If you were to have just two meals in Amritsar and you have a really long list of recommendations, then what you do ? I was faced with this situation recently. So, I shortlisted and packed in the famous Dal and Palak Paneer at the iconic Kesar Da Dhaba, Malai Kofta, Matka Kulfi, Phirni and Tuti Fruiti Ice Cream at Brothers Dhaba. Both Lunch and Dinner were interspersed with Gulab Jamun, Palak Pakora, Moong Dal Laddoo and then Amritsari Fish at Amar, Ranjeet Avenue. How ?
I had gone to Amritsar with my family, last weekend. It was a whirlwind tour and the purpose was some family commitments. Food exploration was not a priority. So, had to use my influencing skills to make my family agree to my recommendations for having at least the Lunch & Dinner (they insisted to have the breakfast in the hotel coffee shop). The story goes on like this.
Kesar Da Dhaba, Chowk Passian
Our cabbie dropped us at the Lohgarh Gate and guided us the way to be followed. A leisurely walk of about 6 minutes wading through the narrow by lanes, we reached the iconic eatery at around 245 pm. The place was full even at that time. Had to wait for about 5-7 minutes and we were ushered in. It took a while for someone to come a take orders. Once done, the food didn’t take much time to arrive.
We had ordered their iconic Dal, Palak Paneer and Lachha Paranthas. Wanted to order Baingan Bhartha and Ajwaini Parantha but sadly both weren’t available. Rest everything arrived.
In a heavy and wide Steel Thali, was a huge Bowls (Katora) having a floating glaze of Ghee over a reddish brown concoction and the Lachha Parantha. Similarly, in another one we had the combo of Palak Paneer and the Lachha Parantha.
Drowning my spoon in the pool of Ghee and reaching reddish brown thick curry, I discovered the Dal. It was piping hot. A spoonful in the mouth and it was heavenly. It was a slow cooked Black Gram Dal which the Punjabi mothers would cook in a brass vessel kept over Angeethi for hours. Same nostalgic taste. Very basic spices but with a load of artery clogging Ghee. But then for the old times sake, one could certainly go for it and enjoy. Yes, the Dal was great to taste. Would certainly go back for this one.
The Palak Paneer was again old style but didn’t catch much of my fancy. The Palak was coarsely ground which was again nostalgic. The Paneer was shallow fried. The spices were mild and again a load of Ghee. In fact the flavour of Ghee with the spices somehow overpowered the aroma and the flavour of Palak. Not a very great one but yes one can certainly try.
Both these went very well with the crispy Lachha Parantha with a glaze of Ghee over it.
We ordered Phirni and Rasmalai for wrapping up the meals. Both of them could make good Instagram pictures. But, the flavours of both the dishes didn’t excite me much. The Phirni was set in the usual earthen bowl and the Rasmalai was served in a thermacol bowl but it had Chhena Balls instead of those flat roundels we get here in Delhi.
I would certainly go back to Kesar for its Dal and to try other dishes.
Chacha Sweets, Chowk Passian
It was around 330 pm when we came out of Kesar. The waiting crowd had swollen further with more than two dozen people waiting to get in. Having felt lucky, we started walking towards the right (we had come from this way) and at a distance of about 30 meters, there was this shop. The Gulab Jamun and the owner, a typical Punjabi Halwai, caught our attention. Despite being full we asked for two Gulab Jamuns. The first bite…and it was a delight….aptly hot, juicy, aptly sweet, caramel flavour….ooooh !! One of the best I ever had. In fact all of us felt so. Next to catch the attention was Palak Pakora. This Spinach Fritter was astonishing in looks. The first bite gave a crunchy sound and the spinach flaked like a fresh patty. Light, Fresh and Flavourful. Never ever had such Pakora. Now, we forgot that we were full and we went berserk. Then it was Namak Para, Gur Para, Bhujia, Moong Dal Laddoo and what not.
Each item was fresh as ever, tasteful and a delight. Also got some packed for home. Surprisingly, the total cost for all this was just a couple of hundred bucks. I will certainly go back to him.
Amar Fish, C Block, Ranjeet Avenue
Before going for dinner, we took a little detour for I wanted to try the Amritsari Fish here.
As soon as I approached the shop, I was greeted by Harinder Singh (an educated decent gentleman), the owner. He informed that they had two versions, Tandoori and Fried. Of course the Amritsari Fish has to be fried.
Soon, a plate containing golden fried Fish Fillets was served along with Sliced Radish, Green Mint Chutney and a White Sauce (seemed like a cross between Mayo and Tartar). Fish pieces were thin and of reasonably good size. The first bite and it was heaven. A thin layer of flavourful marination coated the crust which was crisp. The flesh inside was silky soft. Each fish piece was firm and yet a melt in mouth types. A wonder in itself with almost nil oil. One of the best fish I would have ever tasted. I don’t think, my any trip to Amritsar would be complete without having fish here.
Bade Bhai Ka Brothers’ Dhaba, Katra Ahluwalia
Last time, which was a few years ago, we had eaten at the Bhrawan Da Dhaba. I heard the two brothers had separated and this one serves better food. So we went to this one, adjacent to the original outlet. We were there at around 10 in the night and the place was having a waiting of about 15 minutes. Finally, we got our table to settle down.
We ordered Dal Makhni, Malai Kofta, Naan and Roti. Perhaps our expectations were more. The Dal, though good, didn’t excite us much. It had a distinct flavour of black pepper which overpowered the natural flavour of the Dal. Similarly, the Malai Kofta too was just fine. Nothing to write back home.
Our desserts included Phirni, their famous Tutti Fruiti Ice Cream and Matka Kulfi.
The Phirni had great looks and a just OK taste.
The Matka Kulfi came hidden in the veil of a colorful Rajasthani cloth. The looks certainly entice you. Opening the cloth packing itself is a delight. The moment you lift the earthen lid, the Kulfi with hues of saffron and chopped pistachio sprinkled over it, appears. It’s a great sight. The first spoonful told me it was a riot of flavours. The crunchy and granular Kulfi had the flavours of Rabri & Kesar Pista. It was amazingly delicious.
Then came the riot of colors in a paper glass. This was our Tutti Fruiti. Two big scoops of Vanila Ice Cream garnished with Red and Green Sauces and fruit jelly of various colors. The first spoonful itself took me to my childhood days. Spoon after spoonful and you can’t put it down.
At the end, I was happy to have had some great food despite a short and tight trip. The Dal at Kesar, the sweet & savoury offerings at Chacha, the Fish at Amar and Matka Kulfi & Tutti Fruiti at Brothers’ are the high points of my trip. These surely give strength to my resolve to visit the city soon to explore more places and dishes which are on my list. Till then…