Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Royal Afghan @ ITC Windsor, Bangalore

“What is common between me and prominent personalities like US President Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, UK Ex-President Tony Blair, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Bryan Adams?

Well it’s gotta be food…”

If you’ve been following me on FaceBook or Twitter, you might have noticed the above communications. Now, for what’s common is that, last week at ‘The Royal Afghan; ITC Windsor Bangalore - I had the privilege of dining at the table of renowned Executive Chef JP Singh of the legendary restaurant Bhukara; ITC Maurya New Delhi.

Without spending too much time here, I’ll move on and share what awaited us for the evening.

What’s interesting and also an achievement by itself is that the menu at The Royal Afghan has not changed for the last 2 decades or so. Well, to me it’s a testament of the legendary listing on their menu. 

Drifting away from it, we had a specially crafted menu for the evening. The menu listing was delicious and included select dishes from it’s legendary menu. There was a separate menu for the vegetarians and us non-vegetarians. The non-vegetarian menu included Tandoori Jhinga (prawns), Malai Tikka Kebab and Barrah Kebab for starters. In mains, it was Murgh Makhani, the famous Sikandri Raan, signature Daal Bukhara with assorted Indian breads. Desserts had Phirni and Gulab Jamoon. 

Trust me, if paper was edible, I’d have eaten it too. 

What we ate:
It all started with a bang with the arrival of Tandoori Jhinga. Perfectly cooked in a tandoor with a marinade of Indian spices mixed in yogurt. The prawns were easily the most tender and succulent I have ever eaten. Most of us on the table couldn’t resist but ask for more of it though we knew the evening had just begun and there was deliciousness awaiting to arrive all through the evening.

So yes, the expectations were set and were set really high. Soon to follow was ‘Murgh Malai Kabab’. Made with loads of cream cheese and a mild flavour of coriander, the richness was evident. Chicken was moist and tender.

Barrah Kabab was chunky leg pieces of Lamb marinated in a mixture of yogurt, various spices, malt vinegar and cooked in red hot embers.  I was busy photographing this on my plate and I heard all my blogger friends exclaim praises of this preparation. It seemed as if it all came out in a chorus. Was it good? Trust me, it was outstanding, tender, addictive and had well balanced flavors. In fact, for a couple of us it was the show stopper for the evening. I love Lamb and if it's so good, I can make a meal of it; meal after meal. You now know how good it. Please read the following recommendation from me atleast twice - "No visit to Royal Afghan is complete if you have not eaten the barrah kabab."

We had executive chef JP Singh give us company on our table all through our courses speaking on various topics like catering to the world renowned personalities, the tradition behind cutlery not being served at The Royal Afghan, Bukhara and the likes at ITC Hotels, kitchen management, the scrutiny process and the criteria of selection of meat, his years with ITC Hotels and more.

Our mains came after a bit giving us a good break and gear up for this course. Most of the food followed in quick succession which included the famed Dal Bhukara, Murgh Makhani and Sikandri Raan. The preparation of 'Daal Bhukara' was exquisite and rich in taste and texture. The much anticipated dish of the evening 'Sikandri Raan' was on my plate too - nicely shredded boneless pieces of lamb meat (leg of lamb). While it was nice, it did not live up to the anticipation as I found it a bit too dry and very mildly flavored unlike the Barrah Kabab.The Murgh Makhani is a classic and just cannot go wrong.  All of this was eaten in the company of 'Pudina Paratha' - nice and flaky classic laccha paratha topped with a melange of 6 ingredients. I think Chef JP Singh let out 4 of them but said the other 2 were secret ingredients and could not be let out. 

We were savouring the food and suddenly we notice a gentleman from the staff standing with a naan which is easily the biggest I have ever seen. It’s called the ‘Naan Bhukara’ and is usually called on a table with a reasonably higher family size by count. It was cooked to a wonderful fluffiness on the edges and perfect crispiness on the center (just the way my dad likes his bread to be). Back to the size, it was huge. I'd prefer you take a look at the picture below instead of me even attempting to write more about it.

For desserts we had Phirni and Gulab Jamun. Given a choice to eat one of the two, my choice anywhere at anytime will be Phirni, thats how much I love phirni over Gulab Jamun in general. So did I like the Phirni? Yes, I loved it. served in a clay saucer, the phorni was very well flavoured with cardamom, and the consistency was rich; exactly the way it’s got to be.

The words gulab jamun rings a bell in my mind of a specific sweet stall on commercial street. That’s the limitation to my love for gulab jamun. Why? Not because they are the best but because it seems to be a childhood problem - I ate it there, loved it and created a mental block. Anyways, the gulab jamun here was nice too. It had a filling of pistachios and cardamom in the center with the spoon easily sliding through the gulab jamun.

In between, all this I sipped on white wine by Sula and also tried a couple of vegetarian starters which included paneer tikka and tandoori aloo. I enjoyed both these preparations but couldn’t have tried more as there was lots of non vegetarian food too and justice had to be done. ;)

You walk into ITC Windsor and you are first by the aroma and in not time you begin to feel the magnificence of the hotel which has a chandelier suspended from the roof right in the center of the lobby. Walking through the corridors of the hotel is no less than walking through a beautiful palace. The restaurant as a matter of fact is equally ambient if not more with a spreading Peepal tree over it and a lovely swimming pool right by it. On the table, do not be surprised to not find cutlery as the team here insists the food is best enjoyed when touched and eaten by hand.

The food here is delicious and a meal experience at The Royal Afghan is something one is sure to remember for a really long time. At ITC Hotels, this particular style of cooking requires a very high level of expertise on the part of the chefs. For instance, it may take chefs years of training to master the art of even making the breads perfectly. No wonder the food served here has gotten me hooked to the cuisine of the North-West Frontier. When at ITC windsor, quality is a word that is best experienced and never mentioned or uttered. 

An a la carte meal for two at The Royal Afghan will cost anywhere around Rs. 3500 + taxes and charges. The restaurant is open for dinners all days of the week between 7pm to 11:30pm and for lunch between 12 noon to 3pm only on Saturdays and Sundays.

Quick Tips:
Go here for a wholesome dining experience, the best of North-West Frontier food.

To make reservations please call 080 - 4140 1205

Address: The Royal Afghan, ITC Windsor, 25 Golf Course Road, Bangalore 560052
Phone Number: +91 80 4140 1205