Tag Archives: Awadhi

Dastarkhwan par excellence at Kangan

 

Indian food when dining out is usually my last choice, even though, I am passionate about the flavours of Indian food of every region. It is the greasy curries, oily biryanis, heavy kababs that scare me. Else, Indian food is food for my soul and I relish its flavours with pride. But home cooked food Indian food is what I hanker after.

A new menu tasting session with Chef Mohamed Danish, the new Chef de cuisine at Kangan, Westin Mumbai Garden City, sounded exciting and naturally the gourmand and writer in me wanted to explore it, so I set out, albeit with a bit of trepidation.

Chef Danish, I learnt, is a Lucknow born and bred Chef and naturally then, his culinary legacy is rich and varied. Of a pleasant demeanour, soft spoken and extremely confident of his food and skills, he demonstrated that in ample measure over a lunch experience that spanned three hours. No, it was not only about endless dishes, but conversations and stories around the food that made time simply fly and kept us engrossed.

Awadhi cuisine was what we were primarily being treated to, as those are the highlights of the new menu, which will of course contain other dishes too, to wow many a palate for dinner.

The culinary gems one can expect in an Awadhi meal are unmatched, especially delectable meat dishes including biryani, Nalli nihari, kakori kababs and more.

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Greatly influenced by Mughal cooking techniques, Awadhi food bears similarities to the cuisines of Persia, Kashmir and Hyderabad. The richness of Awadhi cuisine also lies in liberal use of ingredients like mutton, paneer and rich spices including mace, cardamom and saffron.

Slow cooking with the finest ingredients, magically bound together, is the cooking style that is popular and Chef Danish strictly adhered to that.

Some of the major spices that go into the legendary spice mixes in this cuisine are – black and green cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, black peppercorns, cumin, nutmeg, mace and cloves. The rakabdars or gourmet cooks, had their spice mixes, which were a closely guarded secret. In the past, all these spices were added in proportions that were easy on the stomach.  Meat typically used to be marinated in curd and spices. This helped to soften the taste and texture, as well as remove any strong odours.

Innovation was constant in the kitchens, as Nawabs were very easily bored and thus demanded constant innovation from their cooks, who obliged. Chef Danish seems to have inherited this trait as he is inventive to the extent of experimenting without altering the classics.

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We started with the aromatic and creamy, Murg zafrani shorba, but sans any cream. Flavourful as it was slow-cooked, it boasted of spices and the caramelised onions imparted a unique flavour.

 

The Kangan tandoori chicken came next, with a lot of fanfare, being served to us fresh on our table. The aromas wafted through the air and made us hungrier, than we were. A bite into it and the smoky and well-balanced flavours, wowed my palate.

 

The refreshing lemon grass shikanji, I thought was an apt and interesting combination for this summer heat and refreshing, as nothing else.

The Kakori kabab was one of the best ever, as it was completely melt-in-the-mouth, well-spiced and yet, nothing overpowering.

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The dudhiya kabab made with grated paneer and dry spices, was for me, the piece de resistance. The melange of textures and flavours, so distinct, set it apart. I had never tasted anything like this before. Carnivores would gladly give up meat if this is served to them. The vegetarian variety on the new menu is abundant. The firdausi bharwaan aloo is equally a palate pleaser.

Each dish looked as good as it tasted, as Chef Danish displayed his mastery over his craft. The andaaz of balancing the spices in this cuisine is an art and intrinsic to the flavours and Chef Danish has got it right.

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For mains, we sampled the quintessential favourite – dal Kangan, murgh Begmati, nalli nihari, murg Jahaangiri raan, papad and sev ka paratha, multigrain roti and more. The fragrant gucchi pulao with stuffed morels was an unparalleled treat. For once, with a heavy heart, I skipped the biryani.

We rounded off our meal with the delectable shahi tukda, made with in-house saffron infused bread.

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In keeping with the Lucknawi tehzeeb and adab, none of the dishes had whole spices that one needed to remove. Apparently, that is how the Nawabs liked it – well-spiced food, prepared with a plethora of spices, but all removed after the cooking process before being served.

Having tried multiple dishes, albeit small tasting portions, I did not experience the discomfort and uneasiness I was anticipating. That itself was the acid test for me. Quite literally.

It was an enjoyable afternoon, where humne shauq farmaya, and we experienced lazeez food with lajawaab hospitality. Oops! I am beginning to sound Lucknawi is it? That is was this food and culture does to you, I guess.

If you remotely love Indian food, this new menu at Kangan, is a must try. Allow Chef Danish’s culinary treats to pamper your taste buds.

Rating : 4/5

 

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Food meets films in vibrant ambience

Which one of us does not love and cherish the film Sholay? Most of us I think, do. Naturally then, when a restaurant is named after one of the famed characters of this iconic film, the intrigue factor heightens. Basanti and Co. in Seven Bungalows Andheri West thus beckoned me.

The colourful interiors, trendy decor and cheerful vibe, set the tome of our evening. The bric-a-brac and design elements thrown in appealed to me instantly. The seating area is spacious and the bar in one corner, eclectic.

The menu offered Awadhi and North Indian food with a special section of Chef Qureshi’s signature Biryanis. Yes, another chef from the famed Qureshi family.

The service staff seemed articulate and alert. Roy, serving us was well-spoken and well-informed about the menu too.

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Murg Badam shorba, is what we started with and the creamy soul was comforting. The hint of saffron and the crunch owing to the almonds seamless meshed with the creamy thick broth. There were chaats too on offer but we decided to skip those.

Murg Tikka Patiala was well marinated and grilled to perfection. The smoky flavours were apparent in each bite. The Dahi ke kabab however stole the thunder. Well-made, these were soft, tangy and wholesome.

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For mains, we ordered the makki ki roti and sarson ka saag with a lassoni addition. Did not work for me at all. The saag was far from the real thing. The Punjabi choley with mini lulchas, were robust and delightful. The Nalli Nihari was the star of the show. The pronounced flavours of mutton in a well-spiced gravy and soft well-cooked pieces of mutton and of course the nihari was an absolute treat. Chicken Tariwala too was a preparation which tingled our taste buds.

The assorted rotis were the perfect accompaniment- garlic naan, missi roti, makki ki roti and tandoori roti. The lamb kulcha sounded enticing too.

The dessert options were strangely limited. Jalebi rabdi and malai phirni was all they offered. Both were strictly mediocre as the textures were far from authentic. The phirni lacked the quintessential grainy texture and bite and was too pasty, whereas the rabdi was cloyingly sweet and again of a overly creamy texture. The crisp and well-fried jalebis got my instant vote though.

The thandai shot at the end of our meal was mild but served the purpose of an after-meal digestive.

This place offers an exhaustive variety -both food and the bar menu. Vegetarians need not fret as there are abundant options. The portions too are hearty and perfect for a family meal. The food is well-presented but sans any unnecessary frills.

We missed trying the biryani and in order to remedy that, I need to make a second trip to Basanti and Co.

Open for lunch and dinner, a meal for two without alcohol is approx Rs 1500.

Rating : 3.5/5

Shaan-e-Awadh @Jeon

A seemingly complex cuisine like the Awadhi, when simplified, in terms of flavours, can only be an achievement, attributed to a great chef. Chef Chandan Singh at Jeon, Hotel Sea Princess Juhu Mumbai, has manged to do just that. Without a doubt, the Awadhi Food Festival which begins here tomorrow is bound to find favour with foodies of all age groups.

This aromatic rich cuisine, replete with dry fruits, nuts and spices is famed for certain dishes. Nalli Nihari, Biryani, Taftan, Dal Makhani are a must, in a menu offering this cuisine. And Chef Chandan Singh along with fellow chef Amit and Executive Chef Jersen Fernandes has put together a menu, which showcases the best of Awadh.

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The gajar and annanas ka shorba aka carrot and pineapple shorba that we started with, swept me off my feet. The amalgamation of two diversely flavoured ingredients, was done to perfection. One could actually taste the sweetish fresh pineapple as well as the carrot, both immersed in subtle spices.One of the best shorbas I have ever had. It actually left me craving for more. For once, the Murg dhaniya shorba, which was also delicious, seemed plain.

The galouti kebab, the hero of Lucknawi cuisine was as expected, melt-in-the-mouth. The aroma and flavours of spices were pronounced, but not overpowering. The chicken seekh struck me as extraordinary, in terms of the flavours and texture. The seekh was firm and soft, not mushy or chewy as it often tends to be at some restaurants. The meat, laced with herbs and spices, was an interesting bit of innovation.

In the mains, the fish tikki – rawas fillet in a tangy and well-spiced tomato based gravy, got my instant vote. The use of authentic Awadhi spices was a testimony of the chef’s mastery over his craft. No compromise here.

What can I say about the dal bukhara? For a minute, I thought I was at the ITC hotels. Chef Chandan Singh has clearly figured out the secret behind this coveted dish and has done full justice to it.

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The Nalli Nihari was mildly flavoured, but the spices and richness of mutton, teased the palate just a wee bit. The accompanying, sweetish taftan was the perfect pair. Everything else paled in comparison.

The murg biryani was again a treat and perked up my taste buds as I tasted the first spoonful. Well-marinated, the chicken pieces were moist and succulent and meshed seamlessly with the flavoured rice, cooked in dum style. The aroma filled my nostrils as the purdah was removed and the biryani served.

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The shahi tukra was every bit royal. A perfect finale to a great meal. The creamy and rich rabdi wrapped around the deep fried bread laced with nuts and dry fruits was delectable and decadent. The phirni in comparison was a tad bland and disappointing, although the texture was just right.

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The meal overall, was overwhelming and had actually surpassed my expectations. Being used to some Awadhi meals with dishes doused with kewra and rose water and rich and greasy meat dishes, this one was a welcome change. Simple, authentic flavours, true to its Nawabi origins. Yet, nothing in the meal made one feel heavy or caused discomfort.

I left Jeon with a happy smile, almost having made a trip to Awadh.

The Awadhi food festival is on from Nov 5 till November 15 and is a treat, food lovers should not miss.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

 

Taste of India

I was ecstatic when I first heard that Neel,  one of my favourite restaurants from deGustibus hospitality was opening a new outlet at Powai in the same premises, alongside an Indigo Deli. My joy doubled. But there was more. This was not the same Neel as the one in Mahalaxmi Racecourse. It was going to be an All day dining place offering simple, authentic Indian food from across the country. Much as I enjoy the lip-smacking Awadhi delicacies served at Neel, Tote on the Turf, I was relieved. I could indulge in my guilty pleasures, more than just once in a while now.

Sadly, I missed the buzzing opening party, but stepped in on the Monday after, for a leisurely lunch to experience Neel, Indian Kitchen plus bar, in its new avatar.

Whew! the plush interiors and the wooden staircase that led me up, seemed straight out of a European setting. The first part was obviously Indigo Deli casual and elegant with an air of bonhomie and the second part was Neel the Indian Kitchen and Bar. The natural light filtering in and the understated but chic decor,  the dash of blue to give it an eclectic touch, gave me a good vibe immediately.I felt naturally comfortable.

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I was privileged to get a sneak preview as the restaurant has not yet opened to guests and patrons. It opens doors officially on September 14.

Warm hospitality as ever. Chatting with Anurag Katriar, CEO & Executive Director, deGustibus Hospitality, JD, the Corporate Executive Chef and of course the Man at the helm of Neel’s Kitchen, Chef Mukhtar Qureshi, it promised to be a great afternoon.

Anurag informed me that,  at Neel Indian Kitchen + Bar  they have hand-picked culinary gems from various parts of India and put them together on a single gastronomic platform. An all-day diner with an eclectic bar, Neel, celebrates true Indian food amidst a contemporary setting. “Good Food-Served well”, was after all their hospitality credo.

Dhanewal murgh ka shorba (a light aromatic chicken broth flavoured with coriander) was served. The mild flavours of the spicy shorba, replete with coriander, was comforting and the perfect way to tease my taste buds. I was ready to savour the rest of my meal.

My Tellichery pepper chicken Kerala style, arrived. The aroma of the pepper filled my nostrils, as I was being served. A type of pepper which is aromatic and spicy, but not too pungent and rough, it enveloped the succulent pieces of chicken well and along with curry leaves and southern spices, was a delightful way to begin.

The stuffed mushrooms too were delectable given the cheese and spinach filling, but what made it stand apart was the apricot or jardalu chutney served alongside. It actually revved up the flavour quotient unimaginably.

I could not believe Chef Mukhtar Qureshi’s mastery over Indian cuisine as a whole. I was actually spellbound. Here I was tasting dishes from Southern India, Konkan, Bihar and all over, and each one was a masterpiece.  I had always known him for his lip-smacking Awadhi food, but this man was obviously full of surprises.

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The Sukka squid was swathed in a delicious coconut masala and an interesting texture, took my taste buds by storm. But the piece de resistance in the starters was the Konkani Jhinga, without a doubt. It resembled the Cafreal masala from Goa, as I first looked at it. It was pan seared prawns coated in a similar  green masala but yet, different and distinct, as I discovered upon the first bite. It wowed my palate beyond words and the moistness in the prawns even though they were pan-seared, impressed me.

The Allepey Aloo was flawless, but paled in comparison today to the other dishes.

My  gastronomic journey continued with the Mutton bhuna roast  and a Malabari parotha. The soft, flaky parotha paired well with the fleshy, melt-in-the mouth, robust, mutton which was well-spiced but not overly rich or oily. In fact nothing in the meal was greasy or heavy. That to my mind was the real achievement of the chef. Else going through so much of food would have been a daunting task.

The new Neel also offers an extensive array of chaats, tikkis et al,  if you want a filling evening snack or a light lunch perhaps, but of course I had to save that experience for another day.

The grand finale to round off my memorable meal was the gulkand paan ice cream made in house. The flavours of paan and gulkand were strong and appeased my taste buds. The element of sweetness was just right and the texture was creamy and smooth.

The menu here, is an amalgamation of  food from across India representing all the regions, ranging from the popular street foods of Kolkata & Rajasthan, to pure Kashmiri & Konkani fare. Chef Qureshi has painstakingly revived age-old, often forgotten spice blends like lazzat e taam, Baristha masala and using ethnic ingredients such Khas ka jadh, dagad ka phool, pan ka jadh, kebab chini, mulhatti, chandan.

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No wonder the food at Neel, is not run-of-the-mill fare but carefully crafted, to appeal to all palates.

I had almost traversed all of India in one afternoon, thanks to my epicurean journey at Neel. I left satiated, smiling, but with a promise to return.

 

 

 

 

Shaan-e Awadh : Neel, Andheri West

There can be nobody happier than me that deGustibus Hospitality’s restaurants are moving to Andheri West and around. First Indigo deli opened at the Inorbit Mall and now Neel at Veera Desai Road. The year has started on a gourmet note for sure!

The décor is minimalistic and simple and yet, spells class. The food at Neel is all about paying homage to the rich and evolved cuisine of old Muslim Nawabi families from Lucknow, Hyderabad, and Kashmir.

What appealed to me was the dash of modernity imparted to this otherwise traditional cuisine. A perfect amalgamation. Herbs and spices are carefully used to enhance the natural flavors of the food – not overpower them.  The cuisine takes a lighter, modern approach to classic flavor combinations, creating sophisticated dishes that emphasize purity, simplicity, and seasonal flavors. Chef Mukhtar is truly a culinary wizard.

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The menu, as always is varied, with something for every palate. The Murgh Pashtooni Shorba (a frontier style chicken broth), we started with, was the perfect beginning to our gastronomical journey that evening. The aromatic flavours were soothing. A soup could not get simpler and yet be so delicious.Gilawat ke kebab came next and tingled our taste buds. Melt in the mouth, this kebab is my all-time favourite, but sometimes chefs don’t do justice to it. At Neel, it was a winner. The herb marinated Murg tikka chaarbagh was a real delight and was an absolute palate-pleaser. Vegetarians vouched for the unique Nawabi Baingan Tikka(stuffed baby aubergine).

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The slow cooked Kashmiri Gosht Roganjosh and of course the Kacche Gosht Ki Dum Biryani were the raison d’etre of our visit and wowed our palate as always. The varied Indian breads – bakhumaas and khamiri roti, paired well with the roganjosh and Kabul ki  dal. The jhinga kairi panchforan was a pleasant surprise with its subtle spices and succulent prawns.

Only the desserts disappointed me. The angoori rabdi was a bit too watery while the saffron in the kesar rasmalai was extra, imparting a strange flavour to this otherwise delectable dessert.

The exhaustive menu apart, I am told, Neel will also serve fixed daily specials featuring a selection of exquisite, slow-cooked preparations like Dabba Gosht on Wednesday, Hyderabadi Haleem on Thursday and Nalli ki Nihaari and Kakori Kabab on the weekend. Got to go back real soon.

 

Dine under the stars n sky!

It is always a pleasure to dine outdoors in Mumbai and what better season than now? It was a delight to step into Flames, the al fresco dining place at Hilton Mumbai. The restaurant had just opened in November and will be open till March.

Chef Merajjudin Ansari, Executive Sous chef has decided to give the menu a makeover. This year, guests will be able to indulge in inventive kebabs and biryanis inspired by Awadhi spices and flavours. I was intrigued.

The menu looked wholesome and appealing. An interesting amalgamation of kebabs, biryani, served with dal makhni. A complete meal. Of course vegetarian and non vegetarian options abound. Chicken kebab marinated with cardamom and cashewnuts, called Noori Kebab is what we started with. The marinade was flavourful and unique. Kesari jhinga was again a delight for the taste buds. The prawns were well-grilled and the saffron added the right zest to it. Chapli Kebab, lamb mince kebabs flavoured with dried pomegranate were exquisite. On the lines of a shammi kebab, yet, different.  For vegetarians, Firdousi aloo is delectable and Vegetable Galouti Kebab, made with yam, plantain and pumpkin spiced with black cardamom was a real culinary treat. Chef Meraj, clearly believes in innovation. None of the kebabs had overpowering spices. A lot of emphasis was laid upon presentation too.

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The bread basket comes with the kebabs and had warqui, laccha, methi parathas, roomali rotis. The chicken dum biryani, which came last, was the best part of our meal. One of the best biryanis I have eaten in Mumbai. The spices were well-blended to create a magical flavour. It was moist, zesty and not at all oily. We were satiated.

Desserts include delicious creations like Barwan Gulab Jamun filled with Dark Chocolate, Jalebi sticks with Chocolate Rabdi, and Butter Milk and Star Anise Panna Cotta with Grand Marnier Chantilly. I personally did not enjoy the gulab jamuns as I felt the chocolate interfered with the gulab jamun’s indigenous flavour, instead of enhancing it. The baked yoghurt with mascarpone cheese and saffron was delicious and a class apart.

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Flames is open every day for dinner, from 7.30 pm to 11.30 pm. So, if you like to dine under the stars and sky, trust me there can be no better place and the Awadhi delicacies too are unparalleled.