Friday, 13 June 2014

DINING OUT: The New Angeethi is Dum Pukht Reborn Minus Pricing Pains


WHAT: Angeethi, an Awadh-Hyderabad restaurant
WHERE: The Village Restaurant Complex, Next to Siri Fort Auditorium,
Khel Gaon Marg
WHEN: Open for dinner only (from 7 p.m. onwards)
DIAL: (011) 26493945; +91-9999955889

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

SANDWICHED between the stranded skeletal remains of Siri Fort, the second of the seven cities of Delhi reputedly built by Alauddin Khilji on a foundation of 8,000 heads of slain Mongol soldiers, and the Asiad Village, Raj Rewal's ode to matchbox housing, bustles a restaurant complex that is famous for Chopsticks, the Chinese restaurant that's never gone out of fashion.
Angeethi, adjoining Siri Fort Auditorium, has
seen a rebirth with a new coat of paint and a new
menu with authentic Hyderabadi and Awadhi
specialities, such as Kakori Kebabs (inset).
Image: Courtesy of K. Asif, Mail Today
Since 1982, the management of the vintage Connaught Place restaurant, Kwality, which is preparing to celebrate its diamond jubilee in the coming year, has been operating this complex with yearly licences from the DDA. Chopsticks has been the evergreen star of the complex, so people haven't really cared much for Tonic, the lounge bar that comes alive whenever there's something happening at the adjacent Siri Fort Auditorium, and Colours 'N' Spice, the pan-Indian restaurant favoured by residents of the neighbourhood colonies.
Angeethi, the fourth name that'll strike your eye when you enter the complex, started out as an ambitious North Indian barbecue restaurant drawing on Kwality's formidable reputation as a purveyor of fine Indian cuisine, but it seemed to have lost the plot down the years. Not anymore, and here's why Angeethi should be next on your must-visit list.
I have always maintained that Dumpukht at the ITC Maurya is Delhi-NCR's finest restaurant in the Indian fine-dining category (the best, without doubt, is Indian Accent and its brand of 'Inventive Indian' cuisine), but like all good things in life, the place is way too (unfairly, I insist) expensive. Lesser mortals with evolved taste buds, and I am happy to report that their number has grown substantially over the years, have been praying for a restaurant that serves the cuisine of the nawabs at commoner prices.
Fortunately for us, the Angeethi menu has been turned around to answer this fervent prayer. The chef who has made this possible is none other than Ghulam Sultan Mohideen, formerly of the ITC Maurya, who must be knowing every square inch of Dum Pukht. He came out unscathed in the first test, making the perfect melt-in-the-mouth Kakori Kebabs with the best Sheermal I have had outside Dum Pukht. The combination would have set me back by Rs 1,600 (minus taxes!) at Dum Pukht, but at Angeethi, you'd pay Rs 515! And I couldn't perceive any difference of taste or experience. This is clearly not food with Kwality's seductive rusticity, but dining with the finesse you'd associate with sepia-tinted Lucknow and Hyderabad.
The Anari Lamb Chops, transformed with pomegranate juice, left a lasting impression on my taste buds, and the Jheenga Dum Nisha, another Dum Pukht classic, measured up to the high standards of the original, but at nearly a fourth of the price (Rs 650 compared with Rs 2,350). Life's pleasures don't always have to be mindlessly expensive! After getting these little beauties to tickle the palate, you'll find yourself in the mood for more.
Start with the Hyderabadi Mutton Dalcha (if you love the characteristic raw mango flavour of this preparation), otherwise stay with the more predictable Kwality Dal, which has been around much before Dal Bukhara was born. Next, you could choose between the Koh-e-Awadh (my favourite recipe with mutton shanks) and the Chicken Korma (I just loved the silky smoothness of the shahi gravy, which complemented the softness of the corn-fed chicken).
And then, departing slightly from the grand old tradition of both Awadh and Hyderabad, ask for a Murgh Yakhni Biryani, instead of Gosht Dum Biryani. I consider chicken and biryani to be irreconcilable foes, but in the hands of Chef Sultan and his team, each piece of chicken bursts with aromatic masala and flavours. Teamed with Mirch Ka Salan, it is the treat with which you'd like to leave Angeethi. But wait, you can't miss the Shahi Tukda, which doesn't come to you table as a soggy toast, but as a bouquet of textures, tastes and aromas. To my horror, I saw it missing on the menu. I hope it was a misprint.

This review first appeared in Mail Today on June 13, 2014.
Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers