So finally after a month, someone convinces me to get back to my writing space. And that is none other than, Nikhila Palat, who has now changed gears and has moved into an entrepreneurial zone. Good luck to her on that. And a very warm thanks for inviting me to Intercontinental, Marine Drive.
I have been travelling across India promoting my recently launched book on food and wine called – ‘Celebrate Life, Food and Wine’ and I am happy to be getting some great response to it. Well, haven’t stopped at this. The promotions are ongoing and you would soon see me into your venues, too.
Coming to the main purpose of writing today, wife and I visited Kebab Korner at Intercontinental, Marine drive, Mumbai with absolute zero expectations. Neither had anyone recommended the restaurant to us, nor have we ever landed in here, despite having worked in the same vicinity for Well, they have revamped its food and drinks menu and the restaurant itself is a sweet and tasteful amalgam of the traditional and the modern. It flaunts a decor that’s a more contemporary take on traditional design yet one that retains its quintessential Indian essence. A warm-toned aged wall encompasses the restaurant and the interiors designed by combining five elements — stone, wood, metal, water and fibre, all aesthetically appealing and not in-the-face.
We chose to sit by the ‘Jharokha’ and indulge in the views of the impressive cityscape washed by the mighty Arabian Sea with the newly changed streetlight colour on the outside 😉 (Hope someone gets the streetlights back, to yellow) Well, you can also choose the private booths designed artistically in deep royal blue hues. At the heart of the restaurant the two centre tables in old world wood finish with patina green framework that stand testimony of the classic heritage of the restaurant.
The list of many firsts continues. I finally met my senior from college-Chef Kayzad Sadri for the first time (who is now heading the operations), despite having worked in the same organization, many years. To those who have never met him before, he is a very fun-loving, chilled out chef who knows his spices better than any other chef in his position.
Being young and open to suggestions helps him form a bond with his team and guests alike. In the 2 hours that we were there, he constantly met guests around the restaurant, which a lot of ‘Executive’ chefs avoid and let their team do the talking. But here is where he stands apart.
Chef Sadri says, “Kebab Korner is best known for its North Indian food with recipes handed down through generations. The restaurant is now concentrating on offering authentic flavours made from traditional cooking styles but served in a contemporary avatar. The re-invented menu, specially crafted by Indian Master Chef Irshad Qureshi, will take you on a culinary journey, traversing Lucknow, Old Delhi, Kashmir, Hyderabad, Punjab, Rajasthan, Kolkata, Goa and Agra. And to that, I have added some of my experiences from the cities that I have travelled, too, while not disturbing the concept and hopefully adding value to it.”
He smiles and promises a food journey inspired from forgotten recipes from the spice route of the country. We let him serve his choice from the exhaustive menu that is much more than just kebabs, as the restaurant name suggests.
We begin with a bowl of conically rolled pepper popaddums, with green coriander chutney, onions and sweet masala dahi which was a winner- to begin with. Followed by an amuse bouche being dal wada. The wada was crisp on the outside and perfect to bite into with some imli chutney and microgreens. The chopped green chilly added an element of spiciness, much deserved.
Moving on to Tandoor- we were served Bombrie and chilli baby kulcha. These were like any other cheese kulcha, splashed with some ghee and chilli powder. Bombrie could be avoided unless the name added weight and value in the menu.
Kakori kebabs were in chicken and lamb form both. Loved the flavours and softness of both versions. But personally recommend the chicken kebab, as many chef’s go wrong with this the moistness and serve it dry. I also loved the pomfret tandoori, for its plump size, juiciness and spicy margination, with specks of ajwain. Next were Haleem ke kebabs. Tasted very much like our very ol’ shikampuri kebabs centered with dahi and onions. Good but the word Haleem, did not ring a bell. Another starter, that counts a special mention is Makkai tacos with tulsi chicken and achari paneer bhurji. Both come out tops and do not forget to bite into the lauki marmalade along with it.
Next chef serves us an array of dishes from the mains section- Dhania murgh- flavourful gravy with soft chicken pieces on the bone and very velvety textured, perfectly paired with churchur laccha parathas. ‘Babycorn, chilgoza with corn kernels and spinach’ the combination is straight out of an Indian restaurant menu in Greece. The most perfect indian spiced sambousek filling, albeit in sabzi form, is perfect with phulkas. Jhinga dum kairi is a tangy, prawn gravy embellished with dices of green capsicum that lend a bite and prominent notes of amchoor. That’s the ‘kairi’ in the name. Thoughtful, I must say. But a bite into some raw mango would do wonders, too.
Now coming to the real hero- Signature Dal Makhani. It is a hero for various reasons. This is by far the most abused ‘signature dal’ in most restaurants. But in this case, the lentils burst into your mouth with all the hidden creaminess. It is perfectly laced with ‘makhan’ and chilly. But the real reason why I like it is because; it is recreated with no garlic in the recipe at all. Now, this is a bold step yet gives enough and more ‘tashan’ to the bukhara’s and kandahaar’s of the world. Khameeri roti, I have never been a fan of hence I avoid, but here it is nice and plump for those who like. Ditto Jaributi naan which is topped with a bouquet of herbs – mint, corriander, thyme, rosemary and the likes. I personally feel herbs would dominate other flavours, and is crisp and flavourful, by itself.
We are about to call it an evening and that’s when chef announces a fresh batch of mutton biryani. I ask for a small bowl, with no meat. And, I am thankful to have been served just that. Rice was fragrant and loaded with aromas of mint, fried onion, spices and ghee. That one bowl reignited all taste buds.
Overall, we had a splendid evening all by ourselves, with no unnecessary intervention by any team member. Well, that’s all that we want most of the times- Good food, good company and just the right dose of service. Kebab Korner serves that perfectly.
On your way out, do not forget to catch up on the candy store. This is a section next to the open kitchen, that serves mouth-fresheners, but with a difference.
Bagful (pun intended) of these variants are stocked in rug sacks and become quite a conversation starter on your way out. Choose your favourite munchy from ‘Ravalgaon’ candies, sweetened tamarind golis, dhania daal, and the likes and feel like a kid all over again.
P.S: Don’t forget to try their range of beverages from the menu which has some single malts, wines Indian inspired cocktails and mocktails. Haven’t tried any on this visit, but this is just my first of the many to come 😉
And, the driving factor is Good Indian Food!