As every visitor to our fair city, and most residents too, will attest, a trip to Bangalore’s airport is a trek and a half. As someone who ends up there at least every other month on her way to/from someplace, I think I see quite enough of the airport road and the dreaded Mekhri Circle. But I will admit, I now have a reason to head to the airport, without any travel in mind…thanks to Tamarind, the newly opened North Indian restaurant at Taj Bangalore, Devanhalli, which is literally across from the airport. Now, if you are actually at the airport and want an excellent dinner, well, you need look no further than Tamarind. As for me, I will be planning dinner at Tamarind next time I have a late night flight out.
We visited on invitation a few weeks ago, and the restaurant was opened up for us at lunchtime – and was all ours for the meal. Chef Alok Anand, the Executive Chef, has created the menu on the premise of home style Indian cooking and back-to-basics, with focus on imparting different, and unique flavors across dishes rather than serving generic looking and tasting curries. He uses modern touches, including a little molecular gastronomy, but by and large lets the flavors speak for themselves. The Tamarind leaf motif – seen on the walls and the menu, as well as in the plates and as little accents that accompanied dishes, is subtle yet ever present, and I can say for sure I will be able to recognize a tamarind leaf from now now on – a skill I definitely didn’t possess earlier.
You know you’re in for a fine dining experience where flavor is a priority, right from the water you’re served – infused with essential Indian spices, like cardamom (on the day we went), and I believe anise and clove were others and there were a couple more too. We started off with an amuse bouche of Dahi Kalash, a spoonful of yogurt served atop a wooden box filled with crisp sev. After this came the architectural and palette pleasing Bakli Salad, a salad of boiled wheat with tomatoes, onion, lemon and tamarind, served with a “dust” of different spices, with fried namkeen pieces held up by two paneer rounds – the picture will help make sense of the design!
Our next course was soup. Now, much as I love soup, I also see it as a taker up of the limited space in my tummy when dining out. So, it was a welcome sight to see the two soups served in small cups – just the right portion size, and you can enjoy the goodness of soup without worrying about filling up! Chane Ka Art, a chickpea soup topped by a crisp roti and the Ghosht Pudina Yakhni, a mutton broth, which came with two little mutton pieces on a skewer – so good, and giving such depth to the dish.
Then began the real food assault, from a range of starters to mains. Gilori Paneer Tikka, which is paneer stuffed with nuts and spices, was tasty and made sure none of us felt we were eating “boring” paneer! The Gucchi Malai Bahar, a fantastic selection of mushroom caps filled with cream and spiced just right, will make you reach for more. As someone who can be vegetarian if there are mushrooms about, this dish won me over instantly! The Kakori Kebab and Murgh Reshmi Seekh were both handled with a light touch and quite delicious. The innovative dish, though, was the Sheermal Tart Mein Gilouti, with its roti tart and perfectly melting galouti.
By this time we were already well on our way to full, but Chef had a succession of mains that we could not resist – each one looking and tasting quite beautiful! My favorite of the vegetarian offerings was the Qasar E Pukhtan, butternut squash gravy with roulades of paneer. There was also a plantain bhurji (Phaldhari Bhurji) that was distinctive in flavor, Kukkad Methi Saag and a Hara Moong Kofta Curry and a Laal Moth ki Daal. The Nalli E Khaas was special indeed, and had tender, slow cooked meat that was heavenly.
Safed Murgh ki Biryani and the Khumb Pulao as well as the Saufiyani Khameeri Roti and Kuti Mirch Jaituni Naan were the perfect accompaniments to the gravies, but each dish held up on its own too. The Safed Murgh ki Biryani in particular, was so delicately flavored, I wanted to keep eating, but sadly, was lacking the space! Apart from the array of chutneys and raitas, Tamarind also puts on each table freshly churned white butter and jaggery, that you mix and eat with – well whatever is nearest to hand, or just by itself. Some people at our table seemed quite prepared to make a meal of it!
Desserts were last and I took just a bite of the Baked Gajrilla, aka carrot halwa in a pie, but could not resist eating up two of my trio of ice creams – the tamarind and rose flavored ones – the third, of paan, was not my thing, but paan lovers will enjoy it and feel it does justice to the end of the meal. Oh, and a final word – if you even mildly enjoy Lassi, you must, must order a glass of the Malai Lassi – with cream and nuts and saffron topping it, it passed the ‘spoon standing straight’ test and was the one thing I would have liked to get to-go as I left that day!
Details: Tamarind, Taj Bangalore, Devanhalli; Dinner Only; INR 4000 plus taxes for two people