A Royal Treatment
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The weather has taken a turn towards winter and if that's making you crave, like us, for some comfort food, then here is a choice. Having hosted a Hyderabadi food festival — Dawat-e-Nizam — a few months ago, which was indeed a fiery feast, Saffron, the signature Indian restaurant at JW Marriott Chandigarh, has brought in Nawabi gastronomic delights from Awadh. Unlike Hyderabadi fare, the meal from Awadh (Lucknow really) is known for its richness and use of exotic spices, dry fruits and nuts. The two are similar in many ways — slow cooking method and use of spices — but different in terms of recipes. The Nawabs of Awadh did everything in style and splendour and Saffron brings a slice of that era with a robust menu put together by a visiting speciality chef M Rehman.
We start with a selection of starters that's a good mix of vegetarian as well as meatier options. The Murg Tikka Mirza Hasnu was delicate and succulent and the garlic flavouring was hard to miss. An Awadhi meal would be simply incomplete without digging into Kakori kebab and the famed Galawati kebab that is best relished with a tale of the "toothless Nawab" it was originally made for. The Galawati beat all expectations and superbly melted away the minute it touched our palate. The same can be said for Dhungara Paneer Tikka that was soft, but lacked any real spice punch. The winner for vegetarians here is Arvi Anjeer Kebab. These fig kebabs look nothing spectacular but show their speciality and the chef's skilful use of "secret" spices the moment you bite into them.
While the menu offers a smorgasbord of options from Awadh, the true flavours sit on the table — in three assorted chutneys. Beetroot chutney and the lahsun-dahi will leave you asking for more. They are authentic, simple relishes with beautifully put together flavours. Don't be surprised if the breads — a good mix of Sheermal, gilafi and kulcha — are served with the starters. That's the way they do it in Awadh. The main course has quintessential options like pulao and biryani, gosht and chicken dishes. Our pick — the Sheesh pulao carefully cooked on dum teamed with Khumb Matter Sandali (green peas in sandalwood gravy). The latter is no regular "mushroom-mutter" and a must try. The Dum ka Gosht which is served with slightly runny gravy (unlike Hyderabadi style of thicker curries) was masala-rich (read flavoursome) but the gosht was a tad tough. The pulao definitely made up for that. The desserts offer surprises as well, including Mirchi Ka Halwa made from capsicum. The festival is on till November 31 for dinner. Apart from an a la carte menu, there is a wide variety of set menus available with prices ranging between Rs 950 to Rs 2,000 per person.