Known for its nazakat, ( delicacy ), nafasat ( sophistication ) and tehzeeb ( culture ), Lucknow during the rule of Asaf-Ud-Daulah, the fourth Nawab of Awadh came to be known for its dastarkhwan too. The period, known as the Renaissance of food saw the creation of spectacular dishes such as Parinda poori ( a live bird inside a poori), Moti pulao ( pulao with pearls), patili kebabs and arbi ka salan. Experienced gourmet chefs called rakabdars worked night and day to present a new carte du jour to the prince every day. The cuisine continued to progress under the patronage of the royal aristocrats and marked the beginning of a new era of modern cooking.
Today, Dum Pukht the iconic restaurant in Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi serves an evocative presentation of aromas, flavors, and textures of the Awadhi cuisine. However, since it is located in a premier luxury hotel, it caters mainly to people who can afford the fine dining experience. What about the others? Where could do they go?
A stand-alone restaurant serving Awadhi cuisine, “Kitchen by Awadh” is tucked away in a nondescript commercial complex, Supermart in Gurgaon. Neatly arranged wooden tables and chairs define its spartan decor. Scribblings on the wall drive home the purpose of its existence straight away. The aim is to bring authentic, soulful food of the Nawabi cuisine to its customers at affordable prices.
Have you watched a group of dancers performing on stage? Despite synchronized steps and same costumes, there will be one dancer who catches our attention. The others then fade into oblivion and only that one dancer rules the stage. That’s the beauty of effort, emotions, passion, and feeling from the heart. The story of “Kitchen of Awadh” is like that. Changing tracks after seven years stint in the political arena, Mr. Kamal Veer, the owner, decided to follow his other passion and opened up the restaurant. All was hunky dory till Eid came and all the cooks left except one. Not giving up hope, he took the onus to learn the cuisine himself. For three years, he searched for age-old recipes, talked to khansaamas in Lucknow, even traveled to the town Kakori to learn the authentic recipe of Kakori Kebabs. The passion and effort blossomed into the opening of “Kitchen of Awadh”. In 2018 amidst other nominations, it received the Times Food Award in the category of Best North Indian in Casual Dining.
The long drive from Delhi to G-Town (Gurgaon) had whetted my appetite and I waited hungrily at my table. The galouti kebabs, kakori kebabs, ulta tawa paratha and a thick green chutney were the first to arrive. I picked up the delicate galouti kebabs lest they fell apart. A perfect companion to the Galouti, I wrapped the thin, flaky parantha around the pate-like kebab and took my first bite. Soft, with a sophisticated sense of spicing and delicate flavors, the kebabs were outstanding. “Does it incorporate all the 120 spices that Tunday Kebabi in Lucknow claims to use?” I asked Mr. Veer. His answer was a revelation. “Not more than twelve spices are used in a Galouti, the main ones being mace, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. The reputation for using more than a 100 is an illusion created, to retain the kebab on a high pedestal.”
The Kakori Kebabs and Mutton Malai Seekh were soft and silky. “Usually chutney should not be had with any Lucknawi food”, Mr. Veer begins an interesting tale. ” In earlier days, where ingredients were not measured but used by estimation, the Ustads used the chutney as a means to camouflage the taste of the kebabs in case there was a discrepancy in the amount used. This was the reason why it has a certain tang and got introduced in the cuisine.” I listened with fascination. Today, the kebabs are unfathomable without the chutney.
The Panchamrita, a drink made of Amla, Beetroot, carrot, mint, ginger, and lemon is a palate cleanser and popular. One dish common to most tables was the Bhuna Gosht. A house specialty, roasted meat is well browned on a slow fire, in a thick onion and herbs gravy. The intrinsic ingredient used is cashew nut paste which gives it a velvety taste. Juicy shreds of mutton fell off the bone as I relished it with my flaky, warqi paratha. The spices used with the mutton pieces leave an aromatic flavor and since Awadhi cuisine uses the dum pukht (slow cooking) method, the meat is extremely soft. The sweetness in the warqi paratha does a beautiful jugalbandi with the spicy flavors to make every morsel delightful. The Gosht Korma, another best seller in the restaurant is Braised in its rich, seasoned sauce of yogurt and caramelized onions and is literally the king of curries. Yogurt gives it a silky base while the texturized ground brown onions and gentle spices make it rich. It is the height of indulgence and decadence.
Paneer Makhani, Dal Makhani, Dal Tadka, Khumb Masala, Paneer Masala and Subzi ka Mishran ( Mixed vegetables) would find their place in a vegetarian’s plate but for someone who loves her roti with boti, I devoured everything non-vegetarian. After eating a meal fit for a king, I thought that I couldn’t take a spoon of anything else until I saw Kesari Phirni. A classic creamy custard made with powdered rice, milk, saffron, cardamom and sweetened with sugar. it is stirred for about one and a half hours on heat, till it gets glossy and thickens up. Every day about 120 bowls are prepared and they get polished off in no time.
Kitchen of Awadh isn’t just about authentic Awadhi food. It a story of love, passion, and genuineness. A melange of these factors is what makes it so special and a reason to visit the restaurant again and again.
A-208, Supermart-1 DLF Phase-4 Gurgaon, Gurugram, Haryana 122002
+91-9910035805 / +91-9910035806
12:30 pm – 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Price for two:
Rs.1400 ( approximately )
To order online or for more information click here