Friday, July 12, 2019

II Punjabee Rasoi II

Contrary to the legend, Byron's Don Juan was on the receiving end of seduction. I clearly felt his phantom kicking in during a recent meal at Punjabee Rasoi [henceforth PR]. Dealings with Adrak ke Punje, aka Burra Kebabs, approximated the sweet struggle of intense lovemaking. Like a seduced Don I fluidly dug out shreds of succulence from the moist recesses of stiff ribs jutting out in false defiance. In substance, sizable lamb chops marinated in hung curd, skewered, roasted on the bone and charred to an impeccable grill chafed with a gingerly accent. A relish that had begun on restraint ended in me licking the layers of spices and aromatics off dainty ribs with eyes shut. Time rolled. So did my jaunt. #uncookedwords #punjabeerasoi

Ajwani Fish Tikka of PR had the unusual gift of sending a landlubber fishing. Grilled to crunchy orangeness with monk-like poise, a supple block of Calcutta Bhetki fillet held a bouquet of Ajwain and choicest spices inside a tender core. Enchanted, I kept slipping into a Minotaur’s maze of mesmeric Kebabs.

Until then I'd held that a regular like Chicken Lasuni Kebab barely had any trick left for me in the bag. However, one that landed on my squeaky plate - a smoky masterpiece of keen processing, patience and grill yielding in bites of lingering tenderness, laid that idea downright waste. My first bite worked like taking the lid off a bottle of perfume unleashing a flavorous riot. Think Charles Bronson in Armani, or raw emotion draped in a class that’s timeless.

Like a selfless sidekick what kept pepping up all the grills was a brisk mint dip the match of which, I admit, is rare. Time to escape the maze and summon the aid of Theseus had finally arrived. Though, as always, what would best ease the move to main-course was a concern.

Dal Makhni is discussed if ever tasting worse than bad. OR, so good that you suddenly start missing your departed ancestry at table. PR’s slow-cooked rendering of the delicacy excelled with a buttery base buoying up sparkling beans and mushy lentils like etched scars on a shiny ebony. With a rich finish it embraced Garlic Naan – another gem in its own right, with love, spinning an aftertaste that makes a carnivore of my order defect and talk green. Well, briefly. And, miss forefathers. Those moist breads drizzled with diced garlic could easily make for a Nobel if there were one for delicious Naans. Now I was no longer hungry yet aching for more. That’s desire. And, ordering is much more than just casting a line blindly.

Ordering Chicken Tikka Butter Masala in a Panjabi restaurant is next to ritual. Juicy chunks of chicken dunked in buttery richness delighted with well-placed overnotes of Ajwain curbing the patronizing sweetness of the gravy. Again, Garlic Naans were summoned to help mop the bowl dry. Like meals of taste make me guiltlessly overeat, and wish for setting off on a long walk as penance. But that never happens.

I did find bits of the soul of north-Indian cuisine allover my elaborate meal that day. This soulful ‘Rasoi’ is clearly playing a value-game that’s unlikely to fail unless levity sets in. More of success remains my sole wish for Punjabee Rasoi until I retrace my steps to those Adrak ke Punje. And, that day is not far-off.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

A one-off case I hope!

Partial excellence is as real as the Unicorn.

I run the risk of sounding utterly obscure by saying my midday meal was 62.5% good. So fractionally precise it was. And, that quotient whenever staggering below a reasonable 75% bodes ill. Pelmenis are Russian cousins of Asian dumplings. As herb-spritzed white balls they came bobbing in meat-broth, hung with a sour cream of delicious consistency. While five out of eight of them were truly off the charts, the remaining three felt like tiny corrugated white balls of overused latex cradling lumps of juicy pork mince. Stuff of perpetual chew. Unbecoming. So, three out of eight went rogue, and that’s 37.5%. #uncookedwords

Since consistency is the byword in today's food-world, tinkering with it may prove untoward. Satyaki, please fix. And DON'T update. I’ll find out myself. This is from one who swears by your ware.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Bowl Company - again

When it comes to food, Gogol’s wish is my command. Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Sweet & Sour Rice - fiery and smoky chicken shreds covering a bed of pepper and pineapple rice cooked just firm to the bite, and served alongside Chef's Special hot jerk sauce. This exotic Carribean dish in a bowl was my kiddo's wish of the evening that Bowl Company, oops, I gladly delivered. Don’t ask me why. Brilliant balance of hotness and flavour. [Delicious sounds too docile to fit with Latino dishes.] So, ravishing to say the least. Friends and semi-friends, please take the plunge. And, foes, keep freeloading. #uncookedwords

Jabbrr Afgani - Rolls

If heft were the yardstick, Uma Devi Khatri, aka Tun Tun, and not Nutan would make a hit at the tinsel-town. How sad, but true. And that's the watchword Jabbar Afgani has embraced to rake it in. Plumping out an elegant roll I lovingly call a lady in off-shoulder inordinately with meat, egg and what not, and making a hideous obese out of it. A far-cry from what a Roll really is. Shame. #uncookedwords


Glenary’s is that enormous Time Machine even a visionary like Herbert George Wells found hard to picture. Trappings of Anglophilia cling to its walls like stubborn dust. And, my likes climb Glenary's wooden steps to soak up the remains of colonial spirit Darjeeling once so vainly typified. Enough said! Unlike Nigella, I eat well in the company of music, and that doesn’t ‘drown out’ the joy I seek in food whatsoever. Clapton’s ‘It's late in the evening; she's wondering what clothes to wear’ are the exact words that caressed me at about the same time a bowlful of Steamed Rice and Sliced Roast Pork was served with discernible warmth. A generous layer of diced pork covering a substantial serving of herbed rice chuffed with the right lean-fat mix and succulence, with the rice cooked al dente pairing splendidly to round off a dish too hard to forget. What a start! #uncookedwords

I heard Lenon taking the stage with a quieting ‘Imagine’. Came alongside the American Chopsuey - a meaty riot of right consistency endowed with a sweetness that did hit the spot without cloying. So, a bad news for those with a sweet-tooth. Amply piqued I kept ordering totally dismissing my stomach was not Spandex. Chicken Hamburger Steak was a spoiler with a misplaced toughness sadly marring the relish of two stocky steaks. Some tenderness could render it uniquely delicious. To offset the chips on the side were made soft but not soggy. No sooner had Bryan, who was long waiting in the wings, burst onto the scene with ‘Everything I Do, I Do It for You’ than my Roasted Chicken with vegetables arrived sizzling in readiness. Cooked to perfection on a Sizzler Plate to say the least. Two perfectly grilled chunks of chicken garnished with cauliflower, peas and carrots attesting to an assiduity that retained the savoury moistness till the last morsel. Glad to come across a perfect roast after a sizeable while.

Leaving Glenary’s marked the Time Traveller’s return to a dull present – where all that were feted inside are dubbed dated and passé.


I wonder if it is the plainness of the food or the surrounding splendour that makes Keventer’s so lastingly iconic. [Or, is it the ‘Ray’ connection?] However, having realised how vulnerable has consistency lately become, I tend to somewhat praise those like Keventer's who let quality reign supreme. After all surviving competition is no less a feat to reckon with. Chicken Meatloaf Sandwich - a folded meatloaf between two docile triangles of regular bread, as the maiden order rode on freshness and heft. Minimally motivating. Kev’s Pork Platter that I’ve been persistently underwriting had generous portions of ham and bacon, spicy sausages, thick salamis and two poached eggs. Mixing with wheat made some of the sausages taste like wiggly bread-sticks. The Salamis and the Hams were the lucky ones to hog the limelight. Nevertheless, too ordinary a treat to write home about. Chicken sausages that arrived soon after proved delicious, perfectly grilled and child-safe. The taste soared sky-high when popped with a dash of mustard sauce. That said, I doubt in earnest if Keventer’s would last a day more if ever stripped of its spangled legacy. Clearly it's the dip in the taste that makes me rue so. #uncookedwords

No meal at Kev’s is over without a warm cup of dark and bubbly Hot-chocolate. Sitting at the tapering end of the triangular terrace that so flawlessly overlooks the meeting of many roads, my last sip of the coveted beverage marked the end of a meal that pulsates with almost everything timeless about Darjeeling. Even so, is nostalgia enough to guarantee an eatery eternity? — at Keventer's

Oudh 1590 - Biriyani Festival

[Don't leave midway. The last two paras are critical.]

Dad’s birthday coinciding with Annual Biriyani Festival at Oudh 1590 was that accident somehow I had to make the most of. Oudh’s neighbouring outlet thankfully kept the incidental travel at a minimum. Given that I don’t take kindly to long gaps between my desserts, Dominican Coronas and bedtime reading. For a change this time I knew my orders backward and placed them at the slightest nudge to the prancing waiter exactly in the sequence I wanted my meal to unfold. #uncookedwords #oudh1590

We live in a time when just acting right is dubbed brilliant, and excellence is that realm one may sidestep and yet succeed. That’s how vaguely I choose to start this time. Grilled cubes of boneless chicken marinated with Saffron as Zafrani Kebab set my meal in motion on a juicy note that might just as well be called flavorous. Galawatis, the other kebab, had a crackling crust to a melting inside. Or, is it a tongue forever tuned to Tundays quibbling? Succulent cubes of Mutton tucked inside a potful of ‘breezy’ rice cooked in meat broth and sprinkled liberally with Beresta, aka Gosht Yakhni Pulao, had all the makings of a masterpiece, and a redemptive property to offset any culinary lack that might follow. Gosht Bhuna Khichri rode high on moderation and meat content to my carnivorous liking. The fly in the ointment came late but for sure. Mutton chunks dunked in a swill of dullness - Oudh’s Rezala was what I wouldn’t even treat my enemies to. What a waste of wherewithal!

I had my fair shares of both good and bad that evening. This inconstancy is a common fate a chain branching out fast piggybacking on the expertise of a smattering of cooks rarely escapes. While a few end up with goodfood, the rest fume. Or, some dishes shine while the rest go down the sewer.

I use this post to ventilate another concern more avian than gastronomic. Oudh proudly had ‘Shikari Bater Pardah Biriyani’ on menu featuring a distinctive Biriyani cooked with common game bird Quail [Common Quail/ Coturnix coturnix] marinated in spices. IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature] Red List of Threatened Species 2018 includes Common Quail in the red list of endangered birds with a decreasing count globally. Is it anyway just to offer on menu a variant of Biriyani that boldly uses a dwindling species as the principal ingredient? [Mind that I moot this on a full stomach.] I know many who would rise to this bait of exotica like a Catfish to dead Minnows.

I don't see myself birding in at least next hundred years. But my not calling this exception out would prove Voltaire right about the rarity of common sense.