I enjoy the food festivals that the hotels in town put up as part of their buffets, for the simple reason that they are a departure from the norm – sure there’s a good meal to be had at any of the all day dining restaurants in the 5 stars, on any given day. But, add in a short term, week or ten day long food fest that takes over a section of the buffet and showcases a particular cuisine or culture, and you get that something extra. Raj Pavilion at ITC Windsor just hosted a festival that celebrated the cuisine of the Navaithas, a Muslim community from Gingee, brought to Bangalore during the British Raj, whose cuisine features a mix of Nawab and Mughal influences. That means kebabs and biryani, so snagging a dear friend visiting from Delhi whose heart always beats faster for biryani, we made our way over on the festival’s opening night to sample its wares.
The festival falls under the Kitchens of India, a concept that the ITC Hotels brand uses to showcase the diverse cultural influences and varied cuisines that abound in India and are a window to the country’s rich food heritage. Under four banners – Unique, Undiscovered, Royal, and Forgotten, the hotels across the country hold festivals that celebrate, introduce, or are reminders for diners, of a specific sub-cuisine. In the case of the Navaithas, this meant the chance to learn about and taste a cuisine that does not enjoy widespread attention or is available at any restaurant in town, making for an experience akin to a privileged meal in someone’s home.
We admired the burnished copper dishes that stood in a gleaming line and after some thought, decided to snag appetizers and salads off the regular buffet menu, keeping the rest of our space for the specials. We were surprised to find that there were quite a number of vegetarian options under the Navaithi offering, like Khatte baigan, Paneer Do Piaza, Soya Louki, Lehsun ka pulao and our favorite appetizer of the night – Soya Kabab. Paya shorba (lamb trotters) and Gurdakapoora (kidneys and sweetbreads) were the more exotic non-veg offerings, and while I always like a good Paya, I have never liked kidneys and that day was no exception; I found however, that I really enjoyed the sweetbreads! The non-veg mains were Jingha do piyaza and Chicken sukka. I confess we were a bit disappointed to not get Pathar ka gosht or other meat kebabs. However, the standout dish of the night was undoubtedly Gosht tamatar ki Biryani – the tomato and mutton biryani served with a delectable raita that was spicy, fragrant and demanded a second helping. Getting to taste that biryani alone, made the trip worthwhile!
The Cuisine of the Navaithas festival ends tonight, but I still hold out hope for eating that biryani again. The specialist in charge of the fest is Master Chef KM Srinevasu, who travels around the country to the different ITC properties when they showcase Navaithi cuisine. He is, however, stationed right here at ITC Windsor Bangalore, so perchance some of these dishes will make their way to the buffet even after the fest?
March 18-27; Dinner only; Raj Pavilion, ITC Windsor; INR 1850 plus taxes