Royal repast: Dine like Shah Jahan with this four-course, 14 dish dinner at Samudra in Trident Chennai
The Mughal-influenced menu serves up an assortment of kebabs, Moradabadi Murgh Biryani and the must-try Shajahanabadi Nehari
At the revamped Samudra at Trident, you might need to fast before the feast. That’s how elaborate the portion sizes are in a rollout of Mughal-influenced flavours as part of this four-course, 14-dish experience. Think kebabs like the succulent lamb mince Kakori (which was created to be especially tender following an insulting remark by a Britisher at a Nawab’s party about the kebabs being ‘chewy’) or the fragrant Moradabadi Murgh Biryani (bringing together flavours of both Awadh and Delhi). Executive chef Vijay Shahi tells us how after two years of dedicated research by way of travel, stories from locals and binge-reading books like The Mughal Feast: Recipes from the Kitchen of Emperor Shah Jahan, this taste journey through history is now open for dinner. And you don’t have to worry about decision fatigue in spite of the ocean of heritage plates to choose from because chef Vijay keeps it simple with only two options, “veg or non-veg?” Lucky for us, we’re visiting for a degustation menu that gives us a taste of both.
A feast of kebabs
We start our meal with a Zafrani Murgh Badami, a saffron-infused chicken and almond broth that is warm and comforting, although not overly heavy because a sumptuous spread like this one requires some skillful pacing. An eclectic mix of kebabs sees us slide our fork into the meaty Chaprikh, Afghan flattened mince gallets and Murgh Kasturi, chicken morsels marinated in fenugreek and yoghurt. All thoughts of eating with restraint are quickly forgotten as we pair them with warm Ulte Tawa ke Paratha and Roomali Roti.
Vegetarians will enjoy the unique Dabare Aloo, a foraged recipe of batter-fried potato gallets with pomegranate seeds from Jammu. But the kebab we’ll be raving about till the cows come home is simply called Doodhiya. Imagine layered cottage cheese squares filled with the goodness of cashews, raisins and almonds and then the lightest swab of mango chutney for a hint of tang.
Meat and greet
We’re happy for the short wait before our mains arrive. And find ourselves enthralled by chef Vijay’s stories in the meantime. We discover for instance that ‘in Shah Jahan’s kitchen chaat was a non-vegetarian dish!’ Although, we’re keener on the Shajahanabadi Nehari which showcases lamb shin braised with red onions and an aromatic spice mix of potli masala, herbs and meetha attar. The slow-cooked meat quite literally falls off the bone and the brown stew is packed with flavour. We savour this alongside the delicate notes of the aforementioned Moradabadi Murgh Biryani cooked dum-style. Quite the opposite of decadent and heavy, as one would expect with a wedding biryani, this preparation is more like a comfort meal for the weekend. However, the piece de résistance turns out to be the Lucknavi Murgh Korma. Simmered in caramelised onions, cashew and chironjee — this dish has us returning for refills... more than once.
Kiss from a rose
A trio of desserts appear on our table to end the experience, just in time for a tidbit about the rose water of yore. Chef Vijay tells us, “Akbar used to drink only Ganga water. It is said that there were rose gardens placed on the bank, as the roots would filter the water. Then rose petals were sprinkled on the water to give it both aroma and flavour.” Soon enough, we dig into a rose essence-infused Makhan Malai whipped cream flavoured with cardamom and saffron. But the Shahi Tukda Chaandi, layered with malai rabri and pistachio, is what really takes it home for us. The silver leaf atop reminds us that even the most indulgent plates are elevated by just a touch of opulence.
For dinner only. Non vegetarian at INR 2,650 ++, vegetarian at INR 1,950 ++.