From The Land Of The Goshtaba

Updated: May 18 2003, 05:30am hrs
While Kashmir continues to make the headlines every other day, a little part of it has crept into Delhi without most of us noticing. Im talking about The Kashmir Club at the Ashoka Hotel in Delhi, which has been offering a buffet menu since November 2002, but has now moved into a la carte mode. Next on the list is a wine list, which should be ready by July, and you can really look forward to a fine dining experience.

Kashmiri cuisine is popularly known to be divided into the Wazawan or Muslim style and the style adopted by the Kashmiri Pandits. While the former uses garlic, onions and shallots and very few spices, the latter relies a lot on spices, with asafoetida (hing) predominating. the Kashmir Club offers a mix of both types of cuisines, and will rotate the dishes regularly. The restaurants lineage is impeccable, for it has been started by the family that owns the Hotel Broadway in Srinagar.

The food is amazingly good at The Kashmir Club. The preparation of Kashmiri food is tediously back-breaking, but the ensuing flavours are unique and leave you licking your fingers. Like I did, after I finished the Tabak Maaz (Rs 375). The spare ribs were crisp and broke off like a wafer when I bit into them, yet they were juicy inside. The Alu Bukhara Korma (Rs 375) was another novelty, tart because of the plums cooked in it. The Danwal Chicken (Rs 375) was easier on the stomach. But the Goshtaba (Rs 395) remains my favourite. The flavours that ooze into your mouth from these finely pounded meatballs are indescribable. Niorvana in a mouthful!

I didnt get to try much of the vegetarian menu, though the Nadar Tikkis (lotus stem and ginger cutlets /Rs 245) were delicious. The size of the cottage cheese in the Chaman (Rs 350) intimidated me, but I found the tomato gravy tasty. A good bet to try would be the Schuk Wangun (Rs 275), a spicy, tangy preparation of eggplant. The traditional accompaniment with these dishes is fine Basmati rice, but you can ask for rotis, too.

The Kashmir Club also offers a Tarami for four, but you have to book this in advance. A Tarami consists of 20-25 courses, served one by one in a single central bowl. The diners dip into the bowl and eat together. The Tarami costs Rs 1,250 per person.

The highlight of my meal was the tray of traditional chutneysonion, walnut, radish, black grape, mint and pumpkinthat accompanied it. Each one was a revelation.

Wash it all down with a Kehwa (Rs 120) and sit back and enjoy the contemporary looks of the restaurant, which seeks to duplicate a club atmosphere. All that reminds you of Kashmir are the fine, black and white prints that line the brick-clad walls around you. And, of course, the food.

Thank God For The Salads

THANK God Its Friday has introduced The What!!! Offer in collaboration with Coca-Cola. Order a dish from its new Classics menu, and you can order a litre of cocktail or mocktail for Rs 200.

The Classics menu includes such perennial favourites as Chicken Tchoupatoulis, Chicken Delight, Spicy Chicken Veracruz, Hot And Spicy Prawns and Vegetarian Tchoupatoulis (Rs 250 each). The Chicken Veracruz itself was tasty, but the accompaniments were too much of a jumble to appeal. The Vegetarian Tchoupatoulis was good. The mocktails on offer are Orange Blast and American Ice Cream Float, and the cocktails are Blue Stallion and Jamaican Tea. Rs 200 may be a mite too expensive for the mocktails, and TGIFs does tend to be a little heavy with the sweet n sour mix in their cocktails.

But the best part of the new menu is the Salads section. Three salads are on offer: a Caesars Salad for Rs 210, a Deli Salad for Rs 150 and a Summer Garden Salad for Rs 150. Each salad is a generous helping enough for a complete meal, and comes with a free Diet Coke. Perfect for a summer lunch!