Dining like the Nawabs
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The recently-opened restaurant, No. 9 Park in Kalyani Nagar aims to popularise authentic Awadhi cuisine
Located in the tranquil Lane No 12 in Kalyani Nagar, No. 9 Park provides a perfect fine dining experience. While the Joggers Park located next to it lends to the ambience of the restaurant, the interiors done in ebony wood, with walls in a two-tone brown and yellow, and the low lightening, emulate the aristocratic sheen associated with the Nawabs of Lucknow and Awadh. "No.9 signifies an auspicious beginning and the Park refers to the Joggers Park located on the opposite side of the road," says director Rishi Kapoor, explaining how the name of the restaurant was ideated.
The absence of restaurants offering Awadhi cuisine in the city prompted Kapoor to establish his own. "I grew up in Bareilly, where the influence of Lucknowi and Awadhi cuisines is very high. When I came to Pune four years back and searched for places serving Awadhi food I found out that only a few dishes were available on some menus," recalls Kapoor. Soon, he was setting up his own place, and the chefs were called in from Lucknow. "Some people working here are directly related to the Qureshi family, who were originally the Khansamas for the Nawabs of Lucknow and Awadh. The same quality reflects in the dishes," says Kapoor, a former employee with a shipping firm.
Our own experience was pleasant. Dishes like Til Dahi ke Kebaab, Murgh Ajwaini Tikka and the traditional Galouti and Kakori kebab live up to their authentic names. The chicken biryani is worth a try. The meat cooked on dum along with the rice, without spices, is not heavy but light and aromatic. "Unlike Hyderabadi food, Awadhi is not heavy on the spices and garam masala. The dishes in Awadh tend to be very succulent and tender. For instance, even today kebabs like the Kakori kebabs and Galouti kebabs are made by traditionally beating minced meat with a wooden mallet to achieve fine consistency. These are little things that have to be done to ensure authenticity," says Kapoor, narrating an anecdote. "The Nawabs back then were spoilt by the luxurious lives they led. Owing to their addiction to tobacco and other vices, they were unable to chew their food, so the cooks were instructed to make the meats and the vegetables as tender as possible," he adds.