Chef J P Singh of Bukhara at The Royal Afghan, ITC Windsor
Once in a while comes along a meal that remains with you for a long long long time, a meal that you can't take out of your mind and though in my case it rarely happens to be a North Indian (though this wasn't exactly north indian but more frontier) meal but this was one of those. Last Friday I was invited by ITC Windsor for the preview of the revamp they are doing to Royal Afghan, Royal Afghan is a 15 year old restaurant in ITC Windsor which still has the same menu with which it was launched, the prices ofcourse have changed just incase you got hopeful. The legendary Chef J P Singh of Bukhara fame is visiting to launch the new look of Royal Afghan with his signature dishes. Chef J P Singh is known to have cooked for who's who of the world including Barack Obama and this certainly was not an opportunity I would like to miss out on.
The evening started with salad, wine and some masala papad, lots of chit chat with fellow bloggers, people from the hotel and the chef himself. I found the chef so down to earth and talented, he kept on sharing some tips about the marinades, the meat tenderisers and how they use only natural ones like kachi, raw papaya etc. He shared many stories of how does he feel when famous people come to eat his food and how mostly Indians are the ones want fork and spoon to eat food and people from abroad are happy using their hands (they don't provide cutlery and encourage the use of hands to relish the food). It was such a pleasure talking to him to techniques, tips and more.
For the starters we got the finger licking delicious "Tandoori Jhinga", Prawns marinated in an “ajwain” flavoured mixture of yoghurt, red chilies, turmeric and flavoured with “garam masala” skewered and roasted over charcoal fire. The ajwain was nice and subdued and we all asked for repeat of this one. There was also a "Murgh Malai Kabab", Creamy “kabab” of boneless chicken blended with cream cheese, malt vinegar, green chili and coriander, grilled in the “Tandoor”, which was spectacular in itself but personally for me paled in front of the jhinga :)
And then there was "Barra Kabab", Chunks of leg of lamb and chops marinated in a mixture of yoghurt, malt vinegar & mélange of spices, chargrilled over “Red hot Embers”, I swear I could die for it or may be kill for it. It was so freaking good starts dreaming about barra kabab ok now that I have stopped dreaming about it, let me come back to the topic. The mutton was so tender and juicy, the spices just right. The barra kabab for me was the star dish of the day. I could have had the whole meal of this, heck multiple meals of this one after the other
Well incase you are thinking we only eat meat, no no we didn't. There were vegetarian starters too and were actually pretty good too ;) I specially liked the "Paneer tikka", the balance of spices in that was amazing. A touch of black salt, chat masala, jeera, chillies all perfectly blended. There also was "Tandoori Aloo", Scooped potatoes stuffed with potato mash, raisins and cashewnuts chopped green chillies and green coriander, skewered and roasted in the “Earthen Oven” which was nice too.
After devouring these yummy starters, we were wondering how will we ever eat the main course now, thankfully there was a decent enough break between the starters and main course and by the time it arrived the previous course had somewhat settled. We had all been waiting for the "Sikandari Raan" pretty much since we had arrived at the place. Sikandari Raan is known to be a speciality of Royal Afghan and is basically whole leg of spring lamb braised in a marinade of malt vinegar, cinnamon, black cumin and red chili paste and finished in the tandoor. The chef shared with us on how when the lamb arrives they first spend time selecting which will go in Raan and Barra Kabab, the best and the most tender ones are picked. The ones that are picked also should not have too much fat on them. The raan was good but somehow it didn't blow me out of my mind. If I had to choose between the raan and barra kabab, I would pick barra kabab anyday but having said that I would happily eat the raan too
There was one more thing on offer that day, that I could kill or die for. The "Dal Bhukara", A harmonious combination of black lentils, tomatoes, ginger and garlic simmered overnight on slow charcoal fire and finished with cream, served with a dollop of unsalted butter. Now I love black dal and I have often cribbed about how one doesn't get a good dak makhani in bangalore and this was my wish come true. I could have drank cups and cups of it. I mean give me this dal, the burra kabab (yes I know I mentioned it again) and a naan and I would be a happy girl.
Before we move on the next course, guys you have to see this. The biggest I mean the biggest naan I have ever seen.
Moving on the next course, ladies and gentlemen also my favorite course of the meal, the dessert and since I had read that "Phirni" A light dessert of milk and Basmati rice and flavoured with cardamom, set in earthen mould, topped with pistachio, was on menu I was waiting for it. And inspite of being full most of us finished the phirni and was pretty much in orgasmic state while eating it. There was also a "Gulab Jamun" but I didn't care about that too much. For me the star was the phirni.
People so head to Royal Afghan for a delicious meal and if you can head there before the 26th, as Chef J P Singh is gonna be there till 26th before he heads back to Bukhara.
Published on 20th Jan 2014