Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Special Cuisine | Hyderabadi evening at The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi

What can be a better way to be introduced to a chef than by a taste of his skill? As The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi welcomes their new Executive Chef, Arun Sundararaj, we are treated to a beautiful evening that pleases all the senses.

The beautiful setting and silver service for our Hyderabadi meal; the Nizami Brothers. 
In his 23 years with the Taj Group of Hotels, Chef Arun has been known to serve art on a plate at hotels including the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, and the Taj Exotica, Goa. Since his last assignment was as the executive chef at Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad, Chef chooses to serve us a meal fit for the nizams. The sit down dinner is set in the Aftab Mahtab fragrant with fresh flowers, dimmed to an ambient lighting, enhanced by beautiful votives and energised with Sufi Qawwali by the Nizami Brothers from Darya Ganj.

 Top: Delicious biryani, accompanying salan and dal
Centre: Melt-in-your-mouth kebabs
Bottom: Luscious haleem and the dessert platter.   
I love the menu that includes not only the famed delicacies of Hyderabadi cuisine, but also depicts the Hyderabadi tehzeeb. 

The Agaz or the beginning is made with Dahi Ke Kebab. Made with hung yoghurt, cardamom and green chillies, they are packed with flavour and a nutty centre. Then comes the Mezban, "a tasting plate of closely guarded secrets of nizam's culinary repertoire". This includes Zimmikand Shikampuri Kebab and Bharwan Paneer Tikka, but since I opt for the non-vegetarian selection, I am served Pathar Ke Gosht and Shikampuri Kebab. I usually don't use such language on my site, but Oh My God! I wouldn't be lying if I tell you that these are the best kebabs I have ever had. I love the smokiness in the pathar ke gosht that have been cooked over a hot granite stone after being marinaded for over 48 hours. And the shikampuri kebab literally melt in my mouth; the goodness of ground lamb with a mild yoghurt filling leaving a lingering taste on my palate. I know there are better things coming, else I would request for a second helping!

Ithmenan Se showcases slow cooking at its best. Haleem, a traditional Ramazan favourite is succulent mutton and wheat cooked for a long period of time until the mutton loses its texture entirely and becomes a hearty stew. Now, I have had haleem on different occasions at various places and despite its popularity I have never enjoyed it. Its viscosity and oiliness often made it unpalatable for me. But not tonight. Chef Arun's haleem is simply fantastic. It is rich, but I can't feel the grease on my tongue; and the flavour is just beautiful.

Mashgool Dastarkhwan is a selection of royal Hyderabadi delicacies like Dum Ka Nalli Gosht, Pista Murg ka Salan, Nizami Handi, Khatti Dal and Dakhni Saag. While I would have preferred the chicken in the murg ka salan to be more tender (only because I have been spoilt by the preceding dishes) everything tastes great. But the Hyderabadi Kachhe Gosht ki Biryani is something else. The meat is again meltingly good, the rice is fragrant and delicious and I don't need any of the accompaniments, whether fancy or the simple dahi; I can just keep having this biryani.

Chef Arun Sundararaj
The grand finale to this evening, along with a wonderful rendition of my request - Damadam Mast Qalander, is Zauq E Shahi, or the chef's tasting platter of Hyderabadi desserts. This comes with an aromatic and lightly sweet Gil E Firdaus or lauki ki kheer, Double Ka Meetha that is an Indianised bread pudding and Khubani Ka Meetha. This last being a wonderful version of the apricot. Apparently it is very famous in Hyderabad but this is the first time I've had it, and it is yum!

And just in case you're envying me for indulging in this fab meal, fret not 'cause you can have it too. Chef Arun's creations will be featured in a special Saturday Brunch at the Machan all through the month of June.

The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi
1, Mansingh Road, New Delhi-1100011.
Tel: 011 6656 6162
Price: Rs 2,500 per person for the Saturday Brunch.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Caterers | Select ED: For Bespoke Dining Experiences

What are the five things that a host has in mind while planning a party?
·      That the food is fabulous,
·      It is served aesthetically,
·      In a nice ambience,
·      By well trained staff,
·      And finally, creating a memorable experience for their guest.

And if all this can be attained with the least amount of hassle for the host, what can be better! This is how Select Events and Dining comes into the picture.

One of the first things Ishaan Sarkar, CEO, Select ED, said to me was: “We’re not another run of the mill catering company. We believe in creating memorable dining experiences for our clients.” And this is exactly what they did for us. 

Understanding that it is difficult to showcase the variety of their food and service based on one trial, Select ED invited us for a Culinary Trail spanning three meals. We thus trotted off for a weekend of gastronomic delight where we indulged in an extensive high tea, a sit down dinner and a leisurely brunch the next noon, each highlighting not only different dishes but also creating a different ambience, setting and layout.
The varied settings and styles of service offered by SelectED.
The Venue
Before I go on about the Culinary Trail, I'd like to tell you a bit about the venue. Situated an hour’s drive from Delhi, Heritage Village Resort & Spa, Manesar is nestled in 12 acres of lush greenery. The property has been beautifully renovated, the rooms are well equipped and tastefully done; the lawns are immaculately manicured; there’s a lovely spa boasting an ambient relaxing lounge, individual massage rooms as well as one for couples, a special hamam room for various kinds of scrubs and of course a well equipped fitness centre. With 16 conference facilities and 154 rooms the property is ideal for corporate events. An extensive outdoor play area for kids, tennis courts, horse riding, swimming pool, and all-inclusive holiday package also makes it ideal for families. As the GM, Gopal Vaideswaran shows us around the property he informs us that although the resort enjoys at least 70% occupancy through the year there is a dedicated team to ensure that it is maintained in top condition.

Indoor Buffet-style High Tea
Our gastronomic journey starts with an extensive high tea. We are treated to a range of sweet and savoury fare. Apart from finger food such as mini pizzas, calzones and cookies, one finds a mélange of street food from Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkatta. Thus there’s lachcha tokri, gol gappas stuffed with tabbouleh, kala khatta chuskis and freshly made jhal mooriSelectED also prides itself in offering fusion fare. So in all their menus you’ll find Indian elements served with western touches or cooking styles.While we enjoy unusual flavours and combinations, every thing is served aesthetically, either individually plated or freshly assembled at our table.
The Indian touches at the High Tea. 
I particularly like the sweet offerings in the high tea. There are tea infused cupcakes, cookies of various sort, pies and profiteroles. The Californian Avocado Pie topped with refreshing watermelon balls and Caramelised Lemon Ginger Tart with Mini Meringues are my favourite.

Sweet offerings at the High Tea. 

Sit-Down Dinner with Silver Service
The evening presents an entirely different mood and ambience. With personalized menus and immaculate service, we are given exotic choices such as Stuffed Baby Aubergines and String Hoppers with tamarind salsa; Tandoori Atlantic Salmon with basil pesto, aloo chokha and papaya relish; Grilled Lobster with String Hoppers; and, Murgh Nehari with Pulled Chicken Khichadi among others. The SelectED Dessert Platter is a winner with delicious ghevar, gulab jamun tart and a little chocolate cup with tangy raspberry to break the sweetness.

The fancy sit down dinner.
Outdoor Buffet-style Brunch
I love the setting of our brunch. Big handis dangling in tripod stands, lovely rustic platforms and live food counters make it all visually very appealing and appetising. The choice ranges from seasonal fruits, cold cuts and salads to a Japanese selection; ghar ka khaana like masoor dal and methi aloo to fancy biryanis and bheja fry; and, home made pasta to bao bun wraps. The slightly sweet baos come with delicious fillings like tofu ragout, lamb rendang and lemon fried shrimps. I have more than one, and settle on the charsui pork as my favourite.

The beautiful outdoor brunch setting.

SelectED is equipped to handle parties from a minimum of 15 people to more than 3,000. The senior management, including the CEO and Chef Culinaire Gaurav Mathur, ensures that they are present at each event hence they take only one event per day. And what I appreciated the most were the customized touches that’ll make any guest feel very special.

The welcome bouquet made of cupcakes and a customised cookie; place cards and personalised menu at the sit-down dinner. 

Select ED, Select Office Tower, 7th Floor, Select Citywalk, Saket, New Delhi-110017.
Tel: +91 95607 86491

Prices: Depend on the choice of menu, setting and service.