Rika, diminutive for Paprika, is the glitzy new restaurant and bar at Park Hyatt Hyderabad. The sombre and quiet Oriental Bar and Kitchen has made way for a lively culinary space that exudes youthfulness and doesn’t shy away from theatrics. The hand-pulled rickshaw that served as the centrepiece of OBK’s décor has now been pushed outside of the restaurant. The defining elements the revamped dining space are the two wall-to-ceiling murals featuring male and female personifications of Rika. Samson, a concept artist from Bangalore, drew inspiration from his dream sequences and figments of his imagination to create these pieces.
I visited Rika during the first week of September for an extensive evening session that had been curated for bloggers. The PDR at the far end of OBK has now been refashioned into a bar, and that’s where I headed first. The cocktail selection is split into two headings – Rika Classics and Hot and Chilled. The former showcases Rika’s take on classic cocktails, while the latter is devoted to Rika’s distinctive signatures.
Chilli plays a central role at Rika – it is showcased in many different avatars across the hefty menu. To be honest, I was sceptical about chilli in my drinks. Baring an occasional sip of Chilli Vodka, I’ve never been particularly fond of drinks that burn my palate. But Roxanne Read, the mixologist at Rika, clearly knows what she’s doing.
Roxanne hails from South Africa and has over nine years of experience in this field. Energetic, friendly, and graceful – she embodies the defining attributes of Rika. She spent several months researching and developing the menu. It’s not easy to curate a drinks menu exclusively around chillies and to make it truly enjoyable. I sampled several cocktails and all of them left me impressed.
The Scotch Bonnet Chilli brings a wee bit of heat along with its characteristic sweetness to the grapefruit Gin Fizz infused with rosemary. The heat from the Guntur Chilli is only perceivable at the back of the palate after you’ve had a couple of sips of the Cloud and Sky – a concoction of peated whisky with egg white, bitters, and a distinctive coriander and rose petal syrup. Tea Time, which is another whisky cocktail, carries the flavour of green chilli but almost none of the heat. The combination of green tea and orange bitters with whisky is quite simply brilliant. At Roxxane’s bar, even classics such as Old Fashioned have room for a bit of a chilli twist. Japanese flavours of Yuzu infused soy is played against honey and pimento chilli oil in the Furui Fashion prepared using Chivas Regal 12.
Chef Myo Zaw Aung, with twenty-four years of experience, is the Executive Chef at Rika. Chef Li from China House at Grand Hyatt Mumbai also flew down to assist Rika’s team in charting the course. Rika’s food selection covers a lot of territory – from sushi and sashimi to baos and Thai curries. There’s quite a bit to unpack, and it’s a little difficult to get a comprehensive idea about the diverse menu at a single glance. However, there was one section that stood out – sushi.
Rika’s sushi selection is exhaustive — from the familiar Nigiri and Maki to the trendy Temaki (hand-rolled sushi cones) and classic inari age (deep fried tofu pickets). Just the sushi section alone boasts of close to fifty different options. If you can’t decide what to order, just settle for one of the assorted sharing platters. Options for non-vegetarians include salmon, yellow tail, tuna, eel, octopus, shrimp, crab, and scallop. My favourites were the fresh scallop and sake from the sashimi platter, the tamago (sushi of Japanese omelette) and sake from the nigiri selection, and the ikura (salmon roe) gunkan.
Among the other dishes that I tried, the Sichuan Chilli Chicken and the Slow Roasted Lamb Shank with Coriander Buns stood out. The former is a crispy fried chicken served with Sichuan peppercorns and green onions. I’m rarely very impressed with a chicken dish, but the simplicity of this particular recipe won me over. This preparation is a far cry from the Indo-Chinese chilli chicken and it proved to be the surprise of the evening.
The twin teppanyaki stations add a bit of flair and drama to Rika. The Yellow Curry with Tiger Prawn was toothsome, but the other stuff from the teppan weren’t particularly impressive or noteworthy. The steamed chicken bao got the stuffing right – although this dish would definitely taste better with pork – but the bao didn’t quite have the kind of dense but soft and moist texture that I was expecting.
Great cocktails, exquisite sushi and sashimi, and a lively ambience. These are the cornerstones of the Rika experience. Rika will host DJs and remain open until 3 AM on Friday and Saturday. On other days, it promises excellent music and is open until 1 AM.