Spice Trade

Plume brings Indian cuisine to Algiers
Tabletalk1

On one hand, you could refer to Plume as a new Indian restaurant in Algiers. On another, you could say it is an expression of personal experiences born of travel and discovery during a long sojourn across India, as its very evolution was organic. “When we first started our pop up we were not planning to have a restaurant,” said GM and co-owner Merritt Coscia. “And when we went to India before all this, we were not planning on having a pop up. It was just one thing leading to another.”

Chef and co-owner Tyler Stuart is more to the point. “We had cooked the real thing in India and we’d made friends there. We wanted to represent for them and the Indian food that was around, particularly in New Orleans, was kind of ridiculous. So we took it upon ourselves to shine a better light on Indian cuisine.”

The pair travelled through ten disparate regions, soaking up culinary influence and making friends. For Stuart the trip was especially restorative. Burned out as a sous chef prior, the journey re-kindled his interest and passion. “People there were very poor, but they were nevertheless able to create some of the best-tasting stuff I’d ever had in my life,” Stuart said. “Experiencing that was truly inspirational.”

The menu represents a cross-section of regional fare. Off the small plates, consider the “Mushroom Kothu Roti.” Caramelized mushrooms are tossed with fresh roti and served with a goat cheese raita. It gets its spice with star anise, tarragon and fiery Kashmiri chilis. Another dish, “Recheado Shrimp and Crab Salad,” was inspired by the seafood-centric region of Goa, which bears a Portuguese imprinter from colonial times. Here Stuart creates a soothing concoction of gulf shrimp and crab meat seasoned with a paste of tamarind chilis, vinegar and sweet mango. The kicker is the appam – a remarkable flatbread made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk.

For larger plates, consider the “Kozhi Pidi” – a spicy red chicken curry from the southern region of Kerala off the Malabar Coast. Another dish, the chow mein, born of transborder cross pollination, is also among the most popular. A popular street food in many regions of Indian, Coscia and Stuart’s favorite iteration hails from the Sikkim region which shares a border with Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. “It uses soy sauce and black vinegar as well as Garam Marsala,” Coscia said. “It just has this great melding of flavors.”

Regarding their enterprise, Coscia remains mindful of their heritage. “We are white people cooking Indian food. I would say that the dishes we put out are true to form with what we had in India. We don’t dumb down spices and we don’t dumb down heat. We keep in touch with our friends there and run the menus by them. We try to be as careful as we can speaking about our limits. It is not like we are experts on Indian culture. We are not even experts on Indian food. We just really love it.”

Plume, 1113 Teche St., Algiers; 381- 4893; plumealgiers.com


A B O U T  T H E  C H E F

Prior to opening Plume with his partner Merritt Coscia, Chef Tyler Stuart most recently cooked at Jason Goodenough’s acclaimed Uptown bistro Carrollton Market. Having achieved professional success as a sous chef at just 24 years old, the long hours were nevertheless taking their toll. He made the difficult decision to walk away in an effort to rediscover his passion for cooking. He found it in India. He fell in love with the harmonious complexity of the cuisine “There may be 25 ingredients in a dish, but they all work together,” he said. Also alluring was the meal’s flow. “I run my bread through the curries and if it gets too hot I can go to my raita or my mango lassi and calm that down, then dive right back in.” Finally, it was the happiness. “Here in America not a lot of cooks are happy because they are getting yelled at and not paid enough. In India there seemed to be so much more joy associated with the act of cooking.”