Chef Noah Barnes On His Love For Mexican Food
Image Credit: Image: Instagram

Of late, Mexican food has become popular among the people of Delhi, who otherwise love to nosh on the Indianised flavours of Asian cuisine. The reason for this love for Mexican food is the spice quotient, which is a lot similar to desi flavours. The variety of flavours and the spices simply explode as soon as you take a bite of your taco, enchiladas, or fajitas. If you too are a lover of Mexican cuisine, Delhi has got a new hotspot for you to bite into authentic Mexican delights.

Miss Margarita, tucked in the corner of GK-2 Market in South Delhi, is a Mexican grill and tequila bar that will instantly make you crave lip-smacking Mexican treats as you enter the place. The lively ambience with vibrant, colourful décor is enough to up your energy levels as soon as you step in. 

We got ourselves comfortable at a corner table, just by the window with a full view of the restaurant, and started our grub with their menu starting with Smoked Chicken Guacamole paired with crunchy chips. For drinks, we opted for a heady mix of Mexican Bulldog Margarita and Pineapple and Spiced Coconut Slushy. Next, we had the Diablo Prawn Sizzle which swayed us with its burnt garlic and lime drizzle along with habanero and tangerine glaze.

Beer and Chipotle Lime Fish Taco Bites is another appetiser that impressed us. The small fish bites placed over tiny tacos and topped with sour cream is a lip-smacking treat to pair with margaritas. We also sampled the Blackened Cajun Fish Taco Stuffed with salsa is also a must-try. Enchiladas too have a variety of presence in the restaurant’s menu. Do not forget to end your meal on a sweet and spicy note with their special Chilli Churros, which we think gives a unique spin to their menu.  

The meal definitely piqued our interest in the brains behind it all, and we sat down with Chef Noah Barnes for a conversation. Excerpts from the chat:

1. When did your culinary journey begin and what inspired you to do that? 

It began in the year 2009 when I started at IHM Mumbai. My initial instinct was not towards culinary. However, as my field and opportunities expanded, I realised that my creativity and expression lay in food. It became a medium for me to express myself. My inspiration then turned to food, being one of those outlets where I was able to present myself. I am also intrigued towards art and painting and that artist side of mine is really viewed through my creations as a chef. The artist in me became more prominent when I challenged myself to take up culinary as a full-time profession. 

2. What, according to you, is the most difficult cuisine to master?  

According to me, with the standardisation and the kind of techniques used to create such masterpieces in Japanese cuisine, is a challenging task. You need the right amount of skills, precision and practice which only comes over a period of time. 

3. Which is that one Mexican dish that you think deserves to go viral? 

Mole is a traditional Mexican sauce that is prepared using dried chillies, nuts, seeds and chocolate! The dish is complex yet beautiful in its own way. The complexity is what shines through the most in this dish. Most people deter themselves when it comes to this particular Mexican dish as they are taken aback when they hear chocolate in a savoury composition. However, the richness of chocolate balances out all the other elements and brings out a burst of flavour. I wish people explored this particular dish more widely as it is so unique yet so comforting, bringing you closer to the roots of Mexico. 

4. Which is one dish that you love to cook for your customers?

I love cooking everything but to narrow it down, my passion lies towards grilling and barbequing. Any slow-cooking technique requires time management and precision, you have to nurture the elements in order to get that right balance of flavours. The challenge of it all is what drives me and promotes me to curate something unique and different. 

5. What was the idea behind curating the menu for Miss Margarita? 

The whole idea behind this new menu goes to showcase the slow-cooking techniques that are inculcated in traditional Mexican cuisine like, Babaquoa a 24-hour pit roasting, smoking, grilling and more. I wanted to highlight these techniques as not many people are focusing on such flavour boosting and nurturing methods. This is something that I want my customers to savour and relish. 

6. What’s your favourite part on the menu? 

The entire taco section is my favourite. Every taco will give you a different experience altogether. There is no scope of monotony over here. All our tacos are unique and hold their individuality in terms of flavour, texture and spice! 

7. What’s your comfort food of all times? 

My comfort food of all times would be yellow dal and rice with pickle. This is something that I have every day! 

8. What is that one staple ingredient in your own kitchen?

I have a huge selection of spices and I experiment a lot with condiments and spice mixtures. I play with these textures and they allow me to get something inspiring to my restaurant kitchen. 

9. What is your favourite cuisine and why?

I think this goes without saying, it is Mexican! Growing up in Bombay, I was always fascinated with Northern India style of cooking. The Rajma, Naan - such delicacies were always exciting for me and these spices are very close to Mexican cuisine. When I tried making them myself I realised many similarities to Mexican cuisine. That is when I began my journey to curating and celebrating different flavours from all over the world, Mexican just being one of those that stayed close to my heart. 

10.  What’s that one Indian dish you think deserves more recognition at the global level? 

I would say Vada Pav. But not your ordinary, or “rip-off” recipes, the actual masala and chutney, paos made in old-school furnaces. I genuinely think Chouris-pav is the next big thing. The fried potatoes and masala along with meat, goes very well with a well buttered pav or bun.