Food events

Northwest Frontier Chef's table at Park Plaza

Tuesday, April 23, 2013Me! In words

Chef's tables seem to be the order of the day and I think its a nice way of inviting feedback on dishes currently on the menu and those that the restaurant plan to introduce. For bloggers like me, its about experiencing something new in a particular cuisine and trying to understand it in the context of the average diner that visits the restaurant. Saffron is Park Plaza's Indian restaurant and I was recently invited to a chef's table highlighting Northwest Frontier Cuisine - Chef Amitabh Chowdhury, Executive Chef Park Plaza had a massive line up for us. Northwest Frontier cuisine encompasses a wide range of influences - Afghan, Pakistan, Punjabi with the tandoor style of cooking being predominantly highlighted. Marination of meats and vegetables and then putting them in the tandoor and serving them with rotis made the same way are commonplace. 

As we settled down in our seats we were offered a dry martini to "cleanse and wake up the palate". When the martini came, the customary olive was replaced with a slim cinnamon stick - in keeping with the predominant spices of the cuisine being served. This martini was quite potent and every sip had us break into a small sweat. It did cleanse and wake, but we would have liked it a little more subtle than the wallop each sip gave. One of my dining partners suggested a blueberry vodka based cocktail that she had earlier and we ordered virgin as well as alcohol versions of this. Now this vodka drink is something I liked. It could go with most meals and can be a standing repeat order. 

On the table was an earthenware tray with little earthen katories of dips, pickles and chutneys. Of course the pickled onions are unbeatable as was the hung yogurt dip, but what was an instant hit at the table was the raw papaya relish. Thin slivers of papaya, marinated in pickling spices and tempered with red chillies, cumin and raisins. The little bowl on the table was polished off in an instant and a much larger bowl found its way to us with almost everyone eyeing its every move on the table. Roasted papads were also on the table and soon the flow of food began. We started with a shorba and then a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters. Am going with a picto-review from here on.. each dish will have my comments as well. 

The earthenware tray and Katories - anti-clockwise from the pickled onions - the raw papaya relish, hung curd dip, lemon pickle, coriander chutney with pomegranate seeds
and turmeric in the center. 

Dry Martini with the cinnamon stick

Roasted Papads

A very nice Cosmopolitan

The Blueberry Vodka Cocktail and a white wine from Myra that I quite liked

The spinach shorba that had a 50/50 taking on the table. I belong to the 50% that liked it. It wasn't a thick shorba, slightly thin, heavy on the spinach, with no cream or anything to add a richness to it.

This is the Bhunee Chaat (why in the world people call it chat is beyond me - you chat with over chaat or chat about chaat, you don't eat chat - yeessh!) This is considered typically street fare and is a mix of grilled pineapple, potatoes, pears, apples and bell peppers. I liked the marination on this one and it did not overwhelm the fruits too much. So its a mix of Indian spices with the juices of fresh fruits at every bite.

The Panch Rattan Subz Seekh, a vegetarian version of the seekh kebab with a melange of minced vegetables and done in the tandoor. For me, I found this a little pasty and this is without the bias of being a non-vegetarian playing in. I preferred the non-vegetarian version much more over this. And that's pretty much how I felt about the Mutter aur Corn ki shammi below. The peas gave the patty a lovely hue, but peas and corn together, held together well as a patty but as a mash, not so much up my alley. 

Mutter aur Corn ki Shammi

The non-vegetarian starters began with Amritsari Tawa meat and if I am not wrong, Chef mentioned the use of around 16 spices for this marination. Well worth the effort - the meat was soft, it had taken in the marination well, the spice was just right and if you would like an extra kick in the mouth, then you could nibble on the green chilli garnish. I could polish a dish of this myself.

The Gilawati came next and this was served without the roti - chef felt that rotis would prevent us from enjoying the softness of the gilawati and these were really soft. A thumbs up to them. 

The Murgh Sheek Sajooli had a heavy chicken mince, cheese, green chilli and a lovely brown onion mixed together and then coated with cream, egg yolk and placed in the tandoor. Every bite gave you the delicate crunch of the onions and this one topped my list too. 

Peshwari Jhinga - nice, probably spent a few more minutes than needed in the tandoor and therefore slightly chewy, but the marination was top notch. 

The bread basket for the mains had a mix of tandoori and missi rotis

Maa ki dal - thick, creamy, tasty and very nice for when you are here, but there are a few others out there that can give it stiff competition. 

The Bhuna Ghosht (above) and the Jhinga Kat-ka-Kat were both strong dishes in their own rights. The masalas were fresh, unique and they both could hold their own pretty well with rotis. I was way past the happily satisfied mode by this point and had just a small helping of each. For some reason, I was really looking forward to the Methi Murgh and was seriously not disappointed. I totally loved this version - the chicken was not at all rubbery as it often tends to get when cooked for a while, which this recipe demands. The methi just brought it alive. 

The Jhinga Kat-ka-kat

Methi Murgh

Three vegetarian main courses were served - The kofta malai motia which were uniquely shaped pearls of paneer simmered in a cashew nut onion gravy. I like paneer and so this scored well for me. The second was the Sabji Abir which was a mix of vegetables cooked along with greens. Personally am choosy with my greens and at this table I preferred mine with the chicken in it. And finally there was the bhutte aur tamater ki sabji, that was kernels of corn cooked with tomato. I loved tomato gravies any day and so this one worked for me too. The meal was to end with a flourish with a Mutton Khurma Biryani but we had to stop there... not a single soul at the table had the real estate space in their tummies needed for it and what little we had, we saved it for the dessert, Ras Malai which lost a few marks for being dry and chewy. 

Bhutte aur tamater ki sabji

Sabji Abir

 Kofta malai motia ( and no, that was not one of us digging in before the photo was taken, it was just an attempt to get the motia up to the top)

Ras Malai

Overall for me this meal had a few great hits and a few misses. I know exactly what I would order if I visit Saffron again and these dishes are brought onto the menu. The average price for two at this restaurant is in the Rs 3000 plus taxes category. 

Address: Saffron, Park Plaza, 90-4, Marathahalli, Outer Ring Road, Bangalore 
Phone: 49094909
Cuisine: Indian
Cards Accepted: Yes
Parking: Valet

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