Time For aRoqa Toast
As the vibrant hues of summer start to fade into the cozy embrace of fall, our thoughts naturally gravitate towards indoor dining experiences and the promise of holiday-themed cocktails. The allure of a warm, inviting restaurant becomes irresistible, beckoning us to gather with loved ones and relish the changing season’s culinary delights. With the festive season around the corner, Prasad Pawar – beverage director of Michelin-recognized aRoqa in the trendy Chelsea neighborhood of New York City – begins to set the tone for joyous gatherings and memorable toasts with some of his Indian-inspired cocktails.
aRoqa is the culmination of owner Monica Saxena’s life journey; from India to California—where she was a senior program manager at Qualcomm in Los Angeles—to New York and opening aRoqa in 2017.
“I grew up in Lucknow with a wonderful family of food lovers. At home, it was a three-step process on the dining table – how it looked, how it smelled, and finally how it tasted. So, it was a rather simple concept to follow these three steps in my restaurant when presenting food to our guests,” says Saxena.
aRoqa comes from roka, the ceremony where friends and family celebrate the engagement of a couple by sharing a meal.
Taste and Shared Plates
Executive Chef Munny Passi began working in his father’s family restaurant when he was 13 and it was there that he learned the techniques of regional Indian cooking. He left India for England, working in traditional Indian restaurants throughout London, and then settled in New York.
Passi and Saxena showcase what they call “Taste and Shared Plates”, a collection of beautifully presented small plates that highlight regional flavors and pair well with Pawar’s cocktails that have notes of turmeric, cinnamon, mango, cardamom, ginger, basil, and allspice.
Vishal Kumar tasted some of the new creations and was blown away by the creativity and presentation of the dishes.
The desserts take the cake
The small taste plates are inspired by Saxena’s visits to India – like the exceptional corn fritters and Prawn Cutlets – chopped prawns with a blend of south Indian spices, panko crusted and golden fried.
The shared plates included Punjabi Goat Keema Matar, ground goat meat with peas prepared in a blend of chef’s special spices; Whole Baby Eggplant, cooked in a mix of five Indian spices with a hint of yogurt; and Chicken Chop, presented in a roadside cart with a flambé at the table. Some other standouts for Vishal were the Okra (bhindi that tastes like home!) and the stuffed breads like Paneer Aur Hari Mirchi Kulcha, stuffed with Amul cheese and green chilies.
The desserts were the pièce de résistance of the meal for Vishal: aRoqa Daulat ki Chaat (saffron milk foam, baba au rhum, blackberries) and Coconut Kheer (mango sorbet, jaggery emulsion, almond flakes).
Beverage Director Prasad Pawar shares the ingredients for three of his new cocktail creations. His advice for the home bartender is, “Measuring the right amount of ingredients is the key to a good cocktail versus eyeballing.”