The Devi Lal and the Arun Nehrus will always be in our hair and our lives, and if not them then some others like them. So today, I will forget them and talk about last night's dinner- the finest North Indian food I have had in my life, meaning food without oil, fat, grease, the smell and taste of rosewater.
It was the grand opening of the Dum Pukht at the Sea Rock Sheration at Bandra. After two whisky-sodas abd handful of almonds and pistachios, we descended to the restarnat, a dinning-area designed by cultured hands, bright, spaced-out tables, a maitre d'hotel with the bearings and courtesies of the nawab of Oudh, and little Bandra girls with Bandra names, looking like the ladies in Pakeeza. And I am saying that as a compliment.
The base plates on the tables were solid silver, with a velvet square on top, and on these the serving plates were places and removed. The first dish contained a kakori kabab, designed like a still-life painting, the long kabab blending with the pattern on the plate, the onion tings carefully places in one corner. The mutton of the kabab was finely minced and blended with green papaya. And accompanying it was a sheermal, a soft bread with more saffrom per loaf that I have seen in an entire langar of pulao.
The soup was tomato, one kilo of tomato per serving of half a bowl. Nothing else, no stock, no water.
Jiggs Karla, who has made an industry out of his food columns, stood at one end of the room with a red wine in one hand and a microphone in another, and gave out friendly instructions: "Don't finish eash dish, just tast it. There is a lot of come." Being his senior food columnist, I have never listened to him, so I finished soup, dipping the ajwain-laded bread in it as I went along.
Hot and cold towels were being alternated between dishes. This was the turn of the cold cologoned towel and it was followed with a long marrow boen of kid mutton, the meat on it tender because of having been marinated for several hours in a jamun vinegar. And there was a puffed pastry to eat with it, soak it in the peppery barbecue saurce.
On the table, there were four pickles to choose from: apart from the mint and the murabba, there were garlic slivers in a garlic sauce, and tiny samoosas made entirely of ginger and dripping thw ginger juice.
Ustand Imtiaz Qureshi, looking like the master chef that he is in his manicured whiskers, moved around the guests, explaning to them the Murgh Wajid Ali Shah, and Kohe Avadh, his own receipe of rogan josh, knuckles dum-cooked in their own cardamomtinged juices and marrow.
There was also a Hyderabad biryani, accompanied with a strong garlic-flavoured ratia. The cleanest fat, no masala.
For dessert, there was a saffrom-powered rabadi on a syrup-soaked bread, garnished with dried fruits and nuts, covered with chandi ka varaq. And finally: pista aur badam ki asharfi. That was compliments of the house. Acutally, the whole meal was compliments of the house, therefore I am writing about it. After all, somebody has to write for his supper, especially a supper like this.