Mutton Biryani Woes:
One of the questions that has consistently baffled me over time (and I am sure it has baffled the establishment far more than I would care to predict) is this: Why don’t you put potato in Royal Indian Restaurant’s Mutton Biryani? I have answered this question previously in my Biryani post, but here it is again:
Royal does not make Kolkata biryani. It makes Lucknow Biryani. A fact which I knew before, but it was clarified to me perfectly after I consumed the mutton biryani in Lucknow and realized that Royal’s biryani is chiefly derived from that style, and its flavors and taste, therefore, differs vastly from the version you get in Kolkata. Plus, it has no potato, which is one of the key features of Kolkata Biryani.
So what seems to be the difference here? Well, apart from the tonne of Meetha Ittar which DOESN’T go into a Royal Biryani, you would notice the delicate smell of saffron the moment you enter the establishment, something which I cherish. It also does not have the other hallmark of Kolkata biryani, the potato, but then again, if you want to eat Potato in a biryani, or if you feel your biryani is incomplete without it, I suggest you head over to Arsalan or Zeeshan nearby – those places have potatoes, and you can frolic in its glory. Don’t ask for it in Royal because that’s not their style.
The Question of Chaap: What to Look for and How do I Order it?
Mutton or Chicken, the question of getting a good Chaap is not up to you, but rather, the server. Or is it? One of the most important tips while ordering your Chaap from a restaurant which has an open cooking area where your food is being prepared is by simply peering in and seeing what’s available. In front of Royal, you would see a guy carefully stirring a pan, shifting meat and expertly flipping chicken pieces. Go and peer at his pan – you would notice how he serves – he initially takes a hefty amount of meat in a plate, gives it a cursory glance before putting it in a plate (or container if its out for delivery), then pours a generous amount of flavourful fat on top, from the same pan. Now, watch carefully if you want a good plate of Chaap – if the plate the guy just extracted looks somewhat like the plate you see above, congratulations, this is a good day for you, and you will score rather excellent mutton chaap. If not, well, order something else. I personally love the Mutton Pasinda which is in their list.
What About the Kebabs?
Okay, here’s the thing: Royal isn’t famous for kebabs – its known for Biryani, Chaap, and random gravies, because the restaurant cooks dishes that have a flavour quotient that sticks to a spice blend which is extremely Lucknow-like. I would go as far as to call it ‘inspired by Awadh’. And therefore, when you order Tandoori Chicken, don’t expect fireworks. However, if you do want a Kebab, then check out the Mutton Seekh Kebab, which, I believe, is the only Kebab worth eating here. It comes with a bowl of (rather unnecessary to me) mint and coriander chutney and is beautifully moist – there is a tiny bit of chew which helps you extract the flavours from the fine mince, and this doesn’t crumble or become mushy like so many other seekh kebabs tend to. Clove and pepper lace the fragrant meat, and a squeeze of lime is all I personally need to bring out the flavours more prominently.
The Royal Chicken Chaap
In Royal, I generally ask for the Chicken Chaap with a couple of paper-thin Roomali Rotis, because that’s how I roll. The satisfaction of getting a portion of perfectly cooked chicken, tender meat which doesn’t fall apart, with a bit of flavourful oil in which you dip your rotis and consume – is what I consider to be a good evening. Unlike many, who love the combination of Biryani and Chaap, I prefer eating the two separately, savouring the flavours individually.I generally always specify for the Chaap to have a leg, and here, a sincere request is always heard, together with some pretty smiles and ‘please dada’. The key to ordering at a restaurant like Royal is to be particular about what you want, and specify it while placing the order.
The Mutton Biryani from Royal
I have a rule – I generally order the Special Mutton Biryani from Royal instead of the regular. The answer is simple – if I am massively hungry, I can consume the entire plate in one go, and be a happy camper. However, if I am ordering more than one thing, and am with friends, its far easier for me to order this and split it in half, because the rice percentage to meat is less, and you get to eat more. Many of you would not find Royal’s chicken or mutton biryani to be like other biryani places – that is because it isn’t. This biryani’s flavour quotient is different because half of the spices used in it are different from that of Kolkata-style biryani. Plus, the use of ittar and kewra gives Kolkata biryani the smell, which is not found here, because there is a different set of ingredients added, primarily led by kabab chini (allspice), saffron, mace and nutmeg.
By the way, I tried the chicken biryani once and it was nice, but couldn’t hold a candle to the mutton. Ask for a piece with a bit of fat in it if you love mutton fat, and I promise it is worth every damn calorie.
So what about Dessert?
I have always skipped the Firni because I personally am not a big fan of grainy firni. The Shahi Tukda, however, is another story entirely, and I have often packed it for home. The pleasure of eating extremely sweet desserts is something I share with my mother, and after a big batch of mutton biryani, sharing a portion is, in one word, satiating.
Disclaimer: This post was written in response to many queries I have received over the years about The Royal Biryani and Why I have Not added it to my Favourite Kolkata Biryani list. It is based on my personal experience and observation.