The Gan-jeez, a whimsical take on Indian cuisine

Portraits of chillum smoking sadhus and picturesque imagery of the holy river Ganga embrace you immediately as you walk into Belconnen’s newest eatery. And like the mystical Ganges, The Gan-jeez charms you into a unique experience of gastronomical delights!

This is no typical Indian restaurant. There are no copper or brass bowls and pre-made curry bases upon which a dish is constructed. Instead, The Gan-jeez beckons patrons on a journey of distinctive flavour combinations through the practice of molecular gastronomy with the use of spherification, flash freezing, exciting food textures like gels or foam and avant-garde food styling.

Quirky glassware and exotic cocktails bedecked our tables as we studied the menu. The ‘Rani Escape’, a concoction of vodka, licor 43, pineapple juice and passionfruit beguiled a twirling sensation on our palate, foretelling of delicacies to follow.

Driven by passion and sheer love of food, Puneet Bhatia and Neetu Dhawan, a bubbly and energetic couple, are the masterminds behind The Gan-jeez.

Helming the restaurant front, Neetu recounts how she and Puneet met and fell in love while working in the hospitality industry in Canberra several years ago: “Our fondness of food and the industry brought us together, and that has transformed into a culinary affair.”

Our appetisers arrive, and we’re immediately impressed by the sheer look of the dishes. We sampled four dishes from their eclectic menu.

Karachi style lollipop is a must try—sous vide chicken mixed with spices and covered in coriander and mint foam. The art of cooking meat in its juices at a controlled temperature (sous vide) made the chicken moist and tender.

Tamarind caviar covered khichdi pakoda balls with tomato kasaudi (chutney) was a treat! The elaborate affair of breaking down tomatoes and cooking it with spices made the kasaudi a perfect pairing for the rice and vegetable balls.

These dishes are not normally prepared this way—the art of molecular gastronomy has taken very simple food to a whole other level.

It’s apparent that The Ganjeez is going to entice us and the night is still young!

Two more appetisers, the Nawabi kebab and garlic chilli prawns ignite our senses. Orange foam topped the succulent prawns tossed with garlic, green chillies and spring onions. While creamy coriander and mint foam and gel garnished pan-fried lamb and lentil cakes served with pickled onions, spinach leaves and chilli caviar!

These were by far our favourite two dishes and we haven’t even got to our mains!

“I am happiest when the art of selecting, preparing, serving and enjoying good food becomes the science of doing so,” said Puneet who leads the Gan-jeez kitchen. “Molecular gastronomy is my passion and I try to incorporate it in every dish if possible”, he adds.

The restaurant is filling up and it’s not surprising. When a restaurant like The Gan-jeez is integrating what is already familiar into something totally new, curious diners will come.

Molecular gastronomy is very often connected with chefs wielding liquid nitrogen, edible gels, blowtorches and other equipment usually used in a laboratory. However, as Puneet explains, it is also the other aspects of innovative food styling and stability of flavour that lead to unexpectedly delicious dishes.

“The tamarind and chilli caviars (spherification) take two hours to prepare and we make them daily,” states Neetu. “The gelling reaction between calcium chloride and alginate form these beautiful spheres that offer an explosion of flavour when paired well. We’re not interested in serving sauces on the side—this way we offer diners something fresh and novel.”

Time for our mains. We’ve ordered the green prawn curry—herbed marinated prawns cooked in a creamy spinach gravy. While we love spinach and prawns, we’ve never had them combined and we were intrigued.

Our curiosity was soon sated when we took our first spoonful of rice, prawn and spinach gravy. This curry was a complete joy! We cannot describe it any better. While it was not fancily plated like our appetisers, it more than made up in flavour.

Eight hours of slow cooked braised leg of lamb covered in masala gravy and mint foam was rich and succulent. It went well with rice but in hindsight, we should have had it with some naan. The naan would have soaked up all that gravy like sponge to water! Either way, it was a delicious dish.

Self-taught chef and driven by passion, Puneet introduces us to his ‘raita explosion’. A spoonful of yoghurt, mint foam and pomegranate seeds. It acted like a palate cleanser just in time for dessert.

In fact, there is no hard and fast rule for when you consume it. It’s a delightful play of the humble raita—a simple side dish often served with mains.

With already full bellies, we sat in anticipation of ending our meal with a bang.

Deep fried caramelised sugar-soaked pretzel called a jalebi was paired with rabri, a thickened sweetened milk dressed in pistachios, edible flowers and spun sugar. This ancient dessert found its way to India through Persian-speaking Turkic invaders, and to feast on it in Canberra is a fresh reminder of how culture, food and cooking techniques transcend borders.

The passion fruit kulfi served with fruit foam was the best way to have ended our food journey at The Gan-jeez. Cracking the outer shell that held the smooth kulfi inside was an exciting postlude—each mouthful offered a sweet and tangy surge of flavour that danced on our tongues.

The Gan-jeez is located at 85/15 Braybrooke St, Bruce.

Travel and Beyond were guests of The Gan-jeez. All opinions are our own.

Rosemarie John and Joseph Ellis