Cloud kitchens: consuming from the clouds
Whenever I hear the word "cloud", I remember what an Indian political lamp used to "light up" us – words that are spoken in a room remain in the air even after we leave and can be downloaded. In this way, he explained that cloud storage works somewhere in the sky and is dangerously easy to tap into. I wonder what he thinks of cloud kitchens. Then move on to smarter conversations.
I recently ordered from two cloud kitchens, both set up by teams during the pandemic and which turned heavily on existing businesses to cater to with a lot of planning and customization.
Prasanjit Singh, Abhijit Mukherjee and Anirudh Singhal (some very tough names in the F&B industry) figured out a few things before they even started, namely.
- Cloud kitchens are fundamentally different from restaurants that deliver at home.
- Certain dishes simply cannot be delivered to your home because the texture and taste are below average on arrival.
- If the radius is more than 7 km, the food quality can be impaired. Hence, you will need a new knot every time you exceed this radius.
- Preparation efficiency includes not only culinary skills, but also technical skills related to packaging and delivery.
Armed with this knowledge, they opened the Asian Farm Shack, which served the flavors of Sichuan and Bangkok. However, since it is a cloud kitchen, not only Asian dishes are offered. Indian dishes (Masala Shack) and all-day snacks (Shack Bites) are also served in the same room. Another unique selling point: all food is ideally delivered from the farm to the table and delivered directly from the source.
The pandemic also prompted Aparajita and Ankur Gupta (with their collective F&B experience in space) to revise their plans to launch a top-notch Southeast Asian restaurant in a cloud kitchen. The format was changed but they wanted to keep the dine-out experience. In order to ensure storage during transport, some dishes arrive partially deconstructed and have to be put together before service. A bit of DIY, but crucial to her uncompromising stance on flavors and textures. However, some categories like crispy products had to be deleted because they just don't travel.
As newbies, Aparajita and Ankur recognize a duty to deliver at the level of long-time stalwarts and therefore invest more in research and development, even if it leads to higher food costs. They do not claim authenticity or loyalty to a particular kitchen, but rather an innovative variant without losing sight of the original.
Sloppy Sticks is a catchy name reminiscent of pictures of home cooking, messy but filling. A first-class dining experience that one often longs for and simply wants to dive in without too much thought. The menu is extensive and temptingly too large to choose – three moments later I gave in and asked them to choose for me.
The proof, as always, is in the (pun intended) pudong cake. I ordered food separately from both kitchens and am glad I exercised both days because these were hearty indulgences. Everything that talked about preserving quality and flavors seemed to be limited to the food and the way it was presented. Portions were generous, flavors spicy but still a bit gentrified to suit a range of taste buds. Still, it wasn't my fault that I wasn't tasty. Special mention for Asian Farm Shack's wok three-pepper pork belly, fish dishes and Thai curries. Try sloppy sticks sushi, truffle mushroom bao, Singaporean chili shrimp, and braised noodles with shitake and truffle oils.
Be it menu planning or packaging, cloud kitchens seem to do a better job than regular restaurants that deliver to your home. When I order, I prefer to stick to these.
The writer is a sommelier
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