“Oooh, Papad Paneer Ki Sabzi!”
“You were excited about it the last time too,” Kailash Maharaaj notes.
“I know. Its one of those things I love.”
I break into one of the colorful papads, smear some mango chutney on it, and the crunchy saltiness and sweet succulence dances on my tongue in a delightful medley of tastes.
Someone pours thick, spicy buttermilk in a flute glass. The drink is creamy and perfect to whet the appetite, a hint of anticipation about what to come. Chef Nikhil Merchant comes to explain to us the Gujarati part of the menu, which is half of our platter. We have a side of Khandvi, an incredibly fluffy Khaman Dhokla, some Matar Mewa Potli, and Chakki Shola, served with a pair of sauces easily dispensed through a sealed tube.
The Khaman Dhokla is best consumed with the sweet chutney, with a bit of roasted cumin on the side, which is also one of the predominant spices used in Gujarati food, as per Chef Merchant. I make a little pool of the sauces and dip my appetizers in it. The Matar Meva Potli is filled with pistas and deep fried in ghee, and I wish for more of it!
The Vegetarian thaali at ITC is INR 1500/- plus tax, but one can also ask for an assortment of a-la-carte non-vegetarian dishes from the kitchens, made by Kailash Maharaaj, who proudly tells us about the dishes that are on offer, including Laal Maas, Safed Maas, and a few other dishes from the Royal Kitchens.
Our main thaali arrives and we are suitably intimidated by the huge platter – there’s Gujarati Kadhi with Magh Khichri on one side, with garlicky potatoes, sweet daal, and a cauliflower and pea shaak which is rather lovely with a side of sweet Sev Mutter ka Pulao. The Rajasthani side consists of a Papad Paneer ki Sabzi which consists of soft pieces of paneer which I wrap up in a few pooris. At this point, I crumble a baati in my side of Daal and ask for extra ghee on top.
Kailash Maharaaj brings to the table a side of Laal Maas and its a fiery red curry which looks intimidating but is far less spicy than I had thought and far more flavorful. The pieces of meat are tender and falls off the bone at the first touch. We ask for second and third helpings, scooping up the red gravy with bajre ka roti and sigh in satisfaction. I can safely say he made a better version of Laal Maas than what I got in Rajasthan.
We wash our hands in anticipation of dessert: I had had the Ghevar before and it is on my to-eat list here. But then there’s a small glass of Basundi which is creamy and decadent and not too sweet. The ghevar is rich and heavy with ghee and saffron, but the surprising winner is the Sheera, which is dark and slightly grainy but has a comforting warmth to it that is inviting to the core.
We end the dinner with some churan and mouth freshener flown down specifically from Rajasthan. This special pop-up at ITC is on offer till September 8th 2017, 2017 Hours 7 pm to 11.45 pm at the Pool Café and it will be a good idea to book ahead by calling +913323454545.
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to ITC by the management.