22.1.14

Mad Hatter Is Overwhelmed By A Burst Of Nostalgia - Punjab Grill Winter Special Menu


Kaali Gajar Kaanji
I enter Punjab Grill, filled with happy, chatty people, and head straight to the table where fellow foodies, Kumar Jhuremalani, Nishtha Sharma and Roxanne Bamboat are already seated. Kept on the table, is a mysterious drink in an earthen pot. It’s been a long drive to the palladium in Lower Parel, and I am a bit less than fresh. I ask what they are drinking, and Kumar answers. The world stops moving.

Wait. You need a bit of history here.

When over a decade ago, I shifted to Mumbai, I was in for a bit of a shock when I was told that the city doesn’t have a winter. Apart from the bleak future that faced my entire suitcase full of winter clothing, I was also distraught at the prospect of having to live through winter without the mandatory Panjiri, or Gajak, or most importantly, the Kali Gajar ki Kaanji that was my household staple during the lovely winter months in my hometown.

Well, there are worst things people have gotten used to. And so I survived, and got used to the winterless city. I would get my food fix from some generous relative or friends travelling to the Northern part of the country during the winter months, and that’s the best I could get. A sohan halwa here, a winter vegetables pickle there. As they say, beggars can’t be choosers. But my heart ached. For that tangy goodness of the Kanji, the indulgent aromas of the home-made winter shorbas, and the smokey chicken tikkas, straight off the tandoor.

So life prevailed and almost a decade later, threw a snippet of kindness my way.

Back to the table.

I can, in my mind’s eyes, see Kumar’s lips move in slow motion. He said, “Kaali Gajar Kaanji”. And for me, time stopped. The Table Captain saw the new entrant almost squeal in delight as I demanded, almost begged more like, for the Kaanji. Kumar, who was having it for the first time wasn’t too sure. But then, we took small sips of that lovely drink, with small pieces of black carrots, and I was transported into the past, when we’d all crowd around our small kitchen asking my mother if the Kaanji was ready yet.
Let me get some context into all this drama. I was at Punjab Grill at The Palladium, where they had just launched the Winter Special Menu. A special seasonal menu, created by chef Gurpreet Singh, was Life’s way of being kind to me. If you think this is too much emotion for food, you might be right, but that’s how it is. You see, to other foodies in the city, it’s a great fine dining experience. To me, it’s raw, unadulterated nostalgia. So when the Kaanji was followed by a “Shakarkandi Kamrakh ki Chaat” which is apple wood smoked sweet potato and star fruit tossed in sweet and sour tamarind, I could have cried tears of joy. I could have made a meal out of that, except that it was followed by the “Kharode ka Shorba”- a gently simmered lamb trotter soup tempered with fenugreek.

Shakarkand Kamrakh Ki Chaat
Kharode Ka Shorba

Now the thing is, there is restaurant food. And there is food that tastes just like how you remember it. To me, this falls in the latter category, and that means a lot to me. Good old solid Punjabi food, rooted deeply in the winters I remember so well from my childhood, offered in a city that doesn’t know what an honest winter feels like... We have a winner!

I am not too sure of how the “Tabak Maas” must taste, mostly because the only other time I had it was at the Dilli Haat, and that too, a long time ago. What we got was succulent lamb ribs simmered in fennel flavoured milk, finished on tava. The only drawback was, that this being a Tasters’ Event, it wasn't as piping hot as it should be, which for me sort of proved underwhelming. But I am sure that on any other day, this meat would have people swooning in ecstasy. The quality of the meat is of utmost importance to me, and I feel inclined to make this observation that Punjab Grill will not disappoint even the fussiest meat eater. I was bowled over by the “Methi Chicken Takka”, a char-grilled Chicken tikka infused with fresh fenugreek and “Sarson da Saag” with “Makkai Tava Roti”. The vegetarians at the table had called for “Chukandar ke Kebab”, which are crisp beetroot kebabs with hung curd and pine nut stuffing. These will be a winner with the Mumbai folks. Though I was too stuffed, I also tried a bit of the PUNJABI GRILL DEG “HOT POT”, a Punjab Grill signature Hot Pot with mutton kofta, mutton jus, and winter vegetables.

Chukandar Ke Kabab
Punjab Grill Deg
Sarson ka Saag
Tabak Maas
At some stage, Roxanne, who is stuck in a painful diet routine, and had to leave early, deserted us. But we are hardcore foodies, and were not going to give in without dessert. Which happened to be the  “Gurh Wale Chawal”- jaggery sweetened basmati flavoured with black cardamom & fennel coconut chips, homemade vanilla ice cream, and “Bajre ki Choori”- Grandma Style pearl millet roti and jcrumble lotus seeds and chiroli nuts. Rustic and excellent!

Gurh Waale Chawal
The Winter Menu was a seasonal feature, and I really hope they will bring it back. I can only hope that I won’t have to wait for another decade for this gorgeous, wonderful rush of nostalgia.  

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