I have always visited ITC Grand Central for conferences and never for food. Hence this time when Megha and I were invited to get a taste of the new menu created by Kebabs and Curries, we were set to make a full night, belly up. Surprisingly pleasant weather was due and we came back home satisfactorily full but not choked!
ITC opened its first hotel in 1975 called the Chola Sheraton (My Fortune) at Chennai, what they also did at the time; was to order a Speyside Single Malt whiskey cast in oak barrels and brewed specially for ITC called ITC Glenfiddich! A taste of this smoothness can only be had at the ITC hotels and is highly recommended.
While you enter ITC Grand Central, do pay attention to the exquisitely carved snippets of Mumbai history which are engraved in the architecture of the hotel. From the clock tower to the fountain and the life size frame and photo album at the entrance, Mumbai has been set into this beautiful hotel. A walk through the corridor to the restaurant reveals a host of awards that the hotel has won from conservation to food.
At the end of the corridor, ‘Kebabs and Kurries’ is setup as three divisions of seating called the quila, maidaan and kheema (community dining area). While the divisions are quite clear the comprehension may not be so pronounced. ‘Quila’ has bright lighting and comfortable chairs for a dinner and hence was a natural choice. The restaurant does have a lot of space and can accommodate a ‘daawat’ (meaning: invitation, historically to a wedding or large number of people to dine in).
Chef Ishmeet Singh Kapoor takes us through the immense detailing in the menu; which has been broken down into the meaning of each category and makes it easy to choose, rather than go through an endless list of items which may need assistance to decipher, main course from aperitif. He also goes on to show us that the last page contains english translations and origins of each category of cuisine. I found this very useful to both Indians and foreigners who are still not acquainted with the origins of north Indian cuisine.
The restaurant offers a variety of dishes from tandoor prepared with an iron tandoor, and pather (stone) grills along with angethis and tawa to Quormas, Qaliyas, Do Piaza and Salan. Off course with Awadhi and Mughlai cuisine naans and biryani complete the meal.
We were initiated with a rose flavoured pomegranate welcome drink, refreshing taste, light and preferably sipped.
A platter of kebabs followed.
While my main attraction was the Sikandari Raan, I was pleasantly mesmerized with the Murg Shami and Dum Ke Bhole. Murg Shami is a chicken patty that is flavoured with sweet spices and stuffed with tangy raw mango cooked on a tawa. It melts in your mouth with a savoury feel but sweet taste with a crunch. Dum Ke Bhole, particularly important for vegetarians who visit, is a paneer roll stuffed with a blend of carrots, capsicum and cheese but not before dipping it in creamy saffron batter and cooked on a tawa. In short, I preferred the ‘tawa’ dishes to the ‘angethi’.
While the Sabut Lobster was quite an eye full, marinated in yogurt, black cumin and carom seeds, the flavours were hard to get while the lobster itself was a tad squeaky. I love seafood and was hoping this was not a perfect representation of the extensive seafood menu with Jumbo Jhinga, rohu and fillets, trust my experience was an aberration.
From the top RHS corner on the pic above.
The chef’s own recipe that is created by exposing lamb shanks dum cooked in their own cardamom tinged juices and marrow finished with saffron. This has been a succulently pleasurable experience. The bite is tender and flavourful; no, it does not melt but lingers in your mouth and every bite takes you closer to wanting more.
Do Piaza: Ghost Hari Mirch
Single bone chops tossed into green herbs and whole spices with garden chillies. A dash of lemon to vinegar the meat. I am rather sensitive to mutton and have always been skeptical of ordering mutton due to it being rubbery or less tender. The meat was a let down, but let that not cloud my judgement, the dishes were well cooked and definitely provide justice to the Hyderabad cooking techniques.
Diced Kashmiri morels and green peas simmered in asafoetida flavoured golden yogurt gravy enriched with khoya! You cannot go wrong with a dish that uses khoya and yogurt gravy with green peas. Sounds just as good as it tasted. A perfect accompaniment for Warqi Paratha (prepared by flour balls layered into a tower of smaller flour balls and beaten down into a clay oven).
A special mention goes to the Dal Bukhara cooked overnight and beautifully crafted into a not to miss dish that butters your palate with the taste of great cuisine brought in by the Mughals from central Asia.
Alphanso mangoes, the king of fruits is pureed and frozen onto a rasgulla that floats in rabdi and crowned with a golden leaf served on a glass filled with crushed ice.
Could not resist re-ordering the dessert even after this wholesome meal. This is a must have dessert and ITC Kebabs and Kurries prides itself with this dessert that obviously sells like air-conditioners in summer.
Thanks to Arundhati Ghosh for making the evening a pleasant experience with opulence and grace.
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.