Internationalising the nawabi cuisine
This is characteristic of the Awadhi cuisine that the restaurant Dum Affairs offers.
The one-year-old eatery in South Extension-II sits above the popular Cafe Morrison. Though owned by the same people, the place is poles apart from the rock music-themed restaurant, with a dignified fine dining set-up. Related directly to the royalty of Lucknow, the restaurant is a promising spot for those in search of good food and yet do not want to treat themselves to a regular shahi paneer or butter chicken, specially expats or foreigners.
Since Lucknow is known for its kebabs, we begin our food journey with the kebabs offered in the menu. The list is short yet interesting and most importantly, includes a lot of experimentation by infusing international flavours with few familiar appetisers.
While these are cooked on a slow fire, the courteous staff served amuse-bouche. A mix of chopped onions, tomatoes and paneer with peanuts and a dash of lemon juice served in a bowl-shaped crisp poppadum, the dish is a perfect munching option. Though not really one bite sized (as per the definition of amuse-bouche) but surely an intelligent way to keep the guests occupied!
When hunger pangs reach their peak, kebabs are served. Options for vegetarians are equal in number to those for non-vegetarians, which is a rarity, usually. The beginning is promising with melt-in-the-mouth Kandhari Paneer. It has a layer of Japanese crouton on cottage cheese with a spread of an anardana flavoured paste in the centre and fresh pomegranate seeds on the top.
Another innovation is noticed in Dumb ke Khushk Kumbi which is mushroom in a tomato base with lots of spices and a distinct smoky flavour. Chef Dev Singh shares that “the mushrooms are blanched and not boiled to give the perfect taste to the dish.” But what makes them a must-try is the use of red gravy in its preparation.
The Galaouti kebabs (both veg and non-veg options) are a speciality. The vegetarian Galouti kebab or Subz ki Shammi is made of assorted vegetables and split Bengal gram lentil with a strong flavour of saffron and an almond paste. The non-vegetarian Galouti kebab is tender and melts in the mouth due to the well-minced lamb cooked with cardamom and saffron. Both, when tried with Zafrani Khasta Roti, leave an unforgettable experience.
Equally appreciable is the Jhinga Zaffrani and Chatpatte Aloo but Ghosht Chapli kebab and Mahi and Dill kebab are just about average. However, among these, the Basil Paneer Tikka is bland and fails to match up to the rest and Zad Gilafi Murg is somewhat under-cooked.
After the gooey appetisers, one gets to indulge in the three basic gravies of Awadhi cuisine’s main course - the yellow (cashew and yoghurt base), brown (almond and roasted chironji) and red (khoya, cashewnut and tomato in kashmiri red chilli) gravy. Metrolife tries prawn and paneer in yellow gravy. While Smoked Jhinga Qaliyan has succulent pieces of prawn simmered in a well-cooked gravy that is richer than the gravy of Paneer ka Methidar Qaliyan, even though both are yellow!
“The reason is the prawn stock used in the gravy,” informs chef Dev.The taste could not be revived by Josh-E-Nalli since the lamb pieces were not scrumptious but the gravy saved it. On the contrary, the Aloo Matar ke Kofte had delicious dumplings comprising beans, carrot and potato in a not-so-impressive gravy.
However, the star dish was the Three Cheese Bharwan Gucchi in a never before seen avatar of the vegetable usually used in Italian cuisine. The dish is cooked in brown gravy but the secret lies in its preparation that can be credited to the chef, specially when tried with Khasta Roti or flavourful Murg Dum Biryani.After the king’s meal, the Royal Tukda in dessert is a must try!