Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mughal-e-Azam: A Feast Fit for Emperors

-Shivani Mohan

Daniell’s Tavern( Pan Indian Restaurant)
21st February – 2nd March 2014

Now I am one of those people who have to be literally cajoled into having Indian food (as in North Indian food) when eating out. I prefer home-cooked Indian food and always like to be adventurous with cuisines when eating out. Yet the very sound of this Mughal-e-Azam invite caught my attention. A delectable relic of 'Hindoostan', Daniell’s Tavern at The Imperial is most unlike the typical ethnic attack you get to see in many an 'Indian Restaurant'!

It allures with a Live Kitchen and a menu that revisits India from the eyes of Thomas and William Daniell. This uncle and nephew team came to experience and paint the rich culture and culinary tradition of India’s picturesque locations in 1786, in the midst of colonial era to assist the expanding British Empire. The restaurant menu seeks to define their gastronomic expedition with unique old world specialties from all the cities they visited.

The restaurant walls adorn the original lithographs by the Daniells with a brand new look. Noteworthy among them is the lithograph of the Jantar Mantar monument painted from the exact spot where the Daniell’s Tavern stands today. Also the Live Kitchen has an intriguing coin story displayed with finely crafted brass coins placed on the front side of the kitchen. The native Indian coins represent the commemoration of the initiation of the first formal written peace alliance between the Wampanoag tribe and the European settlers (WAMPANOAG TREATY 1621) in USA. It is also a mark of respect given to the natives by the European settlers.

With art spread across the restaurant revealing the beautiful journey of Thomas and William Daniell, white hues, dark blue cutlery, intricate wood work on the ceiling, together lend an elegant feel. 

This week Daniell’s Tavern brings you the iconic menu of Mughal spices, filled with unique aroma, richness and flavours, culled into intricate dishes. The choice of eclectic specialties tingle the taste-buds and pique the senses, offering an authentic and well-researched cuisine. 

After all Mughlai cuisine is a part of our rich heritage. I was curious to find out more and played along and I was certainly not disappointed. Yes, it is supposed to be heavy food but one can always compensate by spending that extra hour at the gym and having a light dinner after a lunch like this.

The spread at Daniell's Tavern was truly rich and sumptuous but so authentic and flavorful, that it instantly made you conjure a decadent past. I could imagine how these Mughals won all the battles they won and came to rule India for centuries. With food like this consumed every day, it would be difficult to just lie back and be losers!
Subz Shammi Kebab
Murg Nawabi Beda

The starter menu features Murgh Nawabi Beda-An interesting cigar of boneless chicken, with an inner filling of royal Indian spices and finished in a clay oven.  Tandoori Nisha  are fresh jumbo prawns marinated with yogurt, chilly and spices and charred in clay oven. 

Amongst other melt-in-the-mouth kebabs  are Kakori Kebabs and a very delicious vegetarian Shammi Kebab, which even the non-vegetarians couldn't help relishing. 

For soup there is the nutritious Paaya Shorba with Kofta- Flavorful broth of slow braised lamb trotters infused with Indian spices and served with meat dumplings. As two of my friends were recuperating from recent flu, there couldn't have been a better antidote for them. One could almost feel a healthier glow on them by the time the soup was devoured. Vegetarians had the Mulligatawny, a Daniell's Tavern special, which is not exactly Mughal, more like East India Company, but delicious nevertheless! 

The main course impresses the connoisseur with the divine Akbari Murgh Masala- Traditional preparation of royal taste popular from the Mughal period and Gosht Nalli Nihari, preparation of overnight braised lamb mildly spiced with cardamom and cinnamon. I was having Nihari for the first time but I must admit I have never had a better lamb dish. It was not oily, not overtly heavy, not spicy unlike the perception about most 'Mughlai-Come-Lately'! Easily my favourite dish of this meal.

Gobhi Dolma
For the vegetarians a sheer delight is Gobhi Dolma- dry preparation of garden fresh cauliflower tempered with ajwain or carom seeds, onion and green chilly. This dish is way beyond regular cauliflower preparations in Indian cuisine and scores high on flavours as its extremely light on palette and prepared with simple but delectably put ingredients.

We quipped probably this gobhi was what Nurjehan had when on a diet!

 All this went well with Firdausi Pulao, clove scented fragrant preparation of Indian basmati rice with saffron, pistachio and brown onion and Mughlai Paratha.

For dessert there is Sheer Korma, vermicelli like you would have never had before, with chunks of fig and dry fruits served in an earthenware sakora.

I had once read somewhere that Akbar used to have just one major meal in a day. Trust me, so did I today !

Open for Dinner only; Timings: 6:30pm to 11:45pm
Meal for two: INR 4000 + taxes without alcohol

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