-By Rashmi Uday Singh
Want a snap (literally too) judgment of the food at the brand new Neel? Take a look at the photo. Do you see the award-winning actor Ram Kapoor on his knees, drooling at the Raan e Mukhtar? Though he is in a frenetic juggling of his Bollywood films and TV shoots, (Las Vegas, Moscow, Latvia) he still squeezes time for dinner at his favorite Neel. What a delight it is to dine with this sparkling, happy. actor couple. Hailing from a family of doctors, slender livewire Gautami's acting career touched heights and then she took a break (mothered two children) and now Ram and Gautami are all set to star together in Karan Johar's new film. A deep abiding love for food, travelling, movies, their son, daughter and dog are their passions. Their quips, quotes and anecdotes fuel our high octane fun evening. And yes! they are regulars at Neel, for its exquisite 'non-Punjabi, forgotten food of the Muslims.'
We salute Neel' the brand new sensational second begum whose marriage was solemnised at the Turf Club on July 30. The faltering, anglicised, somewhat arrogant first wife Tote was justifiably given a hasty unceremonious burial. And though never a Tote fan, I salute the colossal guts of taking a risk of that magnitude and then the guts to turn that stumbling block into a stepping stone.
Out of a similar situation of turning a crisis into an opportunity was born Dum Pukht, the most luxurious of cuisines. It owes it's existence to a famine. When the nawab (in order to keep the famine stricken workers fed ) ordered that rice, meat and spices simmer round the clock in their own steam, under a lid (in a pit with charcoal under it) was born the Dum Pukht cuisine. Neel's Dum biryani being a case in point: exquisite long grained rice, choicest mutton cuts, fragrant with spices, which does a sublime jugalbandi with mirchi ka salan and raita. Succulent tandoor roasted leg of baby lamb (Raan) which we dip into the taar korma (served with it) makes even me and Gautami into converts.
I love the flavours that the beetroot marination coaxes out of the murgh Karachi kabab, the delicate hung curd marination of the fish too. Our entire meal takes on a lyrical note, the velvety texture of the slim kakori kababs brings on a 'wah wah'. It's the kheema with its khada masala that brings tears of joy' to Ram's eyes (I could've sworn I saw them). It's the dense, safed makhan rich kali dal which makes Ram 'in the words of Jack Nicholson, want to be a better man'. Behind this is chef Mukhtar Querishi who has cooking in his genes and jadu in his fingers. Happily, there is plenty for vegetarians, uttari lahsooni saag enlivened with garlic, achari Portobello mushrooms tangy with a pickle coating. Green olive rubbed jaittuni mushroom tikkas too. It's the trying-toohard-to-be different waterchestnut with bambooshoot kabab and the pinenut shorba and the sabz santre ka shorba that disappoint. But the other two shorbas (nalli, murg badami) delight as does the Rabdi icecream. The value for money pricing (Rs 1,100, meal for one) and the unique baked apricot parde me khubani do an irresistible mujra on our wallet and palate, respectively.
P.S. They've made minimum changes to the late Tote's very white elegant dining room, (thankfully removed the open kitchen and white table cloths) and baptized it Neel (literal translation of Indigo) and this is the groups brand new begum. Akerkars, Oberois and Nathanis, Mubarak ho!
Review posted more than a year ago
ambience is superb...service is terrible with totally untrained staff...the food is above average but not worth it for the monies they charge...Rahul akerkar should stick to his forte Italian and not try and do psuedo Indian food...
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