It’s been a cuisine fit for kings. Persia, a fount of ancient civilisations and home to many a great empire over the millennia, has been shaping global cuisine too. Distinctive for its delicate spicing and delicate flavours, traditional Persian cuisine was a huge influence in the kitchens of the Mughals – from whom it spread to most parts of India.
Of course, restaurants offering Persian in India have been rare. A situation that Zarin, the new Indo- Persian restaurant at the Fairmont in Jaipur, seeks to redress. A visit to Zarin could transport you to the magnificence of those erstwhile royal dining quarters.
Just as the name – Zarin – literally gold or gilt edged, suggests, the interiors reflect understated luxury, in line with the rest of the hotel. Amidst a. colour palate of burnished gold, beige and bronze sparkles the occasional specks of emerald and what else – Persian blue – creating a stunning canvas in this 117 cover restaurant. Note that these are not usual tables and chairs, but instead a central table surrounded by U shaped sofas – provided with cerulean bolsters and gold tassels. Add antique brass tableware, teakwood tables and crystal stemware – and your transformation to.
“We wanted an international cuisine that would be easier on the Indian palate,” explains Rizwan Shaikh, general manager, Fairmont Jaipur, commenting on the choice of cuisine. An endeavour to balance the varied holidayers to the city and the rather less adventurous local palates finally took the hotel to the region’s rich culinary past.
Expect a blend of the half familiar and the exotic. Therefore, Shaikh stresses on how an effort was made to create the communal dining experience, an exception example of which is the ‘Emperor’s table’, best compared ballroom dinners of yore.
As for the meal, executive chef Manpreet Singh and his team trained in various parts of West Asia over months to get the flavours right. Many of the signature dishes find prominent place here such as the Aab Gosht (morsel of lamb cooked
A new outpost of Indo-Persian
cuisine in Jaipur could be
trendsetter in India
with chick peas), Mastava (lamb soup – an Uzbek specialty) and the Tabriz Koftey (chicken dumplings with mixed nuts).
Look out for Iranian biryanis served along with matzoon (yogurt refreshment) and salad, Atta Raan (leg of lamb wrapped in sour dough), Iranian Haleem (wheat porridge with flavoured meat proteins or vegetables), and Mahi Zameen doz (fresh fish marinated in aromatic Persian spices and gently grilled and then baked). Do not skip the breads – from the Sheermal to the Bakarkhani, Tanaq, Khamiri and Fitri – these traditional breads can satiate the most demanding palate on their own! A group visit can justify the signature atta raan.
Traditional Persians ate veggies too! If the Subz Irani (Persian style vegetable stew) is too like mixed veggies – disabuse yourself – the spicing is entirely different, and you might end up chasing the chef for the recipe! The Nadru ki Gullar (stuffed lotus stem pods) and Kebab Tokri (a flavoured assortment of stir fried vegetables) are sure hits anyway. Spices such as basil, cumin, saffron and cloves stand out in the dishes.
Even if you have ordered ambitiously and tried to do justice, and are groaning as a result by now – do not skip the final round! Especially the Baklawa platters and Badshahi Faluda (vermicelli combined with milk and rose flavouring).
The strains of Kesariya balam playing live in a corner, or a Kathak performance, live again, may not be to everyone’s taste though! Instead look for terrace seating on a balmy evening as you could be part of a magical Jaipur sunset! It’s a dinner only restaurant for now and costs about n,500 per person!
The much delayed opening of the restaurant is now assuaged by the knowledge that a visit to Jaipur will be incomplete with Zarin!
♦ SUMAN TARAFDAR [email protected]
WiKi of Indian art
Osianama has brought a new venture. Neville Tub’s grand, gorgeous plan is to include all of Indian art, in various media, movies, music and even vintage cars under one banner. He plans to, eventually, make this site easily accessible: a refined, well-designed Wiki of Indian art and cultural history freely available to all. He says this will be one lifetime’s work and useful to many, many others. Hopefully, well begun is half done.
Pundole’s recently auctioned off attractive, well-maintained antique Chinese furniture from the Roshan Sabavala collection. Many Parsis grew wealthy after doing business with China and returned with silks, special saris, wall haifgings and other bounty and beauty like this furniture. A beautiful catalogue described the objects: The presence of a five talon dragon indicates imperial usage. Square backed chairs were deemed worthier than round backs and saved for important guests! Who knew? Books with titles like The Golden Lotus or The Phoenix seeks a Mate describe chairs.
One picture shows a male bully who is hauled up before a magistrate for driving his wife to suicide: “He has however bribed the functionaries so effectively that he is not treated like a criminal but like an honoured guest and is even given a high-backed chair to sit on.” At the height of Chinese furniture making, wooden chairs were made with just four pieces, neatly slotted, without nails, nails being sharp and pointy leading directly to the creation of bad joss. Which we can all do without! The auction had well- made, carefully designed objects, made for pleasure and comfort.
‘R Chef at Home’ is a new, gracious gustatory offering. Nasir Shaikh, director, operations, Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre, thought people who have lovely homes really appreciate them and would prefer to entertain there. Surely, it would be wonderful to have five-star chefs cooking for them right there for special occasions? So, the Renaissance decided to offer this service where, to go with the occasion, it will create ‘exotic’ food, assorted matching decor and a good ambience.
Executive chef Sandeep
Pande has created plenty of really delicious haute cuisine as well as novel risottos, stir- fries, ‘amuse bouche’ food like dips, even mindful of vegan and other uncommon preferences. Vegan or raw food presents novel challenges for many cooks, until they learn it is really delectable, often healthy and easy! His innovative dips and careful organic approach have resulted in truly good and new flavours: a hard act to carry out. For those who do entertain at home in a grand way, this effort could be a great, useful option.
The Renaissance recognised a huge potential for their new concept, ‘R Chef at home’ for some of their clientele that deliberately seeks the best from everything in
life and believes in offering it to family and friends. The concept involves their executive chef, along with his experts, setting up a marvellous decor and cooking exquisite meals paired with rare whiskies, obviously chosen to delight. The chefs include Matta, a specialist in Indian food, Mohamed Yunus Khan, an expert in Muslim cuisine, and others who are a part of India’s new five star creators: well travelled, cognizant of nutritional and religious needs and still working imaginatively, creating food, glorious food!
♦ SWAPNA VORA [email protected]