Celebrate the Land of Five Rivers at ITC Gardenia

Celebrate the Land of Five Rivers at ITC Gardenia

Indulge in an authentic Punjabi culinary journey only at ITC Gardenia – Review

Summer is peeking out of the kaleidoscopic curtain of blooms in my balcony. With the days getting longer and the sun gearing up to break its old temperature records, I am doing a happy dance to one of my favourite numbers as I type this {crazy skills, I know}.

As the weather gets warmer, I head to a restaurant which has not only a charismatic ambiance but is one that offers the most delightful of food experiences. This month, Cubbon Pavilion at the ITC Gardenia celebrates a cuisine inspired from the treasured legacies of Punjab. I was invited by the lovely Simonti Majumdar to be a part of this beautiful culinary fête where bright colours and robust flavours dominated all the dishes. Chef Arshdeep Singh, who strongly believes that “One should take pride in one’s roots”, tells me how his fondness for Punjabi khanna motivated him to bring his cherished family recipes and long-lost flavours of the North in a mouth-watering innovative menu.

The name Punjab means “the land of five rivers”, which are Chenab, Jhelum, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. Sometimes frolicking and sometimes meandering as they make their way across the state, these five rivers bring fertility to the land which is resonated by the spirit of its people for whom food reigns supreme. Ann, which in Hindi translates to grains, is considered Brahm – the supreme cosmic reality; as it is through Ann that we nourish our body and mind and sustain our lives.

Authentic to the very essentials, the exquisite menu at Cubbon Pavilion will feature Punjabi specialities such as Patiala Shahi Pulao, Amritsari Tari Macchi, Zimikand ke koftey, Mathi-Channe, Annardana papad Choley, Besan ki Subzi and many more. Making the culinary journey even more wholesome will be specially curated beverages like Lassi-e-Khaas, Patiala Peg & Goli Banta.

225a Land of Five Rivers, Cubbon Pavilion, ITC Gardenia

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Tanya Dhar with the lovely Simonti Majumdar, Public Relations Manager at the ITC Gardenia

 

The Tasting Menu

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BEVERAGE

Shikanjvi {Traditional limeade or lemonade from North India}

Whenever I visit one of my friends from the Marwari Jain community in the summers, I get to enjoy a refreshing glass of Shikanjvi – a flavourful summer cooler that is rich in Vitamin C.

What is it that makes Shikanjvi different from the regular nimbu pani {lemonade} we drink? I like to see lemonade as the simpleton while Shikanjvi is its flamboyant twin. When you mix lemon juice, water, sugar with a pinch of salt you have the humble lemonade but when you get a little adventurous and add some black salt, roasted cumin powder, black pepper powder and ginger, the lemonade gets a neat little twist to it and what you then drink is the refreshingly tangy, Shikanjvi; a health-friendly lemon drink with the right balance of flavours and a soulful taste of spices.

225e Shikanjvi

Preet Kamal Singh Bedi, Manager F&B at the ITC Gardenia

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ACCOMPANIMENT

Traditionally pervasive crunchy poppadoms

Crispy poppadoms are a popular appetizer in Punjab served before meals, usually enjoyed with drinks like the Patiala Peg. These fiery and aromatic lentil wafers are prepared from urad dal which is smoothly ground and flavoured with cracked black peppercorns – Punjabi cuisine is known for its generous use of black pepper. Needless to say, the poppadoms have a peppery zing that makes them so prevalent among its people.

225g Punjabi poppadoms

 

STARTER

An array of appetizers makes their way to the table… a ceremonious entry indeed.

Chirga {Tandoori chicken}

Punjab’s enigma is partially accredited to its wholesome meals which retain the rustic flavour of its fields. The age-old custom of cooking in community ovens or tandoors prevails in rural pockets even today. Packed full of flavour and spice, the Tandori Chicken which has its roots from the Mughal cuisine of the Mughal Era is a lip-smacking appetizer that has rightfully claimed its place in some of the most popular hotel menus around the globe. Its delectableness is acquired from the marinade which includes fragrant Indian spices, yoghurt and pureed deep-fried golden-onions to add delicious depth. I highly recommend that you try the one they serve at Cubbon Pavilion. Everything from the fragrant combination of spices to the succulence of the chicken made this dish a truly delightful one.

225h Chirga {Tandoori chicken}

Chef Arshdeep Singh

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Qazlaeela Talli {Crispy batter fried fish stuffed with Aam papad}

Fish – Sauté it, fry it, bake it or steam it – no matter how you cook it and no matter what flavours you add to it, fish will always remain a high in protein and low in fat food which is easy to digest. And that is what I love about it.

Chef Arshdeep brought some innovation to this fish recipe by adding aam papad {dehydrated ripened mangoes} to it. Freshwater fish was generously coated with a batter of spiced gram flour and a delectable blend of spices, then stuffed with aam papad and deep-fried till it reached a wonderful golden-brown colour. As I took a bite, the crunchy outside gave way to a soft melt-in-your-mouth inside which was so satisfying. I liked the cleverness of this version. It retained the essence of the original and yet held its own ground.

225j Qazlaeela Talli {Crispy batter fried fish}

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Laal Mirch Paneer Tikka {Spicy Cottage Cheese Tikka}

Punjab’s wealth lies in not only the fertility of its green fields but also the richness of its dairy. Punjabi cuisine is hence characterised by the lavish use of dairy products in the form of malai, dahi and paneer. For those who aren’t familiar with paneer, it is an Indian cheese that is mild in taste but has a wonderfully creamy texture, and works really well with flavourful spices.

I loved the taste of the Laal Mirch Paneer Tikka – squares of über soft paneer that were charred around the edges and topped off with a sprinkling of hand pounded red chillies – every bite was delightfully comforting and moreish.

225l Laal mirch paneer tikka

Cottage Cheese Tikka with the ‘Patiala Peg’ in the background

 

MAINS

Shikar Qorma {Lamb curry braised with honey}

Curries for the most part evoke jaded images in our minds as we recall bright orange dishes that have doused all the flavours of the meat. The Lamb curry served here was one of only a handful of dishes that in spite of the fact that it had the word “curry” in its title, was nothing like the lifeless, cliché aberrations I recounted earlier! This was the kind of dish that made us relentlessly ask as children– Is it ready yet? How about now? That’s right; the Shikar Qorma was lip smacking-ly good curry! Mopped up with hot paranthas, this one was delicious!

225m Shikar Qorma {Lamb curry}

 

Aloo Bukhara Kofta {Plum stuffed paneer koftas in a silken tomato gravy}

All my regular readers may have read numerous times before, and if you are new to my blog then you would know now, that I love paneer! The beauty of this conventional Indian cheese, other than being a good source of protein is that it can be cooked in a number of ways making it really versatile. Like I mentioned earlier, paneer has a mild flavour which makes it perfect for absorbing spices particularly well.

Indian kitchens are always stocked with an assortment of spices… most of which have medicinal and health-promoting properties {as well as add a special zing to our food}. So imagine our good old paneer prepared with a depth of warm spices and with one wonderful twist – a stuffing of prunes. The resulting beautifully fragrant kofta was divine!

225n Aloo Bukhara Kofta {Plum stuffed paneer}

 

Dogra Dal {Spicy Punjabi Dal}

The sheer simplicity of the dal is in stark contrast to its health benefits. No matter which part of the country you are in, dal is a staple in every Indian house. Commonly referred to as the “bread and butter” of Punjabi cuisine, dal is a great accompaniment to fresh and hot paranthas.

One of my fondest memories growing up was the pressure cooker whistling in every house in the neighbourhood reminding us that lunchtime was close. The pleasant aroma of pulses cooking wafted through the streets making my stomach rumble in anticipation. From channa and toor to moong and masoor, every household had their own favourites when it came to the choice of pulses and each of them had their own special way of preparing it. I adore how the incredible assortment of lentils can bring about unlimited flavourful dishes!

The Dogra dal I was served was silky and creamy, had a splendid combination of flavours and was cooked to perfection.

225o Dogra Dal {Spicy Punjabi Dal}

 

Murghabi Pistadarh {Duck stuffed with pistachio}

Duck is always special! But duck with a pistachio stuffing slow-cooked ‘dum’ style is an unbeatable combination; this sumptuous main course was a festive feast! The tenderness of the meat beautifully complemented the stuffing that had a piquant taste and a wonderful crunchiness to it.

Dum style cooking was an accidental discovery. Culinary history has it, that during a famine, huge containers were filled with vegetables, meat and spices and were sealed, and hot charcoal was placed on the top. The containers were then placed on fire and all its contents went through a process of slow-cooking that ensured that food was available for everyone day or night. The result was extraordinary, for when the containers were unsealed; the splendid aromas attracted even the attention of the royals!

225p Murghabi Pistadarh {Duck stuffed with pistachio}

Chef Mohan obliged us…

 

Bharwan Karela Aloo {Potato Stuffed Bitter Gourd}

People often decide their likeness for a dish based on the form and taste in which they have eaten it. In the case of Karela or bitter gourd {you may know it as bitter melon or bitter quash too}, the name itself creates a perception that it cannot be an enjoyable dish. I am a big fan of karela because I have tasted some very delicious versions of it.  Try the version served at Cubbon Pavilion that has been fashioned after Chef Arshdeep’s mum’s recipe, and this dish will undoubtedly become a favourite and a firm part of your culinary repertoire.

225q Bharwan Karela Aloo {Potato Stuffed Bitter Gourd}

Should have had a nice shot taken of the just the Karela…

And now for the recipe – yes, I know you love me even more now… 🙂

Ingredients:
Bitter Gourd-200gms
Potatoes (cut into wedges)-200gms
Sliced onion-100gms
Refined Oil for frying
Salt-TT
For the Stuffing:
Mustard oil-30 ml
Saunf-5 gms
Ajwain- 5 gms
Kalonji- 5 gms
Cumin- 5 gms
Chopped onion-100 gms
Ginger Garlic Paste- 15gms
Amchur Powder-5 gms
Red Chili Powder-5gms
Coriander Powder- 5 gms
Jeera Powder- 5 gms
Garam Masala powder- 5 gms

Method of preparation:
• Scrape the bitter gourd to make it smooth from the surface.
• Slit the bitter gourd and deseed it.
• Fry till it is cooked.
• Fry the potato wedges on low heat, till golden brown.
• Toss it in a spice mixture of amchur, salt, red chili powder, jeera powder and garam masala powder, and coat it evenly.

For the Stuffing:
Heat mustard oil in a vessel; add saunf, ajwain, kalonji & cumin.
Sauté onion & ginger garlic paste.
Add salt, red chili powder, garam masala powder, coriander powder,jeera powder & amchur.
Cook till the mixture is completely dry.
Stuff in the cooked bitter gourd.

Plating:
Take Mustard oil, saute sliced onion, add the stuffed bitter gourd and potatoes; toss well and serve.

 

Makki Roti-Sarson da Saag {Corn meal flour flatbread with Indian-styled mustard greens}

An irreplaceable classic combination in Punjabi cuisine, the roti is prepared using corn flour and is served with Sarson ka Saag/mustard greens. The addition of carom seeds and coriander leaves enhances the roti’s crisp texture by adding a nice aromatic touch. The abundance of flavour and nutrition packed in this meal is amazing! The blob of butter on the top completes the meal… you’ve just got to try it the Punjabi way!

225r Makke di Roti aur Sarson da Saaga

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White butter, green chillies, jaggery and radish

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INDIAN FLAT BREADS

Roti, Naan, Laccha Parantha and Missi Roti {Indian flat bread made with a combination of wheat flour and gram flour and seasoned with spices}

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These popular Indian flat-breads were wonderfully delicious with an aromatic flavour

 

RICE

Bataer Pulao {Quail Dum Biryani}

I have said it before and I’ll say it again – I love the vastness and diversity that Indian cookery has to offer! Experiments are never reined in by this cuisine and spices are used prudently in almost every dish. A cuisine that beautifully flirts with a wide assortment of ingredients; and at ITC Gardenia this lovely flirtation continues at a very creative level.

Satisfying, flavoursome and full of complimenting textures, the Quail biryani garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves was a pampered, fragrant, rice delicacy!

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DESSERT

So, my indulgence continued with a dessert platter that could make anyone beam with joy! These are by far my favourite Indian sweets…

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Gajar Ka Halwa {Indian winter carrot pudding garnished with almond slices}

The indulgent Carrot Halwa – prepared using khoya {a thickened form of milk that forms a base in most Indian sweets} is comfort food for me. Khoya and ghee give richness to the halwa while warm spices like cloves and cardamom infuse it with an unmistakable flavour and aroma.

Saffron Pista Stuffed Gulab Jamun

Gulab jamuns are soft dumplings which are deep fried in ghee before being immersed in a fragrant, sweet rose syrup. Their smooth, velvety texture, their soft inner and the amazing feeling that you get as it melts in your mouth makes this Indian dessert a favourite in many states.

Kulfi Falooda {Indian ice cream flavoured with saffron, garnished with nuts and served with vermicelli}

The Malai Kulfi here is prepared in-house from milk that is slow cooked for hours before all that is left of it is the rich malai. It is then placed on a bed of sweet basil seeds and falooda noodles. Topped with rose syrup and presented with a garnishing of nuts and dry fruits, this is a dish that pampers your soul. A truly refreshing summer dessert that is hard to resist especially on a hot sultry day.

 

End note: A menu that weaves a tale of Punjab’s rich heritage through food. Chef Arshdeep Singh and his team have judiciously put together the best of Punjab in this delightful food fiesta!

This promotion is on until February 25th, 2017 and the buffet is priced at INR 1850++

Address: Cubbon Pavilion, ITC Gardenia, # 1, Residency Road,  Bengaluru 560025
Timing: Dinner only; 7.30 pm- 11.30 pm
For more information, please call +91 80 4345 5000 or contact Preet/Raghav +91 9916075267/+91 9650536643

 

*Disclaimer: This review was done on an invitation from the restaurant. Due judgement and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review.

Photography: Karthik Shankar

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* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *

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