Showing posts with label Lucknowi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lucknowi. Show all posts

Friday, 23 October 2015

If one was to define Indian cuisine and the dishes that constitute it, I’m sure it would be a colossal effort. For Indian cuisine is not as simple as it may sound. To put in simpler terms, Indian cuisine is more a collective term and in true essence significance should be in mentioning the varying regional cuisines that are prevalent within India.

But if there was to be one such regional cuisine that has created an identity of Indian cuisine in the western world, then it’s got to be the Awadhi cuisine that originates from the Lucknowi region of Central India. The Awadhi cuisine is not completely indigenous to India as it was brought to India by the Mughal rulers from Persia. But over the centuries, the cuisine has adapted itself to its new found land.

The common saying goes that the true essence of Awadhi cuisine can only be felt in two places – one the kitchens of the royal family descendants and the other in the streets of Lucknow. Unfortunately, I still haven’t managed to gain an audience at either of the places. But luck struck when I was told that Awadhi Cuisine was going to make a stopover in Chennai. But being the food snob, I wanted to check it out only if it was going to be authentic. But when it came to my knowledge that it was being hosted by none other than Vivanta by Taj – Connemara, I knew it could possibly be the closest I can get to Lucknow.

The Awadhi food festival at Vivanta by Taj Connemara is spearheaded by Chef Shamshad Ahmad from the famed Oudhyana restaurant at Vivanta by Taj – Lucknow along with Chef Jaffer, Executive Chef at the Connemara. When I heard that they had flown the chef from Oudhyana, I knew for sure that the authenticity of the cuisine could be guaranteed. The festival takes over the complete menu and is in the form of a buffet spread with starters and soups served on the table as is the custom.
(Mutton Shammi Kebab)
(Murgh Gilafi Kebab)
(Paneer Tikka Hariyali)
(Khoya Khubani ka Kebab) 
The evening started of with a ‘Murg ka Shorba’, a mildly spiced chicken soup. The depth of flavours in the soup was immaculate and paved the way for a great meal ahead. The first of the starters to make way were from the non-vegetarian stable, with the ‘Murg Gilafi Kebab’ which was the followed by the ‘Mutton Shammi Kebab’. The Gilafi kebab was a variant of the sheek kebab with a mix of exotic Awadhi spices. One thing that was a standout was how rigid the kebab was in spite of taking the shape of a sheek as sheek has a tendency to break down to pieces once we begin cutting into it. The Shammi kebab on the other hand was equally delectable with a good texture. This was followed by the vegetarian kebabs with the mighty paneer making its way in the form of ‘Paneer Tikka Hariyali’. But the highlight of the evening has to be the ‘Khoya Khubani ke Kebab’. This was a combination I’m hearing for the first time. I’m sure most of us know the famous Hyderabadi delicacy, Khubani ka Meetha but a kebab made of Khubani (Apricot)? Well it turned out to be the star dish of the evening. It was loaded with flavours and had a very soothing textural effect on the palate. I loved it so much that I don’t even remember how many servings I’d had. If you happen to chance upon this dish anywhere in an Awadhi environment, please do not miss it.

(Chicken Awadhi Biryani)
(Dum Kofta Biryani)
(Rumali Roti)
(Nihari Gosht)
(Murgh Korma)
With the starters taking a major portion of our palate, there was very little room for the mains. So I settled in for some Rumali Roti along with ‘Nihari Gosht’ and some ‘Murgh Korma’. The Nihari Gosht was perfectly cooked with the meat falling of the bone effortlessly. The curry had a very aromatic taste thanks to the special secret spice mix that goes into it. On the other hand, the Chicken korma too was delectable but the Gosht was a clear winner. To take in some rice, I’d requested for some ‘Chicken Biryani’ and ‘Dum Kofta Biryani’. The Chicken Biryani was in true Awadhi style and was a marked contrast from the Muslim household biryani that I’m very accustomed to. But Biryani being biryani, no two cooks can cook the same style of Biryani. I liked the infusion of saffron and how the masala was light with the rice being unevenly coloured between white and yellow. The Kofta biryani was also very similar to the Chicken biryani barring the fact that the chicken was replaced by fried kofta which added another textural element to the dish.
(Dessert Platter)
To bring closure, we were served with the Awadhi desserts that shared space with their regular dessert spread. The desserts on the platter were a ‘Shahi Tukra’, ‘Sheer Korma’ and ‘Zarda Ananas’. The Shahi Tukra is a dessert that finds its place quite often in Muslim households during functions. It is a dessert made using bread which is soaked in ghee, fried and topped with dry fruits and nuts. The Sheer Korma resembled our kheer quite closely excepting it had a Date flavour to it. The Zarda was a saffron and pineapple flavoured sweet rice which was neither too sweet nor too dull. But comparing to the grandeur that is expected from Awadhi cuisine, I felt that it could have been upped a bit more.

The overall experience was quite frankly exhilarating as this was the closest we could get to being in Lucknow. However, there was one thing missing and I just couldn’t control myself from asking the Chefs present there about it. If you have guessed what it might be by now, I’m sure you have either read my reviews consistently or a great admirer of Awadhi cuisine. Yes, how can an Awadhi festival be complete without the mighty ‘Galouti Kebab’. It was then that the chefs confided in me that an important ingredient was not available matching to their high standards and as a result, they decided to leave it out for that evening. However, I was not to give up. Couple of days later, two other food buddies and I made a visit again just to savour the galouti’s made by a true lucknowi chef. And boy did we not regret for coming back again. Although mildly spiced, the galouti was bite sized and when combined with the Shirmal (Saffron flavoured Sweet Bread), Onions and some Pudina ke Chutney, it was just mind boggling. A perfect combination of flavours and textures exploding in the mouth with every gnaw. I just couldn’t resist and could have easily gulped down about 5 mini rolls.
(Galouti Kebab - Pic Courtesy: Chennai Foodie)
This experience has once reiterated the belief that the Awadhi cuisine can rightly be termed as India’s Royal Cuisine as it delivers to that title on every bite. The Awadhi Food Fest at Vivanta by Taj – Connemara is up until the 26th of October, 2015 at their all day dining restaurant ‘The Verandah’.

Vivanta by Taj – Connemara is located in Egmore between the iconic Spencer Plaza & Ethiraj College with the buffet priced at Rs. 1500 plus taxes per person.

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Saturday, 23 August 2014

One of the iconic landmarks in Chennai is undoubtedly the tall triangle shaped building located in the heart of the arterial Anna Salai. Even from the air, this building is quite easily identifiable. Having been under construction for quite some time, it was great news for Chennaities when in 2011 it was announced that the iconic building was to be the Launchpad for Hyatt chain of hotels in Chennai. The ‘Hyatt Regency Chennai’ was opening its doors to Chennaities bringing with it some amazing restaurants. Being centrally located, it was an added advantage.

Over the years, Hyatt Regency has been a hotel that has been frequented by the family and myself as we share a lot of fond memories of family gatherings and functions. The food used to always make us feel better and never was there a complaint. Their all-day dining restaurant ‘Spice Haat’ is a regular fare for late night cravings. Recently, at a random discussion a friend told me that their Italian restaurant ‘Focaccia’ serves one of the best Tiramisu’s in Chennai. True to his words, it was divine when I got the opportunity to savour it.
Recently, the culinary department at Hyatt Regency has undergone a change of guard. The new executive chef at the helm of operations is Chef Subrata Debnath, who comes with a vast experience across Hyatt properties in India & South-East Asia. His best man who incidentally also joined recently is Chef Manvinder Singh. Coming from the food lover’s favourite city of Lucknow, this evening he wowed us with his arsenal. 
As part of the three year anniversary celebrations, Spice Haat recently had a ‘Northern Frontier Food Festival’. Banking on the expertise of Chef Manvinder, this food festival was all about culinary specialities from the regions of Punjab, Peshawar, Multan, Baluchistan and Kashmir. This region is also collectively known as the Indus region named after the famous river that flows through them. This food festival was also part of Chef Subrata’s ideology of incorporating culinary delicacies from this region onto their regular fare at Spice Haat.
The first dish to be served to us that evening was the vegetarian kebab platter comprising of ‘Bhatti da Paneer’, ‘Methi te Bhutte di Seekh’ and ‘Tandori Phaldari Chaat’. The paneer was soft and succulent while the tandoori fruit chat bought old memories back as this is something that many restaurants now do not have on their menu. The Seekh was crispy and had the right amount of flavourings to balance the kebabs on the platter. This was followed up with ‘Patiyala Shahi Machi’ and ‘Surkh Murg Tikka’. Not being a big fan of fish, the ‘Patiyala Shahi Machi’ on the contrary was perfectly cooked with the fish still being wet delivering on the flavours of the crispiness of its marinade. The Murg on the other hand delivered on all the flavours that one can associate with a Tikka. It was one of the best Chicken Tikka’s I’ve savoured till date.
(Veg Starter Platter)
(Non Veg Starter Platter)
With the starters done, the Main Courses started with an array of curries. The first to make its way was the ‘Thabe wala Kukkar’. It was a slow cooked Chicken curry with deep aroma of tandoor infused. This was followed by the ‘Keema Matar’ and ‘Masaledar Karele’. The Keema Matar was very delicate with juicy minced lamb while the Karele which is bitter gourd was creatively cooked and wrapped with veggies. The bitterness of the Karele was tantalizingly hidden with the flavoursome veggies that accompanied it. When its Indus cuisine, how can we miss out on the lentils. The ‘Maa Choliye di Daal’ is again a slow cooked dal. Chef Manvinder revealed that it is a common offering during Langars at the Gurudwaras. Just like the name says, it definitely had the feeling of mother’s touch in that it tasted absolutely like home food. The accompaniments for the curries were ‘Makke di Roti’ and ‘Meat wale Chawal’. The chawal was similar to the biryani but was different in that it did not have the usual spices rather was cooked in the stock of the lamb itself. The final gravy that made its appearance was the traditional ‘Sarson da Saag’. One difference here was that it was accompanied with Palm Sugar. Apparently in Punjab during the harvest festival, Sarson is served with palm sugar as Sugar cane is harvested at that time. I was puzzled on how the combination would work but it completely surprised me. The addition of the Jaggery gave it an extra dimension and elevated the dish in its entirety.
(Thabe wala Kukkar)
(Maa Choliye di Daal & Masaledar Karele)
(Meat wale Chawal)
(Sarson da Saag)
To bring a closure to this amazing North Western culinary experience, we were served with ‘Jalebi’ and a ‘Teele wali Kulfi’. The Kulfi was phenomenal with actual rose petals in it while the Jalebi was distinctive in its sweetness with a subtle and balance note to it. The highlight of this Northern Frontier Food Festival was also to identify the taste of Chennai in comparison to cuisine from this region as the dishes that have been accepted well will find its way on their regular buffer dishes. 
(Jalebi)
(Jalebi)
(Teele wali Kulfi)
For a price of ₹1450 plus taxes, one can savour a wide variety of International cuisines at the all-day dining restaurant ‘Spice Haat’ in Hyatt Regency Chennai located on Anna Salai.

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Monday, 14 July 2014

With the advent of Ramadhan month, most Chennai restaurants are engaged in dishing out yummylicious kebabs. But the only setback is that the kebabs at these restaurants include only the basic such as Tikka, Tandoori, Sheek or Malai. With people getting tired of savouring these over and over again, now seemed the perfect time to find a place that brought in some unique kebabs.

Just as this thought was running on, I was informed that ‘Paprika’ at ‘Courtyard by Marriott’ was running an “Awadhi” food festival. For those who might be wondering what Awadhi is, it is known better by its other famous name, the “Lucknowi Cuisine”. Awadhi is perhaps the cuisine that very closely resembles what we call the Nawabi khaana. Their spread not only includes mouth-watering kebabs like the Galouti & Shami but also the traditional Nawabi Biryani and delicious Kormas. Having savoured an amazing Galouti Kebab recently at one of the outings, a group of passionate foodies decided to check out the “Awadhi” food festival and deluge on some authentic kebabs. When we were further told that they had flown in their Awadhi cuisine specialist, Chef Yunus Khan, there was no turning back.

As we entered ‘Paprika’, the first thing that came to our notice was that the restaurant was very lively even though it was only a weekday. The d├ęcor along with a live Kathak performance resonated well with the food festival. The Awadhi cuisine is part of their regular buffet spread and started off with 2 Veg & 2 Non Veg starters brought to our table.

The first starter that was brought to our table was the majestic ‘Galouti Kebab’. Yet again the Galouti ticked the right boxes in terms of texture and softness. However, I personally felt that there was a tinge of one spice that had a more dominant taste on my palate which made it slightly unbalanced. Also the Roti was a bit soft which when enquired with the Chef was as I imagined intentionally done so to create a different texture between the melt-in-your-mouth kebab and the roti. This was followed by the ‘Malai Prawn’ which was a first for me. The prawns well delicately cooked to perfection and carried the right balance of flavour to make it truly the best dish of the evening. As they have an alternating menu, we were told that the other starter on the festival menu was a mutton chops.
(Mutton Chops)
(Galouti Kebab)
(Malai Prawns)
Coming to the vegetarian fare, we were served with another amazing starter that can rightly be called as the vegetarian’s Galouti. It was called ‘Khoya kas Galouti’ and was made using Paneer and Khoya. The kebabs were outright fantastic and is the best veg started I’ve savoured till date. I just couldn’t resist eating more and more. This was followed up with the traditional paneer starters, namely the ‘Malai Paneer’ and ‘Awadhi Paneer Tikka’, which were amazingly soft and loaded with flavours but nothing to beat the Khoya Galouti.
(Khoya kas Galouti)
(Malai Paneer & Paneer Awadhi Tikka)
By the time the starters were all done, we were so filled with amazing kebabs that a few of us decided to head straight to the desserts because there was one very unique dessert that kept intriguing us. But not wanting to miss savouring the speciality mains, I ventured on to the spread to savour some of them. The highlights amongst the mains was the ‘Nawabi Biryani’ which was very light on the palate and had loads of fabulous flavours bursting on every mouthful and was a raisin riot. The way the raising blended was truly outstanding. The other dish that picked my mark was the ‘Paneer Pista Hariyali’ as I’ve always had hariyali as a starter and never as a mains. The curry dish delivered at par to the standards set by the starters. The pista enhanced the flavours and made for a rich curry. The curry from the non-veg section that stood out was the ‘Mutton Korma’. The mutton was cooked to amazing perfection as you could still see the pink from the meat but could reassure yourself that the mutton was well cooked. Together with the naans, it made for a great combination.

(Mutton Korma)
Now coming to the desserts, like I’d said earlier, there was this particular dish which we’ve never heard before nor could we imagine as to how it would be. This dish of intense interest was the ‘Mirchi ki Halwa’. Yes, a dessert made of Chilli but not like the chilli chocolates that you must be thinking about. This was a proper halwa that was made using Bell Peppers. True to the expectation, the dish delivered hands on, a very palate friendly dessert with strong tinge of hotness. This alone should probably be your biggest motivation to indulge in some exquisite Awadhi cuisine and convince you to try them.
(Dessert Platter)
The Awadhi food festival is available at Paprika in Courtyard by Marriott till the 20th of July, 2014 and is priced at ₹ 1,250 including taxes.

P.S: Unfortunately my email subscription list had some bug because of which the updates were not getting delivered. It has now been resolved, request you to kindly click Subscribe by email on the right hand side at the top of this page to re-subscribe to keep yourself updated on new reviews.

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