The flavour of Kolkata

The flavour of Kolkata
The city is known for its old alleys. One such is shot by Atanu Pal.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Startending Night with Zibi Zapert at Yauatcha

He is a sought after mixologist globally. He also happens to be the global brand ambassador of Johnnie Walker Blue label. Over the years he has been putting his bartending skill to use in a number of clubs, cocktail bars and hotels in Amsterdam, Dublin, London and Delhi, apart from Poland, the country of his origin. He also runs a hospitality consulting agency and works with companies providing training to bartenders and tailoring cocktails.

So when I learnt that Zbigniew (Zibi) Zapert  was going to be the guest mixologist at the bar at Yauatcha, the Michelin-starred  oriental cuisine restaurant at Quest, in what it called the ‘Star’tending Night on 24th April, I was pleased at the privilege of seeing him at work on receiving an invitation as a blogger.

I arrived a little late and saw Zibi already in action at the bar counter. The short guy with a clean shaven head looked perfectly chilled out, just like his guests in the Friday evening. After being ushered in by Anindya, the GM, I made myself comfortable on the stool at the counter for a ringside view of the master at work. Over the next one and a half hours I discovered that he was great fun at work, equally for his colleagues and his guests, often smiling and enjoying every tiny bit of it while staying focused on making the cocktail to perfection with his artistic touch. At the moments when he was concentrating on making a drink he looked as absorbed as a painter giving gentle brush strokes on his canvas. Not for once I found him behaving like a highly sought after celebrity mixologist who endorses one of the iconic brands of the finest scotch whisky in the world. I am sure it’s one of the qualities that make him what he is.

Zibi Zapert

Zibi was particularly enjoying the moments when he was matching the rhythm of shaking the drink with his colleagues for the evening- the team of bartenders at Yauatcha. He was also coming out of the counter every now and then and interacting with his guests in a freewheeling manner, seeking feedback. He was equally game in explaining the intricacies of an outstanding cocktail to those who asked. His childlike enthusiasm was indeed admirable and infected the bartenders. It was testimony to the fact that his passion and work have a successful marriage.

Shake, shake, shake 

Four of his signature cocktails were handpicked for the special menu for that evening, spanning a range of liquor and wines:

  1. Tanqueray Ten Breakfast Martini- Tanqueray Ten (a dry gin), Grand Marnier (a premium cognac) and orange marmalade.
  2. Tanqueray Ten Blighty Mojito- Tanqueray Ten, cucumber, mint and tonic water.
  3. Johnnie Walker’s Gold Collins- Johnnie Walker Gold Label, beer reduction, basil, orange juice and ginger ale.
  4. Zacapa Treacle- Ron Zacapa (rum), orange juice and Angostura Bitter (a dry ale).

Zibi with Tanqueray Ten Breakfast Martini
Zacapa Treacle

The first two were priced at Rs 750 each and the last two at Rs 1200 each.

The blighty mojito is obviously different from mojito, if you have observed above. The blighty mojito, originally created by Jake Burger, is a distinctly British take on the ever popular mojito, substituting gin and tonic for the white rum and soda in the original recipe and adding a refreshing touch of cucumber to the mix. Interestingly in Zibi’s mix of blighty mojito the tonic water retains its place.

As I found out from team Yauatcha, no. 1, 3 and 4 were the highest in demand among the guests who waited keenly for their drinks as Zibi was dishing out one colourful cocktail after another. And apart from the signature cocktails, he made a few others to delight his guests, which included:

Lalu with Ketel- Oolong infusion, lemongrass and litchi juice blended with Ketel One vodka (from Holland).

Old Fashioned Talisker- Angostura bitter and chocolate syrup mixed with Talisker single malt whisky.

I wanted a fruity cocktail and was offered one made of litchi juice, sugar syrup, rose water and champagne. Loved the fine taste and passed on the compliment across the counter!

To go with the cocktail I was served prawn dim sum (dim sum is one of Yauatcha’s fortes) accompanied by pickled vegetables, soy sauce and chili sauce. The sweet n sour veggie cubes, and the lighter versions of the said sauces added to the taste. It was followed by Crispy Prawn Cheung Fun- a soft steamed wrap (like dum sum’s) of chicken-encased prawn, shaped like a thin roll drenched in soy sauce. The wrap melted in the mouth bringing forth the crispy chicken casing that acted as the perfect foil to the juicy and soft, steamed prawn (the same as it was in the dim sum) in this sublime creation.

Crispy Prawn Cheung Fun. Photo by Tania Kathuria. 

The evening will indeed be memorable, thanks to the master, and make Yauatcha stand out among the other eminent upscale bars and pubs in the mall.

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