Like everyone, do you look for Biryani, the first thing, when in Hyderabad ? The answer would be mostly yes. Well, not for me anymore. It used to be, Once Upon A Time, changed it now. Would you like to give up your Biryani cravings for Palak Anardana Tikki Chaat or Murgh Shorba or Dum Ka Murgh Popsicle or Saag Meat or Malai Cheeni Toast or Chai Samosa and for that matter Gosht Safediya Pulao? I would and I am sure you would too, eventually, after reading this.
It was about a few months ago that a leading Food Columnist and Blogger in Hyderabad, my friend Sabyasachi Ray Chaudhuri asked me to meet him at Once Upon A Time, a modern Indian restaurant in the iconic Green Park Hotel in Hyderabad. There, I was introduced to Chef Vignesh Ramachandran, the Culinary Director of the hotel chain. He has curated a fusion food menu, actually Indian Food with more than a contemporary look, feel and taste.
Besides a-la-carte, Vignesh has introduced Chef’s Tasting Menu in three variations. The Green Fables is for the Vegetarians, Deccan Tales features most of the local Mughlai dishes and the Indian Epic has various regional dishes, all with an interesting twist. So far I have tasted the Deccan version and the Indian version over as many visits and have become a fan. Each dish scores high on presentation, texture and taste. If you are a food lover, then this is a must visit. Let me take you through the course by course offerings of the Indian Epic menu with a few dishes from the Deccan version at the end.
Cucumber Yoghurt Masala Start
As soon as I settled down, I was presented this. With a child like curiosity, I picked this up and it had my first bite. The fluorescent, spiced, crispy Rice Puffs led me to the subtly flavoured Yoghurt and then to the moist slice of Cucumber. A pleasant welcome Gong to announce what is there in the store for you.
Pineapple Ginger Juice
A short glass containing a concoction of Pineapple Juice with Ginger, Sugar and Lemon Juice was presented to me. This was an amazing combo where the sharpness of pineapple when mixed with the sharpness of ginger balanced with lemon and sugar syrup gives you a very refreshing. I liked it very much.
Palak Anardana Tikki Chat
The crispy Tikki encased a patty of super soft Palak with a hint of shoots and covered with sweetened Dahi. The subtle sharpness of Pomegranate Seeds provided that tinge to the taste and the texture. A good starter to look at and taste.
Lehsuni Murg Shorba
Lehsuni Murg Shorba came with croutons and the meat sitting pretty in a black bowl giving. The thick Creamy Chicken Broth was poured over it in front of me which immediately gave the aroma of meat and cream. The garlic infused, very subtle though, creamy concoction with meat and croutons was a delight where I could taste the meat and the croutons balanced it, perfectly.
Crispy Softshell Crab
As soon as the dish was brought to me, the lovely sea food aroma filled the air. Being a seafood lover, I could not wait and picked up a crispy piece. The first bite and it told me that soft shell of the crab had a crispy batter which led me to the soft and sweet crab meat. Each bite had a spicy aftertaste which enhanced with the tangy Achari Dip which came along. One experienced three distinct layers of textures and tastes. Again an amazing dish.
Dum Ka Murgh Popsicles
This was a different take on the famous Chicken Lollipop. The Chicken minced meat was encased in crispy batter and seasoned with South Indian spices and herbs. Had a mild taste of Coconut too. You pick it up like a popsicle and bite it. The juicy chicken mince done in spices with a crispy outer was a delight to experience.
The Starters or the Appetizers were now to give way to the mains.
Anar Lassi Shorbet
Before the mains could come, it was time for the palate cleanser. In came a short frosted glass in which sat pretty a pink creamy ball garnished with Pomegranate Seeds. The sharpness of Pomegranate with the frozen Lassi granules did the wonder to your palate. A refreshing and exciting change in midst of the saga of various flavours and textures.
Smoked Chicken With Malai & Fried Onions
This is not on the regular menu. Perhaps a word from my friend Chef Vignesh in the kitchen, brought me this amazing dish. The succulent an juicy Chicken morsels were done in subtle spices. Once could taste the meat and the spices. It was take on the famous Chicken Tikka Masala served with a sour curd dip. Add fried onions to your morsel and you are a happy soul. One could eat just this and remain satisfied. And yes, please do not miss those cute small Tawa Chapati in the picture.
Scallops With Prawns Moilee
A mild lemon coloured Curry, garnished with Curry Leaves with a Scallop sitting in a pool of a creamy concoction, in a black plate came to my table. The curry had a two cute mini Appams sitting on the side. While I was trying to recover from the beauty of the dish, a pleasant whiff of seafood, engulfed in coconut flavour hit me. The Scallop actually sat over super soft prawns, playing hide and seek in the thick coconut sauce. It was quite difficult to decide if the prawns were more soft or the scallops. Moilee is a spicy fish and coconut dish which has its origin in Portuguese Cuisine and in South India. Hence this name of the dish.
Even after having so much thus far, this dish was a real delight. A big sized piece of Mutton Shank giving the aroma of a typical Mughlai dish, sat pretty over a base of Green Sauce. My first take was on the Spinach Sauce. To my surprise, this was that typical Punjabi Spinach done with Keema (minced meat) which not only gave an amassing taste but also a granular texture to the soft spinach. The meat was succulent and full of flavours. A deadly combo.
Chur Chur Paratha With Kaali Dal
Being a North Indian Punjabi, I am almost done and got over with this combo. So was not looking forward to it. But then, what landed on my table was a delight to look at. The miniature of a crumbled Parantha sat pretty alongside the bowl of Dal. The velvety Dal, no doubt, matched the standards of North India but it was the Parantha which took my heart. It was not over drenched in ghee or butter. It was like a different take on the famous Moradabadi Biscuitie Roti. Had that crisp which was not much moist. A good combo to have.
The mains were now to give way to the Dessert section.
Malai Cheeni Toast
I have had this in Comorin, Gurgoan a few months ago. So, was expecting something similar. But then what landed on my table was a real surprise. A big flat bun, toasted to have a crust of caramelised sugar, the Cheeni element, giving it a colour of goldish brown made the base. Sitting over it was a scoop of Jaggery flavoured Ice Cream which completed the Malai element. The crunch of the Sugar coupled with the Ice Cream did the wonders. The caramelised sugar strings around the scoop of the Ice Cream added to the wonder.
What Daulat Ki Chat is for Delhi, Makhan Malai for Lucknow, it is Nimish for Kanpur. This rich dessert was served in a shot glass which gave a three sixty degree view of the dish for your to romance it. I am fond of this frothy milk concoction and have tasted almost all versions of this. The one served on the table, in fact no words could describe the looks and the taste. The Safron infused silken foam of the Milk, crispy Almond Chikki combined with Toasted Pistachios made a deadly combo which could be only described in one word, Divine. In other words, those who are fond of Butter Scotch Ice Cream, like me, I would say that my favorite Ice Cream would be a slightly inferior cousin of this Zaffrani Nimish.
Highlights From Other Tasting Menus
I am giving here a glimpse of few of my other favourite dishes which are from the other versions of the Chef’s Tasting Menu. I am purposely not giving description, except the names, of any of the dish so that you could go and experience those for yourself.
I spent almost two hours tasting the entire menu. And frankly, I could not decide which one I liked the most over my two visits and tasting of the two versions of the menus. It is an experience and one must have it. I have fallen for it and am going back again, whenever I could. Till then….
Bon Appetite !!