Remember Dum Pukht at the SeaRock Hotel, meat so tender that a new-born child could consume, and biryanis of long, thin-grained, aromatic rice. Its unexplained closure set---the gourmet scene in Bombay by ten years...at least. However, that is now remedied. Ishtaq Qureishi, who gave us Dum Pukht, is back in town at the all new, fully renovated Copper Chimney Charcoal Grill at Bandra. The restaurant is situated at the Linking Road-S.V. Road Junction, on the road leading from it towards the Bandra railway station, just behind the Tata Blocks.
The fact is not generally known. But those who know, know. I do. And now you do, through this column. The Bandra Copper Chimney is no longer the prototype of the original Worli Chimney, with tandoor grilled meats and a variety of kebabs. The stress here is on the sigri, a barbecue pit, and the cuisine is now Dum Pukht and North West Frontier Province. The restaurant itself has been redone, and the kitchen enlarged to occupy a lot of the old sitting space. There are steamers and braziers and the latest equipment. Proprietor Sunil Kapoor explains: "The chefs, who have worked in five-star culture, are very particular."
The one chef who matters most is Ishtaq Qureishi, son of the legendary Imtiaz Qureishi, a young man with a certain Lucknowi sensitivity towards food. In the kitchen, he combines, tradition, ingenuity and modern techniques. And he is the first Indian chef I have come across who is totally articulate. He does not require Jiggs Kalra to speak on his behalf.
I shall deal with only a handful of items that I have had there, during one single visit on an afternoon last week. For the rest, you will have to try out yourself. But take heed to what I am mentioning.
First, the galawati kebab, an exact replica of the ones available in Lucknow's Minabad and the Chowk area. The kebabs are round, flat, and quite plump. They are so softly put together that the waiter cannot spoon them and serve in your plate, they would break in the process, he has to gently push them off the serving plate into your plate. This is the finest lamb mince you can get anywhere. You put them in your mouth and they disappear, no need to bite. Keep in the mouth for a while, like good brandy, explore the taste of good meat pepped up with cardamoms, cloves, herbs. With the kebab, they serve you khasta roti, an ajwain flavoured wheat bread baked in the tandoor. It is like a biscuit, crisp, but also soft. Put the galawati in the mouth and follow it with the khasta. I asked the chef the secret behind the mince being so galaoed. It was simple: the quality of the meat, and the cleaning of the meat. Also the part of the meat used, he used the upper leg of the kid, deboned and cleaned. And, I understand, no softening agents are used, it is the marination of the meat that produces the tenderness. Legend has it that the kebabs were made for toothless nawabs in their dotage when they could bite into no other kebabs, they could still bite into the galawati kebabs. Yes, the price, a plate of kebabs is Rs.175, the khasta is Rs.30.
Incidentally,SeaRock did not have galawti kebab, it has kakori. Which is another royal kebab, let's not look down on it. Next, two chicken dishes done on dum. Dum ka dahi murg (Rs.180) and dum ka tandoori murg (Rs.200). I prefer the former, the breast of the chicken, marinated in yoghurt, not bhunaoed, not sauted, sealed with puff pastry and put on slow fire. At the table, the pastry is cut through the centre, folded on its side, and the chicken emerges, steaming in its own white juices. The chicken is stuffed with mint, onions, cheese, all in minuscule quantities, just enough for taste. The mint, along with the yoghurt and saffron, give a unique taste. The texture of the dish is almost velvety. The second chicken is first grilled in the tandoor, then the process repeated to finish it on dum. The pot also holds assorted vegetables delicately carinated. And please note, it is not tandoori chicken. This you may eat with knife and fork, tandoori chicken, you eat with your hands, both the hands.
I will give two unusual dishes for the vegetarians. A paneer kurkuri (Rs.145), which is like a Chinese spring roll, the cottage cheese wrapped in thin wheat dough and deep fried to a crispy texture. And dum ki tandoori salad, which is assorted vegetables and fruits, marinated, grilled in tandoor, and finished on dum (Rs.135).
Back to the meat eaters and the piece de resistance of the Copper Chimney Charcoal Grill. Kareli ki nahari, Rs.180. There are two types of naharis, what you get at my friend H.M. Rafiq's at Bhendi Bazar isthe paya nahari, which is payas or trotters, generally eaten for breakfast, and especially in the winter. It is excellent, but the meat is more gelatined and it is heavy. The other nahari is the one Chef Ishtaq Qureshi prepared at the Bandra Copper Chimney. He takes the part above the trotters, what are known as the lamb knuckles, or the shoulder knuckle (the front part of the shoulder). The meat here has more juice than any other part of the lamb, and having started working in the butchery of the restaurant kitchen, the chef knows about this. It is sealed and pressure cooked with the nalli, so there is a generous amount of marrow in the brown gravy. The taste is meaty, but there is also a touch of saffron and rose water. You may eat it with kulcha or roomali roti, but best of all you eat it with taftan, which is millflour, fomented yeast, enriched with milk, yoghurt, rosewater. It is a single layer taftan and its great advantage is that it sops up the gravy. If you are familiar with Yorkshire pudding, which is similar bread and which sops up the beef gravy, you will know what I mean. The nahari costs Rs.180, taftan is Rs.40.
Finally, the dum gosht biryani (Rs.160). The best of basmati, the best of lamb (a whole kid lamb, butchered under the chef's expert guidance). You may eat it with a mirch baingan ka salan, which is both Hyderabadi and Lucknowi, or, better still, with the bukhari raita, a very thin raita, almost of the consistency of chaas, tempered with garlic, jeera and salt. Pour it on the biryani and eat it. And now that you know dum pukht is on again, go tonight. And remember to compliment the chef.