With the onset of winter, Bengaluru is yet again beginning to buzz with food festivals. One such food pop-up is the ten-day-long Kashmiri food festival Wazwan-E-Khaas presented by JW Marriott Hotel Bengaluru in collaboration with Chef Tariq Parray from Kashmir. We visited the hotel on a chilly Saturday night for dinner to try out the cuisine of the Valley for the first time.
…to the tea
The festival was being held at the al fresco dining area of JW Kitchen, which was beautifully decorated with warm lights. As we entered, we noticed a wide spread of dishes set on the buffet. We sat at a table right beside it and started off with a brimming cup of hot Kahwaa (tea with whole spices like cardamom and cinnamon), sweetened with honey. On the chef’s insistence, we added a spoonful of chopped almonds to the drink. The aroma of the nuts and hints of saffron made the drink a perfect start to our meal.
Two for a tangy
The assortment of appetisers included the chewy Nadru Churma (spicy batter-fried lotus stem), Paneer Kanti (cubes of shallow-fried cottage cheese in a tomato-based gravy made of chopped vegetables), and Chicken Kanti (cubes of shallow-fried chicken in a similar gravy). The Nadru Churma tasted well with the selection of four types of chutneys (Akhrot, Moori, Onion, and Zirish chutney). However, our best pick was Paneer Kanti; the creamy cottage cheese and crunchy vegetables like (capsicums and onions) were complemented well by the tangy gravy.
The extensive spread of dishes for the main course comprised an equal number of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Vegetarian fares included Rajma Shalgam (kidney beans cooked with turnip – a special winter recipe in Kashmir), Dum Aloo (baby potatoes in spicy gravy), and our favourite – Kesari Paneer (shallow-fried cottage cheese cubes in creamy gravy with hints of saffron). Among non-vegetarian options, we tried Yakhni Shorba (creamy and sour mutton soup), Chicken Dhaniwal Korma (chicken morsels cooked in yoghurt and ground cilantro), and Gustaba (tender meatballs cooked in milk-based gravy) along with Kashmiri Pulao. With citrus notes of freshly-ground cilantro, the creaminess of yoghurt, and the sweetness of fried onions – Chicken Dhaniwal Korma could have easily become our favourite. But just then, the chef-curated a special plate of three dishes for us — Methi Maas, Tabak Maas, and Seekh Kabab — with a generous proportion of steamed rice. While the crispy Tabak Maas (lamb rib cooked in spices and deep-fried in ghee) was delectable, our favourite on the platter was Methi Maas (juicy meat cooked in spicy gravy). With strong hints of fenugreek, the sumptuous dish melted in our mouths and left us wanting more. As we dug into a little more of Methi Maas, we realised that even though most of the dishes are cooked in ghee, they felt light on the stomach.
We finished off the meal on a sweet note with two desserts – Kashmiri Halwa and Phirni (chilled rice pudding). The dense semolina Halwa — with crunchy cashews and strong notes of ghee — will definitely appeal to diners who love having their desserts hot. However, our recommendation would be to try Phirni. With hints of coconut cream and sliced almond toppings, the pudding was delectable and made us reach out for one more of it before we put an end to the meal.
Overall, we loved the fact that the dishes were light and flavourful. If you want to go for a short culinary trip to Kashmir while in Bengaluru this week, Wazwan-E-Khaas is a must-visit.
₹2650++ upwards. Till December 4, 7 pm onwards. At Vittal Mallya Road. Details: 8884494037