A splendid feast awaits: The Bohri Shahi Dawat at ITC Gardenia

Biryani and kebabs make for a splendid meal – of this there is no doubt. Each city/town has its own version of these dishes, and within the Muslim community, there are variations based on sect and state. Growing up, it was the Hyderabadi style of cooking that I was most familiar with. And I also got to try the goodies in the lunchboxes of two Bohra classmates, whose lunches, truth be told, were the most interesting amongst the group. From Khichida (which I called a white haleem in my head) to kebabs and always some sweet as well, and later attending a couple of events at their homes and experiencing the community style of eating for the first time – these then are my memories of Bohra food. Thus, when an invite popped into my mailbox, proclaiming an upcoming Bohri Shahi Dawat food festival at ITC Gardenia’s Cubbon Pavilion, I knew there was only one answer – yes! That the festival coincides with the closing week of Ramazan and the Eid celebration was an added bonus. And you too can enjoy the feast, which is available for dinner until the 2nd of July as part of their Kitchens of India – Unique Tastes initiative.

The Bohri Shahi Dawat at Cubbon Pavilion, ITC Gardenia

Young Chef Zohair, a Bohra from Mumbai (the community is predominantly from Gujarat, and with roots in Yemen and a touch of Mughal influence), curated and created every dish and detail for the festival, wanting to share his heritage and culture with diners, down to the Thaal – the giant plate that serves as the focal point of the meal, with the family sitting around it and then all partaking of the various courses off it. He had even sourced from his home town, the Chemlachi Lota – silver jug – that holds water that is used to wash hands before the meal. Tradition dictates that the youngest member of the family offers salt to every diner, since the meal is supposed to begin with a pinch of salt. Then it is time to dig into the successive courses, which will alternate between sweet (Mithaas) and savory (Khaaras). And Chef assured us that this is how they eat at home, every single day, with a multiple course sweet and savory menu! Since community style eating would present a logistical challenge, for the purposes of the festival, we were served individual “mini” thaals. Mini cause they were regular plates, not because there was any less to eat, I should add!

IMG_20170620_202715

We were offered two drinks, one sweet, one savory here too – a sweet tender coconut one (Coconut Malai with Elaichi) and Gol Paani with Sabja seeds, which featured lemon, tulsi and basil seeds and hit the spot with a nice tangy flavor. It is traditional to begin with dates in some form – Kharek was what we go that day – Dates soaked in rose syrup and stuffed with Khoya, pistachios and almonds. And then the real feasting started! And as there was a vegetarian at the table, we learned that there is an extensive range of vegetarian delicacies prepared in Bohra cooking, and a quick taste assured us that this was indeed the case! Our non-veg starters included divine Kheema Samosas – crisp, thin, fried casing encasing hand-pounded mutton mince, Kheema Pattice – mince stuffed potatoes, Chicken Cream Tikka – chicken nuggets with cream that make for the perfect comfort food on a cold evening. For the vegetarians the Nariyal Kebab (potato encasing coconut), and Dal Na Samosa, a lentil samosa would leave them happy. Before the mains, the Mango Malai was common to both thalis, and kept up the one sweet-one savory tradition.

And now it was time for the main course. For vegetarians, there was Patrel Soya nu Tarkari made with Cocoyam leaves; the non-veg version, Patrel Gosht combined mutton and the leaves. There was a Bohri Dal that used 5 lentils to great effect, and a rich Ghaker Roti which was layers of flaky pastry and ghee and didn’t need any accompaniment, though it was perfect to dip into the Kaari Chicken – a cashew gravy and gorgeous spice combination made this the dish of the night! No meal of this sort would be complete without biryani – and the Bohra Gosht Biryani (with mutton and potatoes and deep fried onions) served with a delectable Bhuna Baingan Raita, was stellar. This was one of those times when I rued not having more space – the Kaari Chicken and biryani should be savored in large quantities! Now of course the meal had to end on a sweet note, and obviously, given the season, Sheer Khurma was a must – and with the charonji and other nuts, it transported me back to Eids of childhood! For those who would enjoy ending the meal with paan, the Bohri Paan Goli is a sort of deconstructed paan ball rolled with dessicated coconut. All in all decadence and a rare glimpse into a food culture that is not easy to find locally…

IMG-20170620-WA0015

Bombay Brasserie comes to Town

As a teenager, on a visit to Bombay, my parents and I were taken to a restaurant called Bombay Brasserie, and I recall it being upscale and with good food. So, when I heard that an eatery of the same name was opening in Bangalore, I wondered, “any relation”? Turns out yes, the Bombay Brasserie that resides in a beautiful old bungalow on Indiranagar’s 12th Main, is, indeed, a revamped outlet of the same Bombay chain, though that city no longer has one. Now, Indiranagar is absolutely the place to open a restaurant in Bangalore, and what with 100 Ft. road having reached saturation, 12th Main has taken over as the go-to real estate.

The entrance, as with the interiors is all white and blues, with accents in bright colors including flowering pots and vivid mosaic flooring. Seating is both indoors and outdoors, and since we were there on a sunny and beautiful January afternoon, we chose to sit outside. A good decision, since it made for great photographs, and was the perfect setting for a ladies who lunch moment. Nothing like good food, cocktails, and a pretty setting to make for two very happy ladies! Like the menu, the table too was in hues of orange and blue. This is one place which I would recommend visiting in the daytime just so you can appreciate the beauty and brightness of the decor and the space.

We started the afternoon off with the establishment’s signature Pauwa (quarter) cocktails, with the drink presented in a cool looking 180ml bottle with a tag announcing its name, and a big glass tumbler to pour it into. I knew even before I visited what my first drink would be, having spied pictures of the Nagpuri Santra, a concoction of orange and citrus, and immediately wanting one! It was citrusy and refreshing and a good way to start the proceedings. My dining companion ordered the Janta Bar, a spicy drink with whisky, coke, chili and chaat masala, and she loved it.

dsc_4342

Each Pauwa cocktail is accompanied by a serving of ‘chakna’, aka snack food, adding to the feel of ordering a quarter and some snacks at the local bar! In much more rarefied surroundings, of course. I liked both the peanut masala and the black channa that came with our drinks. Next time I visit I will order the Memsaab’s favourite pink gin, a potent and lovely drink that I tasted after my friend ordered it as her second, while I sipped on the special Hot Toddy the bartender whipped up for sniffling me, who was nursing quite a cold.

This was one of the times when I wished we were a larger party, since the BB menu is vast and between the two of us, we tried just a fraction of the dishes. BB, by the way, sources some ingredients from their place of origin, like aam papad from Amritsar. Thus, from the ‘Bites’ section of the menu we started off with the Aam Papad Paneer, which is sure to be a hit with many, especially accompanied by a cocktail. From the smalls came the Marathi Jhinga Mirch, which caught my attention thanks to the mention of mirch ka thecha (a chunky chutney I was introduced to while living in Nagpur) peanut, green chilli chutney, and grated coconut. The prawns were perfectly cooked and crunchy, and the bed of coarsely ground peanuts and the chilli thecha gave the dish both texture and fire.

The Chili Cheese Kulcha I will likely order on every visit to BB – small kulchas stuffed with melted chilli cheese – its cheese in a kulcha, what could be wrong with that?! The Naga Ghost Pepper Wings were something my companion, who loves her some madly spicy chilies, like the Bhoot Jhalokia that was in these wings, just had to order. I wasn’t sure I would be able to manage more than a bite, but these were mercifully not the burn a hole in your tongue level of spice, but manageable and very well balanced.

Kashmir Naan Kebab (Hot Plates and Street Grills) is minced lamb fashioned into a long kebab, served with saffron brushed and Kebab Chini aka Java Pepper encrusted naan, served with Doon Chetin, a Kashmiri yogurt dip that had walnuts in it. I really loved this dish, from the presentation to the beautifully cooked tender meat, and that delectable dip. After this we only had space for one more, and so regretfully skipping over the Mains, we went with the manager’s recommendation of Mario’s Mango prawn and Coconut Rice (Paired Curries section). A coconuty red prawn curry that was served with a leaf packet of coconut milk rice, this dish was a bit too much of coconut for us.

It was now time for dessert, and we were each very clear on what appealed to us. Amritsari Kulfi, which was a triple threat of Kulfi topped with rose flavored Falooda, in a sea of Badami Phirni, was her choice, and as I am not a Kulfi fan usually, I didn’t expect to like it. But oh, this was a mild and non cardamom infused Kulfi, and the additions of the Phirni (not too sweet or thick) and the Falooda meant that I dug my spoon in a few times. The presentation, with a little molecular gastronomy, only added to the charm. My choice was the Bombay Ice Cream Sandwich, which takes our childhood favorite biscuits of Parle G, Bourbon, and Jim Jam, and replaces their cream centers with ice cream! Presented on a black slate with sprinkles, Gems and Jujubes strewn across, and the whole dusted with icing sugar, this dessert was playful, colorful, and delightful for the eyes and tongue!

dsc_4394

Now, both us gals are tea addicts, so the fact that Bombay Brasserie has a special High Chai menu made us happy, but given the big lunch we’d just eaten, we contented ourselves with ordering just Chai, after promising we’d return for the snacks on that section of the menu. Charminar Chai – like a Suleimani, with brewed tea + spices + lemon, was my friend’s choice, and I went for the Chandni Chowk Chai – a Cardamom tea that was sweet and strong. The teas were served in cutting chai glasses placed in adorable drawers, with biscuits/rusk accompanying them. A lovely way to end the meal! I am already conspiring to go back to Bombay Brasserie – anyone wants to join me?

Details: Bombay Brasserie; INR 2300 plus taxes for two people