The occasion-reliving the era of The Royal Kitchens of Nawabs with live ghazals
words and photographs: Ambica Gulati
Born and brought up in Chandigarh, Executive Sous Chef Suri likes to spin a tale with cuisine. Paatra, the copper plate, shines on the table, as live ghazals make this restaurant a relaxing place to be in. The wide chairs make you sink in and the live kitchen gives an option of changing the flavours to suit your palate.
While I had specifically gone to eat the food from the kitchens of the nawabs, the regular a la carte menu is equally exciting. The reason is that all the recipes are of dishes which are lost in time! Among the few lucky ones who get to see what’s happening behind the scenes, the Chef showed me an iron tandoor in which is cooked ‘Meerut kee Roti’. This is a basket worth savouring, with some five rotis of different flavours tempting you to eat beyond your capacity. There was one small round thing, laden with ghee, elaichi and all the exotic spices you can think of. Another was stuffed with coconut and jaggery which I ate in the end. And then there was the softest ulte tawe ka parantha. Everything here is about good ingredients and great preparations. The best part is that the cooking style is in sync with authentic flavours. If a tandoor is needed, it will be procured to keep the authenticity alive. The restaurant even makes its own pickles.
Over a cool glass of Chandan ka sherbet, we chatted about the food, flavours and life. All the preparations are done inside the hotel. The Chandan sherbet cools down the bodily heat made of silver leaves, sandalwood and kesar, a bit of salt is added to give it a suitable flavour. Dipping my kababs and Dum ki Pasliyan into the fresh mint chutney I rolled the meats in my mouth. Each piece was marinated with a different flavour. Even the vegetarian kabab made with ‘arbi’ was to die for. And this I enjoyed with ‘kachche papeete ki chutney’. The Chef stayed put with papad giving me company. Another thing which I liked was the urad dal made with garlic, onions, salt, minus the turmeric! And the biryani came in a ceramic pot, cooked in it and covered with wet flour to retain the flavours.
The Chef has worked in exotic lands such as Iceland and travelled across Europe. He likes to walk around the streets of the cities he lives in, eat the street food and finds authentic dishes that he can add value to in the restaurants he handles. Some cities he has been to Hyderabad, Lucknow and a country he enjoyed working in was Singapore.
But at Paatra nothing is done in a hurry, he reinstates. Like all culinary artists, the Chef likes the fact that at Paatra people have enough time to sit and enjoy the food. Whisky is still the most popular drink with Indian cuisine. Dal Tadka is another popular item and of course starters with chicken are a favourite. The restaurant can even cater to Jains and vegetarians with their special needs.
And for all those who missed the festival, not to worry, for the Chef plans to incorporate some of the dishes in the revamped menu which will be out in August. And the restaurant has plans to offer more festivals round the year.
Venue: Paatra at Jaypee Vasant Continental, New Delhi
Timings: lunch: 12:30 pm till 3 pm Dinner: 7:30 pm till midnight
For reservations: +91-11-46072040