Had to go to Indore for a day, this week, and I could have a brush with the food of Purani Dilli. Well, not exactly but closer.
After the days work, I had to stay put in the hotel as had a dinner appointment (which meant abondoning the plans to visit the foodies delight Saraafa Bazaar and Chhappan Dukan). A walk across the lobby of Radisson Indore, lead me to a sign and decor informing that a festival of Food from Old Delhi was on there. Purani Dilli Food in Indore !! So, the choice was obvious and we sat down. What happened next is an interesting story.
Normally, I would not want to go for a buffet anywhere as the huge variety makes no sense to me and a sort of industrial production of food in large quantities, somehow, makes me uncomfortable as far as the flavours and taste goes. However, the decor inside the Coffee Shop had counters such as Natraj Bhalla, Shri Balaji Chat, Lazeez Biryani, Old Famous Jalebi Wala, Malai Dudh and Kulfi. Not bad. The scene was interesting enough to settle down for a buffet.
Instantly, our table which had five of us was loaded with starters like Dahi Bhalla, Papri Chaat, Aloo Chaat, Gol Gappe and others. Nothing great but just ok. Then came the non-veg starters. A couple of pieces of Mutton Seekh Kebab and Chicken Tikka were served on my plate. Frankly, the looks were just ordinary so didn’t click pictures. Had no expectations from the taste and I was right. The Mutton Seekh Kebab was hot on the surface but cold and dry inside. Meat mince had no texture and masala was mild. Same was the case with the Chicken Tikka. It was dry inside.
Disappointed, suddenly I remembered that the sign outside said that the menu was curated by a Chef named Zahid from Delhi. I requested the staff if he could come and meet us. Chef Zahid, a humble gentleman in his late 40s, enquired the reason for my dissatisfaction. Having known that we were from Delhi, he assured me to make kebabs specially for us. Hurriedly, he dashed towards the live barbecue section. After few minutes, Mutton Seekh Kebabs and Chicken Tikka came again. Better looking and much better tasting, this time. But still I wasn’t really happy.
By the time, Chef Zahid had observed my feelings and he started explaining that he had brought his masalas from Delhi and recipes are his, but the quality of meat in Indore was not that great which we get in Delhi. We had struck a chord between us by now. I took the liberty of asking him that which dishes he would recommend as I don’t want to waste my appetite on trying various items and feeling let down. He confided that while the menu was curated by him, it was not possible for him to prepare all the dishes himself.
So, on my insistence, he strongly recommended Gosht Dum Biryani, Gosht Labrezi and Murg Kali Mirch. Sadly, Nihari was not there that day. I told him about my experience of Nihari at Haji Shabrati earlier and how much I like it.
Biryani – Delightfully Flavourful
As soon as the server behind the “Lazeez Biryani Centre” counter scooped out Biryani from the Degh and put it on to the plate, the flavourful aroma told me that I was in for an experience. The saffron, white, yellow grains of rice, not very greasy, having Mutton pieces ambushed, sat on my plate, invitingly.
I picked a portion of rice in a pinch and dropped it on the side of my plate. Voila !! Each grain of rice spread out separately. The Biryani passed the first test. Picked out the meat piece from the heap of rice and it came out nicely. Very few grains of rice kept stuck to it. Second test passed successfully. Now the taste. A spoonful in my mouth told me each grain was coated with flavours and yet the rice were not very greasy. The meat came off the bone easily and was succulent and juicy. A few more spoons of the flavourful Biryani and one could get a very mild hint of aftertaste of sourness. This Biryani was a masterpiece. Perhaps I didn’t need anything else but since the Chef had suggested the other dishes too, so had to restrict my Biryani urge.
Gosht, Murg and Haleem
I had ladled a service spoonful each from the buffet into my plate. Three distinct curries sat on my plate beautifully. Each had a distinct aroma and yet a common whiff of Mughlai Masala.
Haleem came first. A pale yellow dish which emitted a meaty aroma and had a glaze on it. The melt-in-mouth meat infused with a bit crunchy texture of lentils was a wonderful concoction. The mildly spiced preparation had a balanced amount of ghee and was not loaded with fried onions or green chillies. The consistency told me that it was slow cooked for hours. It was a delight to savour. One could go on and on.
Murg Kali Mirch had a dark off white thick gravy. Unlike normal curries which one has in this kali mirch version, this one was not over powered by the black pepper or the cashew paste. Each spice and ingredient was balanced, the buttery-creamy curry had that flavour of ghee and meat. Chicken was succulent and flavourful. I didn’t need any bread lest I dilute the flavours.
The Gosht Labrezi sat there in two different coulours. A dark yellow and glazed curry let a streak of oil escape from the sides. Mutton was succulent, juicy and had the flavour of spices infused in each morsel. Gravy had a slight runny consistency and yet was not watery. The masala was aromatic and very balanced. You had those royal flavours and yet not seemed heavy.
All the three dishes were amazingly flavourful and aromatic. Had distinct flavours and were a delight to enjoy on its own. One doesn’t get these preparations ordinarily unless the Chef has that mastery in him.
To round up the meals, I did try Jalebi Rabri where Jalebi was crisp but lacked that hint of paneer in its batter which the Famous Jalebiwala has it here. Rabri had a slightly runny consistency. Kulfi Faluda had a khoya infused brownish Kulfi which tasted good but the Faluda had gone a bit frozen which didn’t gel. So, I had no mood to click the pictures but yes, the round of dessert was not bad either. So, the food festival at Radisson Indore was a great idea and locals did enjoy it. The decor was great and innovative and I too enjoyed some great dishes.
Chef Zahid gave me his contact details and some common contacts. He suggested me that in Delhi in should give me a call and that he shall make Biryani and Nihari at his home for me. Chef, the day shall come soon, Inshallah !!
One lesson learnt that to enjoy the buffet, check with the Chef what to eat and you shall have the best.
Bon Appettite !!
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