Chef Chat, Part 3: Kiran Verma of Kiran's

Usually, after the conversation portion of the Chef Chat (covered in parts one and two), the chef brings out a few of her specialties, or some seasonal dishes, or whatever catches her fancy that day. I then write about those dishes in part three (the post that you are now reading). But when I interviewed Kiran Verma, the chef/owner of Kiran's and the subject of this week's Chef Chat, it was the day before a special holiday brunch, and it made more sense simply to write about the buffet spread. A standard-issue Indian buffet may be the Subcontinent version of a greasy spoon, but Kiran's buffet is far, far better than standard-issue.

My brunch began with a mango lassi. Most mango lassis are quite thick and not too far removed from a Mango Mantra or whatever the Jamba Juices of the world call a mango-yogurt smoothie. I always thought that's how I liked my lassis - at least, until I had Kiran's. Kiran's lassi is thin, more like mango juice than a mango smoothie, but with a sophisticated, subtle blend of Indian spices. It is utterly addictive. I could have downed five in a row.

As a first course, chilled melon soup was brought to the table. If I hadn't already seen the menu, I would have guessed it was a gazpacho; it was red, had bright, fresh tomato flavor, a nice tang, and lots of small cucumber bits to give it body. It was a perfect way to start the meal. I didn't taste a lot of melon, but that's okay -- I prefer to eat melon in popsicle form.

The beautiful, white-tablecloth buffet was then opened, and it included a good 20 different options, as well as chutneys, raitas, pickles, and several different kinds of Indian flatbreads. The latter, incidentally, is the first thing Chef Kiran ever learned to make in the kitchen. "I remember my father used to always tease my mom that my bread was better than hers," she told me with a smile. "She actually got a little complex and told me, 'okay, you can make your dad's bread.'"

The buffet had many highlights, from the lamb dum deg biryani to the besan kadi with saffron rice pulao to the Bombay aloo and channa masala. But the showstopper was the whole Gulf snapper -- firm, light, sweet, and gorgeous. It's good enough to be a signature dish, but it turns out that Chef Kiran's signature seafood dish is Chilean sea bass. She acknowledged it might be politically incorrect to serve sea bass, but added that she buys 80 portions at a time (from about 60 pounds of whole fish), and it's gone in about two days. "I know it's not something chefs want to say politically. But people just think we serve the best sea bass."

Chef Kiran did manage to to sneak out one dish that wasn't on the buffet menu: the lamb shank (pictured at the beginning of the post). It was meaty, rich, and luxurious. And served with two kinds of green vegetables! She didn't have to tell me to finish them, though - I already knew better.

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