The timing couldn’t have been better. It’s the month of patriotism and I got a chance to taste flavours from the regions of undivided India at Indus Express at Vivanta by Taj Dwarka. An authentic Indian restaurant, Indus Express offers flavours from Rawalpindi, Amritsar, Khyber, Lahore, and Pothovar (now Peshawar and Pindi).
If Chef Elangovan (Executive Chef) and Chef Pranshu Kanwal had their way, there would have been 200 items on the main menu! Those are the number of items that were brought to the table after months of extensive research through the regions. Of those the best 42 were selected for what formed an extensive menu until now. There will be an addition of more items now taking the count to 51. What’s also new is the Sampler which gives you a taste of the best of the menu. And that is what we were invited to taste.
You can opt for a vegetarian (Rs 1650) or a non-vegetarian (Rs 1850) sampler. I, obviously, opted for the latter. The menu starts with shorba: Yakhni or Tamatar Dhaniya. Prepared in true Kashmiri style, it is slow cooked for about eight hours. The extremely tender lamb pieces make this clear broth delectable.
After this, came a uniquely designed thali with a bowl each of different items. A plate was placed in between for the breads and rice.
Wanting us to get a distinct flavor of each dish, the chef requested us to taste all the items individually instead of mixing the gravy dishes with rice like most of us usually do. And that is how you should sample this platter too. The thaali consisted of: Peshawari Seekh Kebab, Dum Moorgh Lahori, Nihari Gosht, Baigan Mizaz, Laal Mirch Tadka Palak, Farmers Lentil Curry, Afghani Kabuli Pulao, Burani Raita, and Ankurit Dal ka Salad.
The most outstanding item on the table was Peshawari Seekh Kebab. For it is here that I tasted truly authentic flavor of seekh kebab. At most places, seekh kebab is melt-in-your-mouth tender. If it’s true to its original flavours, seekh kebab should be chunky. And that’s how it is served at Indus Express. Grilled to perfection, the kebab was spicy but luscious. (I can still get its flavour in my mouth while writing about it!)
How did you ensure the dishes have truly authentic flavours, I asked the chefs. The answer lies in the training they underwent before launching the restaurant. The chefs found their mentor in an Ustad originally from Pakistan and a chef from Kashmir and aced the fine art of cooking authentic dishes under their strict guidance.
Getting us the flavours of Lahore, Dum Murgh was another dish that stood out. Simmered in Lahori Gravy, the dum cooked chicken drumstick was ‘lip-smackingly’ creamy.
One main reason for the exceptional flavours here is that they use only hand-pound spices. That makes all the difference. Doesn’t it?
If there is a Nihari on the menu, it deserves a mention anyway. Needless to say, at Indus Express it is one of the dishes you must try. A power meal for the Mughals back in the days, Nihari was cooked for one whole night and served early morning at sunrise. Slow cooked for about eight hours, Nihari Gosht here has the most sublime flavours. Have it with Khamiri Roti to get the best out of it.
Taste the specialty of Faisalabad with Baigan Mizaz. The most interesting things about this dish is that it is cooked without tomatoes. Take a look at the picture and you wouldn’t believe it to be true.
In fact, none of the items here use tomatoes because that’s how it authentically was. Roasted aubergines cooked with aromatic spices, these have a hint of lemon for the tanginess. Another dish that surprised me was
Burani Raita which apparently did not have any salt. One couldn’t tell so from the taste. While the items I have delved upon were the stars, other dishes too were delectable enough to make it a meal I’d definitely go back for. And I could also go back for the handmade fig ice cream. Simply divine!
I probably would have gorged on Seekh Kebab and Dum Murgh leaving the rest had it not been for the sampler menu. And so, I found the concept of sampler quite excellent. You get to taste different flavours without letting one dish overpower the taste. Go try!