Sample flavours from the kitchens of the Nawab of Arcot
Focaccia in your chaat and paan in a shot glass. Grand Chennai's 'Royal Repast' serves tradition and modern technique on the same plate through the month of July
It’s not everyday that the Dewan to the Prince of Arcot, Mohammed Asif Ali lets chefs in on his 91-
year-old grandmother’s recipes. Certainly not to improve upon them with modern techniques like sous-vide and spherification. So when paan arrives in a shot glass and a bit of Focaccia in our chaat — it was clear that our ‘Royal Repast’ at J Hind, Grand Chennai by GRT Hotels was going to be anything but predictable. “You might call this a hybrid menu,” says Ali, as he takes us back to stories of his childhood, running into the royal kitchen with his brother, to dip a finger into large vats of what the bawarchis (cooks) had made that day. Incidentally, the royal kitchen is now run by tenth generation cooks, who passed on the recipes to a fleet of men in white hats from the hotel over a month.
The festival, curated from the kitchens of Amir Mahal, serves up a 12-course degustation menu at
J Hind, which changes every day. So, you want to arrive with an appetite that can do it justice. There are saffron-infused galouti kebabs to be had, Noorjahani gosht tikki and sundried tomato rotis. And for a pop of drama, a ‘flaming’ Machhi Tikka Kaali Mirchi (fish tikka with black pepper). Although, we much prefer the understated Nariyal Doodh Ka Shorba (a soup made with coconut cream, flavoured with baby ginger and roasted garlic) and served with a mini teabag filled with spices that infuses flavour in your soup even as you eat it.
For our main course, the most-awaited is without a doubt the Arcot Gosht Biryani, which arrives in transparent jars (the kind one would normally see in a tea shop filled with butter biscuits). And it’s encouraging to fill our plates to the brim when we hear the Nawabzada say, “I think biryani is one of the healthiest dishes around.” He goes so far as to add, “I would argue with anybody on it.” According to him, biryani was originally created as a nutritious one-dish fix for workers who had been at labour all day. “If you think about it, biryani is rice, meat and spice — that’s carbs, protein and fats, a balanced meal,” he says smiling, as we take serving number two.
But the Nawabzada’s favourite dish on this particular menu is saved for last. “As a little boy, I would wait for this sweet called kund (made of almonds). It can take up to three days to make,” he shares with a hint of nostalgia. Since it comes royally referred, we recommend you ask in advance for this one, since it is a set menu. Also, try the jackfruit nitrogen ice cream, which disappears as fast as it was made.
The degustation menu will be available for lunch and dinner. On till July 31. Rs 1,450++ (vegetarian) and Rs 1,650++ (non-vegetarian). Details: 28150500.