Innovating with food, the Farzi Cafe way

The passion for food is in his genes. Zorawar Kalra is the youngest, most successful restaurateurs of India today. The older of celebrated chef Jiggs Kalra’s two sons, he has introduced some of the most interesting restaurant concepts in Indian cuisine under his 2012 venture – Massive Restaurants Pvt Ltd. With Masala Library, Made in Punjab and Pa Pa Ya being some of the successful endeavours, Kalra is all set to bring to Pune his popular bistro – Farzi Café.

Combining classic global cuisine with Indian influences, contemporary presentations and a stylish ambience, Farzi Cafe has a presence in New Delhi, Dubai, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Now set to get Pune Farzified (the bistro is set to open soon in Kalyani Nagar), we got Zorawar Kalra to respond to our questions as he gets set to put finishing touches to the Pune launch.

So what got you to bring Farzi Café to Pune after a successful launch in New Delhi, Mumbai, Dubai and Bengaluru?

Pune is not just an urban melting pot of cultures, it is also one of the cosmopolitan cities offering numerous avenues for the youth, developing them as the next generation leaders across various fields and therefore made the perfect choice of destination for Farzi Café’s next location.

What should the people of Pune look forward to with Farzi Café opening soon?

Reinventing and contemporising the concept of modern-day dining, done through the use of cutting edge cooking styles such as molecular gastronomy and ultra-modern presentation seamlessly amalgamating them with the use of spices and food culture of the region, Farzi Café Pune will bring with it the culinary and mixological experience it has become synonymous with. There will be some dishes on the expansive menu, which are being designed keeping the regional produce and flavours in mind.

The word ‘Farzi’ in Urdu has many connotations, but like you said in one of your interviews for you it translates as “creating an illusion with food”. How have you incorporated this ideology in the menu?

Farzi in Persian also means ‘illusion’. The cuisine served at Farzi Café is our take on global comfort food, blending them with Indian cooking styles and flavours. One of the dishes on the menu at Farzi Café is Raj Kachori, where the saunth chutney has been replaced with foam offering the same flavour as the chutney but at a fraction of the calories. We have taken over a 100-year-old dish, innovating on it to make it more suitable to today’s diners. Similarly, our revered galouti kebab is served as a burger.

Just like the Farzi Café in Mumbai has some Mumbai-centric elements on the menu apart from the usual, would the one in Pune also have any Pune-centric elements?

As mentioned earlier, the menu on offer will have influences from the region in general.

Both your restaurants, Masala Library and Farzi Café are known for using elements of molecular gastronomy, something that Puneites aren’t too familiar with. What kind of a response are you expecting?

Molecular gastronomy is a technique of food science whereby you transform the appearance of an ingredient or dish. It is a form of culinary art, where we use aspects of this technique to add an element of surprise and uniqueness to the dish for the diner to enjoy a different level of dining experience. Molecular gastronomy forms an essential part of this vision of the future of Indian cuisine. While our focus is and will always be on the taste and authenticity first; keeping in tune with our vision and philosophy, we are using Molecular Gastronomy to enhance the experience of the dish in terms of not just the flavour and visual appeal but also to introduce an element of surprise into the fray.  For this purpose, we are using a plethora of molecular gastronomy techniques which are at the very forefront of modern avant-garde cuisine. We are confident that our guests in Pune will enjoy and appreciate the culinary and mixological innovations that we have extensively researched and worked on, as our patrons across other cities have.

From starting with your maiden venture, Punjab Grill in 2006 to being the founder of Massive Restaurants, how do you think has the Indian ‘dining-scape’ has evolved over the years?

A lot has changed in the past five years along. We are witness to restaurateurs and chefs investing extensive resources towards research and innovation, though there are a few who simply choose to copy successful concepts without putting in too much thought behind the overall cuisine and experience being offered. But on the larger scenario, the standalone food and beverages retail sector has become more organised than before. There is more interest in food today than it was during when I started out; more people opting for hospitality as a profession that is now considered to be not just amongst the most sought after but also the industry being one of the biggest employers of human resource. More and more young professionals are getting the opportunity to showcase their talent be it cuisine, mixology or overall hospitality. Today’s diner is extensively travelled and well versed with global trends with the willingness to newer culinary experiences. Overall, I believe we have moved much ahead of where we were 10 years back and while the sector is still at a nascent stage, I am confident that we are only going to go leaps and bounds from here on.

With Farzi Café making its debut in Pune, can we expect Masala Library coming to the city in the near future as well?

Our aim with Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra has always been to have not more than two locations in India. With the recent launch in New Delhi, we will be focusing on exporting the concept to overseas markets.

Puneites are considered to be more price conscious than Mumbaikars. Will Farzi Café in Pune charge lesser than the restaurants in Mumbai and elsewhere?

(Laughs!) I believe it is about perception. We Indians are price conscious and therefore the pricing for Farzi Café across all its locations of operation have been designed to be extremely competitive and affordable.

With Farzi Café coming to Pune, will we get to see Jiggs Kalra in the city? Also, are there any signature Jiggs Kalra cuisine that we can hope to see?

His schedule permitting, that is a possibility. While Farzi Café is not his signature restaurant, Mr Kalra is the Mentor and Culinary Director at Massive Restaurants. Our culinary teams across brands work in conjunction with him to formalise the overall culinary offerings and have his touches.

Zeenat Tinwala

Zeenat Tinwala

She’s our Employee #1 and is often the first to come in and last to leave office. And she’s an accomplished kickboxer. Stay clear!
Zeenat Tinwala