A Whole New Arsenal

Updated: May 18 2003, 05:30am hrs
The Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffet, considers the uncontrolled spread of derivatives as the new weapons of destruction. But to a foodie, the real weapons of destruction lie in the buffet (pun unintended) of goodies indulgent executive chefs like Sultan Mohideen of ITC Maurya Sheraton like to unleash on you. The new offering at the Dumpukht and the Pavilion from May 15 onwards called Summer Cuisine is a case in point.

The popular belief is that in hot summers, people prefer to increase their liquid intake, in the form of sherbets and buttermilk, to cool the system and eat less unlike in the winter. But if Chef Sultan is to be believed, you can still gorge on the goodies of winter like kebabs and biryani, provided they are made with less garam masala and more seasonal fruits (raw mango) and vegetables, including yoghurt, which make them light on the stomach.

But there is no hint in his statement as to the array of culinary weapons he had in mind. For starters, the Kham Katai (Rs 400) or the whole moong lentils based kebab and Arbi Moti Ke Lauz (Rs 400)which is a patty of colacasiawows the assembled foodies, but the really special ones are non-vegetarian. This exemplifies the observation of international food critics like Nigella Lawson that while it is easy to eat well as a vegetarian, it is bitterly hard to create a fabulous whole meal without flesh, fish or fowl.

The really standout items in the Summer Cuisine fare were the Zawari Ki Machchi (Rs 450)fish marinated with ginger and stuffed with raw mango, mint and almonds. This item is dipped in a yoghurt batter and shallow-fried. Another item of complexity and exquisite taste was the Sangam Kebab (Rs 450), which has layers of lamb and chicken mince. Then there is the Paan Kebab, which is lamb-based, but packed in a fresh betel leaf.

The fact that this array of kebabs was served without any accompanying chutneys is the best sign of their intrinsic taste. When you begin with such a profusion of starters, there is bound to be less and less gastric space for more. But that wasnt Chef Sultans problem. So when he unleashed the assorted kormas, rotis and biryanis, many foodies chose just to nibble at them. That was indeed a pity as one of the lamb-based biryanis was cooked in milk and the Kheera Qalya (Rs 550), which is a mutton dish made with a cucumber paste, was truly outstanding.

After this carnage, the wonder is how one still has space for the dessert. In this regard, no one in his right mind can refuse the charms of the Zarda-e-Amba (Rs 350), which is a baked pudding of saffron rice and slices of fresh mango, topped with slivers of almonds and pistachio. The wonder is also that after such a meal, one can still walk out of the restaurant and resume the pretensions of workaday life. But less said the better for the remains of the day.