We know comparing Triple 8 to Yuzu would be akin to the apple-orange analogy, given that the former is pan-Asian experimental and the latter, a definitive sake bar. But if Delhi restaurants had an Ivy League, these two would be Dartmouth and Amherst.
With just a few small changes, we’d say that Triple 8 truly deserves a spot in the good-school crew. Even though the name is apparently a tribute to the number – luck across south-east Asia – we think (and hope) it’s a sneaky pun about Tambola-playing ladies who will certainly dine here in full force. We imagine them marching in to the sound of the housie MC’s call.
Triple 8 is a good reason to come back to Ansal Plaza, which for many of us was the mall where first kisses happened over swamp-thick McDonalds milkshakes. These days it takes an acclaimed ex-Indian Accent chef to do the trick. No small deal, and you’ll know as soon as make yourself comfortable at a table enclosed by burgundy-hued cladded walls, high ceilings, and dramatically low lighting. By contrast, the staff is cheery from the moment we arrive, throwing a ‘thumbs up’ every time they catch you singing along to a karaoke-ready playlist; in fact, the songs demand so much attention, you have to remind yourself to engage in conversation. A little update about your taxes in between Meatloaf’s ‘Anything For Love’ will do just fine.
The food here is strong enough to hold its own over the plush interiors and addictive playlist. Although everything that would be on a pan-Asian menu is on offer – dim sum, sushi, bulgogi – almost nothing, except a virginal-sounding red Thai curry, stays ring-fenced within a single geographical territory. The “east” Asian dishes mingle with cultural influences as far as western Europe, resulting in concoctions like Kashmiri morel dim sum, Belgian-inspired meats, and blue-cheese miso.
This formula, of taking east Asian staples like galangal, ginger, nori, and jasmine, and throwing them in to anything where they’d be a complement, translates to the cocktails too. We approve: jasmine-nori spritzers are the perfect summer delights, medium-strong, and excellent for two rounds. Any more than that and you might start twirling the delicately shaved nori that sits atop the glass around your own hair.
We stay civil and sober enough to take a tour of the upstairs – huge strides across the space are invited, and a long peek in to the private dining room has us thinking of Japanese stock-brokers using their chopstick breaks as astrological compasses. When Triple 8 gets their wine bar – which the wait staff promises will have a list of wines unknown to even Delhi’s best sybarites – we know several games will be possible here, grown-up truth-or-dare style.
The fantasising ends abruptly with a waft of something delicious: our Himalayan morel dim sum has arrived, and thanks to the peppery timur used in it, its life is short. Thankfully, our interest is sustained further by a large plate of prawn tempura sushi, both beautifully presented and filling.
Things get a little more experimental with our third dish, made up of burrata, fig, and kimchi rolls. While the figs and kimchi are mouth-watering on their own, the buratta takes on a weird cellulite-y texture, and has us thinking if this time the global east Asian wanderer has strayed too far. But, hard feelings dissipate again and quickly, with the arrival of a congee and shrimp plate: it’s nurturing, wholesome, and bursting with galangal that seems like it’s barely left its tree.
Things really take a turn upward when something unexpected happens: we’re presented with a life-changing matcha green tea tart. Between a slice of slick dragon fruit, and a rambutan that looks like a spider on LSD, this lovely plate shimmers in the colour of a faded, renaissance jade. It’s got the feeling of a cloud, the depth of a bad love story, and after-effects that induce silky sleep. Our dreams, tonight, are triply content.
Getting there: Triple 8, Ansal Plaza. A meal for two with drinks costs Rs 4344.
Accessibility: An elevator and escalator both allow for wheelchair access.
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