6 January 2009

The Great Kebab Factory - Food Review

Assembly dine
Trisha Gupta. Photograph by Cherian Thomas.

This Delhi institution has long been the favourite of those who want to eat fancy kababs at fairly fancy prices (admittedly, they’re very good kababs, and in unlimited quantities). The newly redecorated version, we’re happy to report, is likely to keep old-timers happy. The system remains the same: the set menu changes daily, you simply declare yourself non-vegetarian or vegetarian, and the food begins to arrive, course by wonderful course.

You’ll need to disregard the confused attempt at rustic chic (exposed brick walls and blue glass lamps that look like rolled-up umbrellas). And the slightly clueless hostesses – who, when making you wait for a table for 40 minutes, do not think to suggest that you sit inside, at the bar, even when you ask for a drinks menu. The drinks, when we did get them, were decent: a classic daiquiri (Rs 475) served by a considerate bartender who thought to ask whether this reviewer wanted her glass with salt on the rim or sugar – and offered extra lime juice of his own accord, and a smoky Lagavulin of 12-year vintage (Rs 625) from the long list of single malts. But after the drinks, there’s one final hurdle to cross – the cabbage and babycorn salad with the lurid, saccharine-sweet strawberry dressing. Once you’ve disregarded that, tuck in your napkins and let the feast begin.

We started with the classic galouti kabab, spiced roundels of minced mutton made tender with papaya. They were absolutely melt-in-the-mouth, and tasted sublime with the ulte tawe ki roti, a slightly sweet, lightly oiled chapatti apparently made on the back of the pan. We cannot recommend the combination highly enough. Next up were the peshawari chooza, a gently spiced, juicy bit of chicken, and a truly splendid version of another classic, the mutton barrah (translated by our waiter as “mutton chop”), which came with two kinds of rotis – sheermal (bread baked with milk, sugar and cardamom) and baqarkhani (a richer version of sheermal, here a little too bread-y in texture). Then came a rather standard murg tikka, a chicken seekh kabab, and the final standout kabab – saffron prawn. This last was a single delectable prawn skewered on a stick, marinated with a mixture of spices that certainly contained the signature saffron, but almost as certainly included some ground mustard seeds. Mustard, as every good Bengali knows, is a very good thing to add to fish or seafood, and it works beautifully here. Our waiter also agreed to let us sample a few of the veggie options, so we can recommend the sabz til ki seekh (a decent vegetable seekh kabab, made interesting by adding sesame) and the kachche kele aur kaju ke kabab, a delicious mix of ground raw banana and cashewnuts.

On the whole, though, you should save space for the wonderful mutton biryani which follows, and ignore the two very average dals, dal factory (boring old kali dal) and dal tadka (plain yellow dal). Look out, though, for the sabzi of the day. We got a rather good aloo hara pyaz, spicy potatoes with spring onions, which we mopped up with a final sinful morsel of garlic naan. A glassful of cooling chhaach, and we were ready for dessert. Refusing the chamcham and kalakand, we stuck to jalebi, only to find that it came with a bowl of creamy rabri which could not possibly be denied.

But don’t leave yet. After a meal such as this, you’ll need the paan.

The Great Kebab Factory, Radisson Hotel, National Highway 8 (2677-9191). Mon-Sun 7pm-midnight; Sun 12.30-2.45pm. Visa and Mastercard accepted. Alcohol available. Meal for two Rs 4,500 (Rs 2,700 + tax for two set meals, plus two drinks).

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