There is a distinct difference between being ‘called’ and being ‘invited’.
The ITC Maratha – exudes a radiance of being an establishment that services opulence with a touch of royalty. One has to experience the subtle nature of minor acts that create the word “royalty” to completely comprehend its difference.
When the staff is able to mark a slight change in goblets that look alike, with only a few millimetres of height to mark them apart! or to have personalized menu cards. Service is a game to the staff at Dum Pukht at which they seem to be winners all the way.
Rushina from a perfect bite graciously invited Megha and me to a dinner at the ITC Maratha restaurant, Dum Pukht which has been recently renovated. A few hours later I received a personalized invite to which a confirmation was necessary to attend. At no point did Rini and Aishwaria (our hosts for the evening) allow us to believe that we were less than royalty.
Image Courtesy: Saee Koranne Khandekar
Dum means to breathe in and Saee Koranne-Khandekar did exactly that when she saw the cutlery. Pukht means to cook, and this is done by trapping aromas and flavours by sealing the cooking utensils and ensuring slow cooking over a low flame. Dum pukht style of cooking is traced to Awadh in Lucknow, north India. Kurush and Rhea quite familiar with history and geography of Awadhi cuisine gave us quite an account of its history and corrugated by Rashmi Uday Singh, attribute it to a famine in Awadh that brought about this style of cooking!!
Our plates were decorated with Dum Pukht Kakori and Sheek Nilofari – Mix of puffed lotus seeds and lotus stem, falovoured with fresh herbs, mace and green cardamom, grilled on a skewer and sprinkled with aromatic masala. Sounds as delectable as it tasted. Nikhil Merchant kept clicking away with his DSLR at everything that swayed below the aromatic smoke. This was not an obsession with pictures but one that captured quite a culinary atmosphere.
The nawaabi cuisine is exemplified in the entire menu from shorba, qorma, salan to biryani and meetha. It is quite a challenge to compete the menu. I recommend the Shorba, one spoon in and lift your head only once the plate is empty. While the Hyderabadi Biryani may have biased me against the Biryani, it is still a beautiful sight to watch the bubble of flour covering the biryani.
Sankarson Banerjee, more acquainted with north indian nawaabi cuisine points out the variety available with nawaabs when compared to the Nizams. We both agree that classical music cannot be a substitute for ghazals in Dum Pukht.
Image courtesy: Rhea Mitra Dalal
200 years of mastery in slow cooking can fill you up like the Bara Imambara without a resentment. Now all you need is a great dessert, but the desserts leave me wondering if the middle class exists? Either too sweet or hardly any – perhaps meant for a more western dinner.
The joy of a great dinner comes with great company and intelligent conversation. Thanks Rushina, Rina and Aishwaria for organising a blessed evening.