Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Indian Harvest - a review of my new favourite Indian restaurant!

If you have had your eye on my doings off late, I have been most excited about my latest venture, Masala Trails, culinary tours of India. I have also been overwhelmed with the response and encouragement of family, friends and my peers in print and online media. Masala Trails was born because I was frustrated at how selectively Indian Cuisine is showcased.

A Keith Floyd chucks every tried and tested Indian Culinary traditions around with gay abandon with handfulls of 'tyumeric' flung into curries, a Jimmy Chinn shows it complete disrespect by topping a Jowar porridge with White Truffle oil and if one was to believe Gordon Ramsay one would think real Indians eat wild boar, ant chutney and elaborately stuffed whole goat Biryanis. Don't get me wrong, I respect each of these individuals in their own right, love their shows. I don’t even blame them, Indian cuisine is so vast it would be impossible to squeeze into a few hours of airtime and one would need to resprt sensationalising a few things for TRPs. But I do feel that they could follow a few rules.

In my research for Masala Trails, I have found many a chef, home cook and restaurant that serves up unique food that comes from a keen understanding of food and ingredients, sound knowledge of the cuisine and pure unadulterated passion to put oput the best they can on a plate! Unfortunately most of the time, these iconic little restaurants never quite make it to the culinary maps of gastronomes, because they do not have investors with deep pockets to fuel marketing initiatives and PR drives. And I have just come home from lunch at one such jewel.

I was hosted by Meher and Satyen Dasondi, who describe themselves as a husband and wife duo with a collective 45 years of experience in the hospitality industry who set up ZEUS Restaurants & Allied Pvt. Ltd. (ZRAPL) to realise a lifelong dream of running a restaurant. Indian Harvest – Luxury Dining is their first (of three) planned restaurants and offers traditional, un-pretentious Indian recipes served in a contemporary fashion. 

But they are too modest, because what I saw in the two hours I spent with them was the sort of magic that can only come from strong teamwork, a passion for food that takes it to the status of art, and an eye for details that can only come from putting everything you have into the work you do.

You will rarely catch me going out to eat Indian food and you certainly would not find me going out of my way for it. But when your favourite teacher from school (who you are lucky to count amongst one of your dearest friends in adulthood), asks you to do something, you do it, no questions asked. That is what got me to Indian Harvest. That I will go back again and again, is a result of one of the most charming dining experiences I have had in a while. I eat out alot. But only superlative dining experiences make their way onto this blog. This was one. This one has an A Perfect Bite stamp of approval!

The Purple Wire - a blackcurrant slush. Please not the glass is rimmed with chaat masala which makes adds a delicious zing to every sip. I thought this could have done with a little lemon and salt in the actual drink to cut the sweetness somewhat. 

The Summer Snow - My favourite of the three drinks! This was a surprising blend of apricot and peach that was subtly spiced with fresh mint. I tasted hints of passion fruit, that I suspect came from the mixing of the two fruit.

The Indian Parakeet, the drink with the most visual OOMPH! This is strawberry layerd over kiwi and although you can mix it, I don't reccomend you do, because the two bits are best individually savoured.

Kajuwale Hare Kofte - Crisp savoury, subtly spiced green gram kofta gave way to a surprising cashew filling. And the house sauce, a thinnned down pureed Paav bhajji made the perfect pairing!

Kombdi Patra Hirvi Chutney - Take a many layered Gujarati Patra, stuff it with chicken and a green chutney like a Parsi Patra ni Machchi, batter and deep fry the whole thing and this is what you end up with. These I could have eaten all day! I missed a fresh citrussy chutney to moiten it it but not too much! I was also told that it should have come with a hirvi chutney but the red sauce came by mistake.

The Rajasthani Methi Churan Bhindi - guaranteed to make an Okra lover of the worst Bhindi hater, these are a house special of batter fried okra that are the most popular dish on the menu. It was hard to stop with a coupld of bites once I started!

Gosht Ke Dahi Barre - These jewels of mincemeat were true perfection and came carefully draped in a yoghurt sauce flavoured with a house spice mix. The combination of the subtly spiced meat and the yogurt sauce leaves an extremely addictive Umami aftertaste in the mouth. My only complaint was that I needed a little more of the yoghurt sauce to dip them in!

Paneer Makai ke Gujiana - the crisp vermacelli coating gives way to a velvetty corn studded interior, in these savoury bits of tactile splendour. They have to be the sexiest Cheese balls I have ever seen or eaten! A fruity salsa on the side is the only thing I missed! Also I LOVE how well this picture has turned out!

Tale Adraki Jhingey - Perfect perfect gingered and batter fried prawns. The golden crust gave way to succulent subtly spiced DELICIOUSLY moist prawns.

Badan Guchi - a simple mushroom soup, creamed with almond, subtly tempered with a bit of whole spice. The perfect way to progress from starters to main course. And I love the whole sprigs that delicately lean down from each dish, so elegantly unusual. Even the centrepieces at the tables are a porcelein bowl with a single heart shaped leaf peering over the side.

Marghi ni Aleti Paleti - sweet spicy chicken and liver tossed together on top of toast garnished with a scattering of salli or potato sticks. I am not a lover of Liver and Kidney, but this I could eat again and again!

Dum Hyderabadi Murg - spring chicken slow cooked in a Hyderabadi style, a family recipe that Meher inherited from her family cook. Tender chicken, slow cooked in fresh spices and her signature spice blend, made it hard to stop eating, especially when the spices left a burst of flavour in the mouth! And every main course comes with a signature house salad, on a single sesame potato and a saria, the sago wafer that is served before a Parsi wedding feast.

Aloo Makhana Chettinad - you cannot go wrong with potatoes, but this is an example of just how RIGHT you can go with them! Baby potatoes, tender shallots, crunchy makhanas tossed together in a south Indian Chettinad style gravy... addictive! I could have sat and picked out every little shallot, then the makhanas and potatoes and ended satiated only when every bit of the sauce was in my tummy!

Meher's signature Yakhni Biryani - I am one of a rare breed, an Indian that does not know why there is such a fuss made over Biryani. and if forced to eat a biryani I will RUN from oily heavily spiced versions. But Meher is especially proud of her Biryanis. because she has created each one from scratch. I tasted two, this yakhni one, that again married chicken, spices and yoghurt into a delicious Umami flavour that has seeped into the rice. The other was her Bhakalli biryani, another recipe she picked up from her family cook from Bhatkal in the south. That was also distinct. redolent of Curry leaves, fresh spices and green chillies, deliciously zingy and totally different from the Yakhni. FABULOUS.

Indian Harvest – Luxury Dining offers traditional & un-pretentious Indian recipes served in a contemporary fashion. The restaurant is open to non-members & all general public. Address is Indian Harvest, Gate No. 1, Acres Club, Hemu Kalani Marg, Next to Bhakti Bhavan, Chembur East, Mumbai 400071; Telephone no.: 022-65169338 022-65169338 / 65169339). Our restaurant offers 100 seats & is divided in to 2 parts – an Indian sit-down section that has 26 covers & the balance 74 are in the main hall.


Curry Spice said...

excellent post. and really nice pics. Cannot wait to try it out myself

Curry Spice said...

uknow the other thing i liked.. is purely contemporising indian food with doing 'fusion'. very rare now.. and very refreshing to see. Nice take on the patra


Some really inventive stuff here, Rushina, and I am glad that you chose to showcase it. The photogaphs are SUPERB and really bring the food alive. As usual, your writing is suffused with your own passion for the Gourmet things of life.
Two points -
1. Would have liked to know PRICES and the cost of AN AVERAGE MEAL FOR TWO.
2. Why call it LUXURY DINING ? Is this tag, in your opinion, going to attract a larger audience ? I think NOT, but would love to know what prompted this tag line.
Cheers - Avi

Rushina said...

From the restuaranter at Indian Harvest

@curryspice - look forward to having you over...we aren't doing indian food with global fusion - we are just serving traditional dishes in a contemporary manner & probably the only 'fusion' that one would see would be a fusion of inter-state fusion that blends well. However, we have had many a guests asking for 'fusion' food & we have humbly kept it in abeyance for the time being.

@Avininder - APC ranges between Rs. 350-500 for food per person. With alcohol it could range from Rs. 450 upwards per person.

@avininder - The tag line was intentional. Our concept is about serious dining & luxury to us is about the quality & craftsmanship of our food & us offering remarkable service to complement that....hence we used 'luxury dining'. - Yes on hindsight now, it may deter a larger audience; but we are hopeful that our offering will be sampled by more and more food lovers.