Tucked away in the recesses of Powai lies the Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel, part of the Marriott group. The hotel is home to several restaurants and among them is the Nawab Saheb, that promises some fine Indian dining. Situated at the lower lobby, the Nawab Saheb is the speciality restaurant that conjures up the cuisines of the Northern frontiers of India, where dining and food are considered a fine art. Showcasing a menu from the far reaches of Awadh, Kashmir, Mewar, Sindh and Delhi, the cuisine brings to the fore the unique cultural expression of each of these regions.
The restaurant does not have an a la Carte Menu but offers some well-compiled fixed course menus including a special seafood menu. The recipes here are well researched and created to please a wide range of palates and the food is a balanced mix of traditional and contemporary.
The restaurant is famous for the many delicacies they serve like the Galouti Kebab (a melt-in-the-mouth kebab which was specially crafted for the Nawabs of the Awadh province now called Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh), Lobster Kalimirch (tandoori cooked lobster flavoured with freshly ground pepper) and Lasooni Jhinga (Garlic sautéed prawns). Their specialty drink, the Teekha Peru, made of guava juice and vodka spiked with a green chilli goes well with the menu at large. The Aam Panna (raw mango drink with cumin) is another great drink that also makes for a nice digestive.
A royal feast
The latest introduction to the menu is royal Rajasthani cuisine by Chef Surjan Singh Jolly, the new Executive Chef of The Renaissance. The new menu consists of dishes which draw inspiration from the royal kitchens of the princely state of Mewar. Diningon a scrumptious Rajasthani meal of dishes served in silver bowls upon a huge silver platter, in regal style, one comes across some new exotic dishes and some familiar ones. Rare dishes like Jungli Kokada Hara Lehsun (chicken cooked with green garlic and pepper) and usual ones like Shikar Maas ka Soola (lamb marinated with shikar masala and smoked with cloves) and Paasley Angeera (lamb chops cooked with a marinade of coriander and mustard) came as a surprise because of their light simple textures and flavours – which stand out from the robust flavours synonymous with Rajasthani cuisine. The vegetarian wonder from the Maharana’s own kitchens, the Chhena Makai Palak ka Soola (roasted skewers of corn kernels, spinach and soft creamy curd cheese) is unparalleled in its subtlety of taste. The Ker Sangar Wadi (a pan-fried patty of wild desert beans and berries) was also very delicious and very typically Rajasthani.
A dish reminiscent of the old Khad style of cooking (cooking in sand) was the Khad Kokada (chicken ensconced in khakra leaves and cooked in the sand). Not only was the chicken perfectly cooked, it was also at its aromatic best. Other delicacies like Ghare ka Murgh Charkha (chicken roasted in a clay pot with spices) and Laal Maas Mathaniya (lamb cooked in the traditional brass “handi” with bright red chillies) serve as excellent examples of traditional culinary techniques and equipment used in the desert state. Vegetarian dishes made from locally harvested vegetables like Chhena Nagori Methi (a scramble of fresh cottage cheese, spices and the best fenugreek from Nagor) and Khada Desi Palak (fresh baby spinach stir-fried with cumin, garlic and red chillies) and Chhanchita Aloo (braised baby potatoes cooked with clove-fenugreek tempered cumin-coriander buttermilk) almost made me want to give up meat!
Again, familiar dishes like Khumbi Makai Soweta (a kedgeree of handpicked mushrooms pot braised with young corn kernels) and Panchkuta (a mix of desert berries, beans, seeds and fruits, cooked in pickling spices) make one wonder why Rajasthani cuisine is assumed to be meat dominant. Earthy rustic breads like the Thotri (griddle grilled whole wheat bread brushed with clarified butter), Sekma Baati (charcoal baked bread made of semolina) and Ghare ki Roti (clay griddle grilled maize bread) make the meal an unforgettable dining experience.
And when one gets to end this remarkable meal with desserts like Chhena Pakodi Kheer (milk dumplings cooked in sweetened milk flavoured with cardamom, rose & honey), Paniya Churio (crushed maize and jaggery mixed with hot clarified butter, believed to be a digestive) and Khajoor ka Meetha (a pudding of desert dates slow cooked in almonds and condensed milk), one can’t help but want to explore more of the cuisine.
His Highness, The Maharaja of Udaipur, whom I had the good fortune of meeting there, readily explained the nuances of Rajasthani cuisine. He stressed that the need of the day is to understand what one is eating. “If you follow the practise of eating only what is in season, your body will easily be able to absorb nutrition.”
When asked what he thinks of Indian food as a global phenomenon with special stress on Rajasthani cuisine making it to the global plate, he agreed that it was time for the world to recognise the fact that there is much more to Indian food than Chicken Tikka Masala.
This conversation with His Highness and the wonderful meal coupled with the regal and elegant décor, focused on privacy and intimacy, really made the evening extraordinary.
What: Rajasthani cuisine
Where: Nawab Saheb, Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel, Powai
How much: Rs 4,000 approximately