The tale of SAGA’s new menu

SAGA has a new menu with many finger-licking dishes, including Chef Atul Kochhar’s most famous creation — the Chicken Tikka Pie. There’s also a new chef in the kitchen. Exciting times ahead.
Saga is one good-looking restaurant.
SAGA is one good-looking restaurant.

SAGA on a Friday night is a thing of beauty. The lighting is low, the tinkle of glasses loud, and the live music foot-tappingly divine. F&B entrepreneur Vishal Anand and Michelin star chef Atul Kochhar — who is based in the UK but comes down regularly to keep an eye on the kitchen — have hit on a winning formula: put a great venue and great food together, add a well-stocked bar and the place will rock.

The menu must be refreshed periodically too and a progressive restaurant like SAGA makes sure of that. I was there to see for myself if the new menu was as good as everyone was saying it was. My dining companion — let’s call him R — after claiming to be on a Herbalife diet of protein shakes and mere air besides turning teetotaller, succumbed easily, having three drinks over the course of the evening and healthy food portions that would make any mother proud — which just goes to show that childhood friends are not to be trusted.

The menu, I noted, has blossomed since I met Chef Kochhar on his first visit to SAGA last year. We started off with a comforting Nadru ki Chaat. Think papri chaat but with crisp nadru (lotus stem) instead. Of course, it had the chef’s touch, being paired with apple apricot chutney and saffron curd.

I could not help ordering the Kandmool platter, showcasing an array of root vegetables that once kept Indian armies well fed. It was fantastic. The SAGA version experiments with a variety of textures and ingredients. My platter consisted of jimikand, Himalayan potato, colocasia and sweet potato in the form of fritters, tikkis, chips and fries, and came with saffron cream and kasundi ketchup dips.

Saga's nadru ki chaat is comfort food with an interesting twist.
SAGA’s Nadru ki Chaat is comfort food with an interesting twist.

Naturally, libation was called for. Not only does SAGA probably have the tallest bar in Asia, it’s hands down one of the best. The signature cocktails are arranged under interesting sections, making the beverage menu easy to navigate: ‘Mild & Refreshing’, ‘Rich & Aromatic’, ‘Bold & Intense’. I tried a few: Himadri, which pairs tequila and timur pepper, the vociferously recommended Bhadra, which is all bourbon and figs, and the Maharaja Sour, which was a classic with a twist. I loved them all but while I love experimenting with my drinks I’m also partial to classics, so the standout for me was definitely the Maharaja Sour. R seemed content with Nishat Bagh (rum and rose) but also toyed with Amalaka (bourbon and amla).

The new menu has several highlights. Among the starters, the Masala Mushroom Rocks were delicious. Shaped like mushrooms, they were actually blobs of choux pastry stuffed with mushroom paté and served with a relish. Equally divine were the Murgh Musallam Tacos, the shredded chicken in a korma sauce pairing effortlessly with the Mughlai paratha served taco style. The tacos had a luxurious mouthfeel and yet were bite sized and manageable.

Chef atul kochhar's chicken tikka pie finally makes an appearance at saga gurugram.
Chef Atul Kochhar’s Chicken Tikka Pie finally makes an appearance at SAGA Gurugram.

Also, hold your breath, making appearance on the menu is Chef Atul Kochhar’s most famous creation — the Chicken Tikka Pie. I was a bit sceptical to be honest. How good could a pie with Indianised flavours be? However, I was converted after the first bite itself, the toasted nigella seeds on top clinching the deal for me. “Wild berries and chicken tikka? You might think I’ve got this wrong, but try it and you’ll appreciate what a great match this unusual combination is. This is one of my signature dishes,” says Chef Kochhar. This is an extraordinary dish, and the pairing with berry compote is a masterstroke, making you appreciate you’re eating the food of a culinary genius.

As R regaled me with his tales of lavish workations in Goa and Manali, I quietly tucked into my food, growing visibly larger over the course of the evening. More dishes arrived…a spicy chicken preparation that came on a leaf, accompanied by a rasam shot and murukku, a mutton curry as dark as a moonless night. It was an unabashedly carnivorous night for the most part but, rest assured, there’s much for the vegetarians on the menu.

The Kundan Qalia, Korma Gravy was a pleasant surprise. Qaliya is typically an Awadhi mutton speciality. SAGA has kindly thought of the vegetarians and come up with this cauliflower version. Think cauliflower steak but paired with the richest, most aromatic North Indian gravy imaginable. Definitely one of the highlights of the menu.

The murgh musallam tacos at saga gurugram are a must try.
The Murgh Musallam Tacos at SAGA Gurugram are a must try.

By this time, we thought we were done. After all, we had just finished shooting an episode of Man vs Food, right? And then Neha Bahl of Qube Communications, the perfect host who was curating the perfect evening for us, said the mains were coming. R seemed unperturbed. Truly, SAGA can bring the strictest diet to its knees.

SAGA is a contemporary take on Indian cuisine which complements the flavours and traditions of India with global and local ingredients and techniques. It’s a winning formula. At the end of the da we like comforting Indian flavours. But now we want them served up in a posh way. Chef Kush Koli, who is the new Culinary Head for SAGA, Gurugram seems to be holding the fort well, after Chef Tanvi Goswami moved on. It was a busy night, but he did come by to say hello before rushing back to the kitchen to create more culinary magic.

True to the restaurant’s name and food philosophy, each dish on the menu has its story under the name, which makes the experience all the more enriching. In the new menu, more regional delicacies have been discovered from across India and incorporated. They are all lovingly reinterpreted and then served for your delectation. These include Malvani Tikka, Pondu Crab, Kosha Mangsho, Mutton Shapta, Garhwali Kulth ki Kachori and so on. Of course, Kochhar classics like the Dal Moradabadi are very much there.

There were certain dishes that R liked more than I did and vice versa, which shows that there is something for everyone at SAGA. While we ordered left, right and centre in typical reviewer style, regular diners are bound to be a bit more restrained. The extensive menu simply means that SAGA is not your one-off sort of place — you have to keep returning for more.

SAGA is big on live music on the weekends, including headlining acts like Mame Khan and Shaan. The retroish choice of songs and the foot-tapping enthusiasm with which they were met on the evening I was there indicates it’s the 40-ish fine-dining crowd (R and me included) that likes to give SAGA its custom.

The saga banofee is a superlative way to end a meal here.
The SAGA Banofee is a superlative way to end a meal here.

It was the dessert that sent R into paroxysms of pleasure though, his loyalty to the mushroom starter long forgotten. Indeed, I can’t think of a better way to end such an epic meal than with the SAGA Banoffee. That dessert is a meal in itself so do share (however difficult you may find that to do). I’m curious about the Agra Ka Petha and the Purani Dilli mithai sampler. (And I wonder when they will put their amazing gujiyas on the menu — as of now they are only sent out to friends around festivals.) I guess that’s why, with SAGA, there always has to be a next time.

SAGA is the fine-dining restaurant where you can let your hair down and be yourself. And with food from a Michelin-starred chef, Asia’s highest bar, and carefully curated musical gigs…it’s good for the ’gram, er…Gurugram, I mean.

Address: Vatika Atrium, Sector 53, Gurugram, Haryana 122002
For reservations, call: +91 7428922300, +91 7428922400

Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars)
Food: 8/10
Drinks: 8/10
Service: 9/10
Interiors/Décor: 10/10
Vibe: 9/10
One dish we loved: Chicken Tikka Pie

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