Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review: Vistara's In-flight Meals

I haven’t flown Vistara yet. Recently when I was invited by the airline at the TajSats Airport office for a Chef’s table to sample the food that they serve on board, I thought it would be interesting to get a taste of what Vistara serves its passengers. Of course on board, at 35,000 feet the food is bound to taste much different, but it did give an idea about how Vistara, Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines Joint Venture airline is offering travelers an enhanced experience.

Vistara on domestic sector offers seats across Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class. The food offering too is different for the three. While the choice is limited for Economy class, for Premium Economy there are three options to choose from compared to two in Economy. What they serve Business Class passengers is worth showcasing, as Vistara did at this select bloggers and food writers meet. 

For appetizers I sampled the non vegetarian platter that had Chicken Tikka, Seekh Kebab and Aloo Tikka which was served with mint chutney. The serving was generous, with two pieces each and it tasted good. But then you can’t go wrong with kebabs in India. Can you? The main course menu had choice between Chicken Teriyaki, Cajun Spiced Cheese and Zucchini Steak and the standard Matar Pulao, Awadhi Paneer and Amchoori Bhindi. I opted for Zucchini Steak which was delectable. Though I did have my apprehensions about the exotic sounding dish, but it surprisingly turned out to be very nice.

Kebab Platter for Appetizers that it serves Business Class Passengers 

Vistara that has positioned itself as a premier carrier, is trying to do things differently and going that extra mile to make the experience special. Food is an important ingredient of that experience. Vistara claims that it is the only carrier on the domestic sector to serve seafood on economy class. They serve Prawns, though Chef Arun Batra from TajSats Catering, who was face of the food that afternoon, tells me that out of North India flights not many fliers were opting for it so it is not being served for few months. Similarly Chef points out Vistara is the only domestic airline serving Japanese cuisine. TajSats which does catering for Vistara is an air catering company- a joint venture between Tata Group’s Indian Hotels and Singapore Airline Terminal Services- with over 1,000 employees. It offers its services to international and domestic carriers, charters and even institutional clients. 

Meal comes with a nice Salad
The airline is also breaking the monotony with seasonal food menu. For instance during summer months they serve mango coolers and even raw mangoes. Some time back they served Amla Kulfi to the travelers. Besides the regular tea and coffee, they also serve coolers and some specially created drinks.

In its rotating menu besides the usual Curries and Pulao, they have some twists like Idli Manchurian with Tempered Rice Sevian, Tofu and Mushroom in Hot Chilli Sauce served with Burnt Garlic Rice, Jalapeño Mozarella Shammy- all served in the Economy Class. Sounds quite a relief from the usual domestic airline food right? Just that its a measly meal on economy class when it comes to quantity. If it was any other domestic carrier I would have overlooked it but then if its a premium one which is going that extra mile for food, the quantity in the Economy Class Meal Box made me think. 

Economy Class Meal: Tofu and Mushroom in Hot Chilli Sauce

Besides going the whole hog with preparation and presentation of the food, the airline has been thoughtful about other little aspects too. On its short flights such as Delhi-Lucknow, passengers are handed over refreshment boxes before boarding, since there is not enough time to serve food on board. 

It's definitely heartening to see such emphasis being given to food by a domestic carrier in times which are not exactly conducive to run an airline business in this country. 

When asked if so much of emphasis on food has increased the costs, the affable Chief Commercial Officer of the airline, Giam Ming Toh says that they have done their maths and all internal costs are under check though of course they cant help the external ones. 

Have you flown Vistara and tried food on board?  Do share your thoughts. 

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