Choice of dinner venue was a toss-up between sister restaurants, Bukhara or Dum Pukht at the ITC Maurya yesterday evening.
Bukhara was oft-quoted to be the "best Indian restaurant" either in the region, or else the world" by guides such as the Restaurant magazine (UK) and Singapore-based Miele Guide. But getting a booking at the Bukhara can be a royal pain: no reservations but first-come-first served basis after 8pm. No such problems at Dum Pukht, which is flashier and much posher (they make you *pay* for that, mind you). Whilst Bukhara tries to recreate some rustic Rajasthani dining environment, making you sit on cushioned stools and eat with your hands from low tables, almost shoulder-to-shoulder with customers from your neighboring tables, Dum Pukht was all opulence: expensive silver cutlery, crystal ware and white-gloved service.
Our dinner at Dum Pukht consisted of:
- The legendary Kakkori kebab, so fine and pate-like, and which went perfectly with the delicate, sweet shermeel pancakes, and a very savoury curried prawn that was bursting with flavors.
- Next up were stuffed little jewel-like potatoes, filled with chopped nuts and dried fruits, and blanketed in a thick, spicy sauce; and curried paneer cheese.
- Dum Pukht's lamb briyani was stupendous, moist and perfumed with the subtly spiced lamb - it was easily the best briyani I'd ever had, it was like eating tiny petals of fragrant, delicious flowers.
- Dum Pukht's yellow lentil dhal fry was every bit as buttery-rich as the famous black lentil Dhal Makhani from Bukhara. Lesser-known, we didn't ask if the dhal fry here was boiled for 18 hours or overnight, the way Bukharadid its famous black dhal.
- This, I *must* mention: Dum Pukht's butter naan - absolutely, outrageously the *best* one can ever have - pillowy-soft, yielding, no superlative can describe their rendtion - one simply *must* come here to taste it to believe it.
Much has been said about the legendary Master Chef, Imtiaz Qureshi, who, perhaps, single-handedly built Dum Pukht's reputation to what it is today. His son-in-law, Gulam Qureshi, now runs the kitchens with an expert hand which reflected every bit the Qureshi family's skill of perfecting the art of North Indian cooking.
I was never a *big* fan of Indian desserts which I found to be overly sweet. Sorry to say, the ones I tried at Dum Pukht did nothing to change my opinion:
- Shahi Thukra: the North Indian take on bread pudding, except that you inject your bread with syrup from a thousand bushels of sugarcane. Incredibly, the version here which costs INR475++ (around USD9) actually tasted the same (even the textures) as the famous version I had at the Jama Masjid (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/892813) which costed a paltry INR25 (less than US 50 cents). But I guess you pay for white-gloved service by haughty waiters, as compared to standing in a crowded alleyway surrounded by people who stepped out from the pages of National Geographic.
- Gulab Ki Kheer: a super-rich, hyper-sweet milk dessert, served garnished with rose petals.
No, I'll pass on the desserts next time.
ITC Maurya Hotel
Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg
New Delhi 110021
Phone:+91 11 2611 2233