Friday, March 16, 2012

Dum Pukth at the ITC Maratha - A review

A couple of weeks ago I received an invitation to a dinner at the Dum Pukth at the ITC Maratha. Rushina told me this was a dinner designed for the meat lover and the cuisine that would be show cased was the Avadhi cuisine of the Nawabs. Of course I accepted!

The Dum Pukth is one of the biggest feathers in the ITC cap. The restaurant had had a makeover and we were invited to participate in what was the soft launch while the absolute final touches were being done. A lot of thought had been put in to designing the space, the d├ęcor, the place settings, and the staff had been trained in Nawabi tehzeeb too.

As we were welcomed with a gracious 'adaab' we beheld a splendidly laid out table with glittering cutlery, gorgeous china, delicately embroidered linen, and sparkling crystal. It was a sumptuous setting, a hint to the sheer luxury that was to follow. And believe me, it did.

Rini and Aishwarya, our hosts for the evening, explained how much thought had gone into every detail resulting in the splendour we saw before us. I loved the wave pattern on the marble floor, supposed to recreate flowing water.

As we were seated with more 'adaab's greeting us, the sheer beauty of the crockery hit me. In these days of  melamine and Corelle convenience the sight of the fabulous china was sheer delight. Custom designed china paired with beautiful silverware and glittering crystal, for me this was half the pleasure of the evening.

A silver base plate topped with an exquisite charger plate. Eating off fine china makes a world of difference and at the Dum Pukth, they've really chosen well. I'm a fan already!

As we were seated we were handed our individual menu cards...

As I glanced through it I realised I was going to be really stuffed at the end of this fact, I wondered if I could actually eat that much! Any way, that's what I was here for and so I waited for the meal to begin.

The starters began to arrive. First up was the murgh chandi tikka. Around 7 scary looking cameras were whipped out and the frantic clicking began. Yes, us bloggers are as obsessed about taking pictures as we are about eating. Food to us as much visually beautiful as it is on the tongue. This went on as every new dish was presented and I must say, the gentlemen who served us were very, very patient.

Going back to the murgh chandi tikka, it looked appetizing topped with silver varakh and all. Along with it arrived the Mahi Dariya and soon followed one of the Dum Pukth's signature dishes, the Kakori kebab. The tikkas were decent enough but the Mahi Dariya and the Kakori Kebabs stole the show. Flat fillets of Bhekti lightly spiced, battered and deep fried to crisp perfection. I would go back just for those. The legendary Kakori Kebabs were redolent of cloves and were smooth and soft, velvet on the tongue. Even though I knew there was lots more to come, I couldn't resist having seconds of both.

As the dinner began and the guests were served, we were gently welcomed to enjoy our meal with a softly spoken 'nosh farmiye'...

We were also plied with Seekh Nilofari, kebabs made with lotus seeds and lotus stems, flavoured with fresh herbs and spices. This was accompanied by a Navratan chutney, a green chutney with anaar daana. The kebabs on their own were okay but with the chutney they escalated to another level entirely. The Dudhiya kebab, discs of paneer with a spiced mash potato filling were also quite nice. But then I'm a carnivore, and I couldn't give these their true due...

Then came the Shorba Purbahar. A beautiful soup plate was placed in front of each guest and in the centre was then sprinkled a tablespoon of tender mung sprouts. On the sprouts was then poured the shorba.

A neat gimmicky presentation and a genuinely delicious shorba.

As we enjoyed the starters we were served a beautiful Sauvignion Blanc from South Africa. It went perfectly with the food, suited my fundamentally Indian palate and taste and I had glass or two...

Next on the menu were the main courses. I was quite stuffed already. Avadhi food creeps up on you and at the Dum Pukth every dish is cooked in pure ghee, not something one is used to at all! We took a bit of a break as conversation flowed across the table. There were discussions ranging from Islamic calligraphy, the Nawabs and their food to the what camera setting worked best for the food shots for the evening!

The main course started with the Jhinge ka Salan. Huge prawns in a yoghurt based methi and turmeric sauce. The thing with prawns is that you have to get them just right. The thing with the Jhinge ka Salan was that the jhinga was overcooked. The sauce was well made but the prima donna was not at her best.

The Shahi Nehari (lamb shanks) was a delight with the flavour of saffron the easily recognisable star of the show.

The Murgh Khushk Purdah made its grand entrance and of course the cameras clamoured to get a good shot of this celebrity. The food paparazzi was in full form! Chicken Pot Pie, Nawabi style. The puff pastry was spiced and flavoured and was as delicious as the chicken that nestled under.

We were also served Maash Qaliya - split green mung cooked with spinach and spices. This was another preparation that I could go back to Dum Pukth for.

These main courses were accompanied by a variety of breads. We sampled khamiri roti, Taftan dum pukth, warqi parathas, roghani roti, and with our starters we'd had the most delightful little sheermals.

Finally it was time for the biryani. Now I am mad about biryani and can have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is probably the first time I didn't savour it because I was just too stuffed. Such a grand dinner was simply too much! I wish I was 18 again, I could have eaten it all and then some! But, stuffed as I was, I couldn't resist so I had a teeny bit anyway. I'm glad I did.

Fragrant rice, succulent pieces of lamb, what more does one want? A dash of mace, a splash of ittar and a whiff of kewra - it was all there. This is what makes a Bengali weep with joy and though I've grown up in Mumbai with a preference for the richer, more robust Hyderabadi style of biryani, the more sophisticated Avadhi style is growing on me. Another reason to come back to the Dum Pukth.

Since I have diabetes I don't pay much attention to the desserts. There was a saffron and pistachio kulfi, a variation of the gulab jamun called the shahed e jaam, and on demand, they also served Shahi Tukda (which is double ka meetha for the Hyderabadis). 

I did sip on the Hungarian dessert wine that was served but I found it too sweet. That is probably because I eat very little 'sweet' and am not used to the taste.  

The experience at the Dum Pukth was luxurious. One was cosseted and very well taken of. The staff was most sporting especially with all the manic photographing that went on all through the dinner and probably delayed things in the kitchen endlessly. I can understand that because we work the kitchen end ourselves and interruptions in the course of service are not what one really appreciates.

Dum Pukth. If a taste of a royal cuisine is what you are looking for, this is the place to find it.

Dum Pukth. ITC Maratha. Sahar, Mumbai.


Shireen said...

Sounds like you had a great time Rhea! I love Awadhi food but like you said, its way too rich and at some point it makes me give up. Loved your description of all the dishes, but the biryani was the best as I am obsessed with biryanis too :) Would love to taste the Shorba & the Kakori Kebabs there :) Thanks for the review!

Ashish Gorde said...

Having read your review, I do feel like making a trip to Bombay very soon... just for this food!!! :)