Ditas
Your desserts sound divine, especially the Gangster Brownies – which is your favourite and which one is a must-try?
Being a pastry chef myself, I am highly partial to the desserts we have to offer as all of them have been created by me personally. If I had to pick a favourite though, it would have to be the Ditas Signature Hot Chocolate Fudge which is my interpretation of a classic dish. Most people who have tried the dessert have come back especially for it.
May we have one recipe of your choice?
Truffle Mushroom Pâté (garlic butter sliced baguette) is our signature dish. (Serves four)
|Button mushrooms||500 gm|
|Shitake mushrooms||50 gm|
|Porcini mushrooms||10 gm|
|Olive oil||25 ml|
|Thyme (fresh)||5 gm|
|White wine (cooking)||15 ml|
|Cream cheese||90 gm|
|Truffle oil||2 ml|
Put the olive oil on medium heat in a large pot. Add chopped garlic, and sauté 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until tender. Add white wine, fresh thyme and cook for 1-2 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes to cool.
Transfer mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Add cream cheese and process until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl, placed in fridge for 1-2 hours to set.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180°C degrees. Brush bread slices with a little olive oil and place on a baking tray. Cook in oven until golden.
Garnish mushroom pâté with truffle oil, micro greens, crispy shitake mushroom, and serve with toasted baguette.
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