Ninety minutes of start-stop is not exactly geared to improve one’s tastebuds, so it is with some lack of joy (and food) that I approached the dinner party thrown by a very close friend of a very close friend (that, I’ve learned, is the most unavoidable kind – even the end of the universe would have to be considered). But finally it was sighted in the horizon – Acres Club, Chembur. The map below is not just here to compensate for the lack of photos – trust me, you’ll need it.
Anyway, interminable brakes and gear changes later, suitably settled into the pleasant divans of the Indian Harvest Restaurant, pacified by a glass of excellent Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, I was in a more forgiving mood. The venue seemed nice, but call it my snooty-address snobbery – I still wasn’t expecting anything more than chicken-tikka-masala to appear. I just could not think of Chembur rising much above that.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the most delectable biriyani appeared. Apparently, this place – owned, managed and cooked for by Dadar Catering College alumni - is a bit of a culinary destination. The rich, flavourful mutton biriyani turned out to be genuinely unusual – Bhatkali style, inspired by the chef’s family cook (who was a Bhatkal Kayasth). With strong mint undertones (unusual in most other biriyani forms) this was indeed a distinct biriyani – closer to Malabar than Lucknow or Hyderabad, but different from both.
Bhatkal, it turns out, is a port town north of Mangalore with a long and distinguished history, and a long association with Arabs, Persians, Marathas and biriyani. Google even found me a restaurant in Bangalore that talks quite a about Bhatkali food and has a lot of these dishes on the menu.
The food at Indian Harvest is overall very good. I was served a pre-fixe menu so I’m not quite sure what all the dishes were, but the dessert is worth particular mention. Presented in martini glasses was a silky, milky rasmalai topped with paan ice cream! Not paan flavoured – the ingredients of an actual paan mixed into ice cream in-house – it blew me away.
Go, go, once in a while go see your distant cousins. It will be worth the trip…