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Tandoori nights under a starry sky


For a flavour of frontier cuisine.

TALK OF North Indian food, and the immediate association is a tandoor. The new wing at Hotel Rama, on Lavelle Road, boasts of an authentic frontier cuisine, complete with the distinct aroma and subtle flavour of charcoals. Hence the name Charcoals.

This terrace restaurant, on the third floor, is a quaint barbeque sit-out, where you can take in the skyline and fill up on the distinctive frontier flavour. The décor is ethnic and the interesting mosaic motif of the place adds a pleasant touch. One can also watch the food being prepared as the chefs work in the open kitchen.

For starters, there are a variety of kababs, from murg Afghani to Reshmi kababs. The standard selection sounds predictable, but promises not to disappoint. Tandoori pomfret is one of the popular dishes. The fish, marinated in a mix of yogurt, ajwain, and garam masala, is worth a mention. The murg malai uses pieces of chicken with cheese as an unusual ingredient to give it a new tangy flavour. Also on offer is the tandoori jhinga-jumbo prawns, done up in the tandoori style. For that truly frontier feel, the restaurant has lined up the Peshawari kabab, which has boneless pieces of lamb, marinated in authentic Peshawari spices and is grilled. The sikandari raan, a whole leg of spicy mutton is flavoured with red chilly and vinegar. The barrah kabab is another lamb dish, which is recommended by the chef.

Vegetarians need not despair. The restaurant offers the green version of the sheekh kabab. The dal makhni is also worth indulging in. Simmered overnight, it is made from black lentils and red beans, cooked over a slow fire and topped off with cream and white butter. Though there are a number of dishes to choose from, the restaurant could do with increasing the vegetarian options. Tandoori aloo and the tandoori phool (cauliflowers, cooked in the tandoor) are interesting but predictable side dishes which vegetarians often resort to for lack of a better alternative.

The mushroom hara piyaz, however, is one of the more imaginative dishes with its spicy taste and tender mushrooms.

The rice selection is limited, but the breads on offer make up for the lack. One can feast either on rotis, stuffed or plain parathas, naans, onion kulcha or roomali rotis.

These are made so well that they can even be eaten just plain. If the customer is at a loss as to what to order, there is a roti-platter, which includes a generous portion of the breads available.

For dessert, there are three perennial favourites — gulab jamun, phirni, and kulfi.

Says Ipsita Mohan of Hotel Rama: "Charcoals has had a good response so far. We have a mixed crowd coming in. It seems that this type of food is catching on in the City." Given the emphasis on tandoori cuisine, it is understandable that the best ambience is achieved only in the evenings for dinner.

Charcoals has live ghazal performances on a regular basis and there are plans in the pipeline to host a kabab festival.

Meal for two is priced between Rs. 500 and Rs. 600. The restaurant is open from 7 p.m. to midnight. You can call Charcoal on 2273381 and 2273311.

SOMIKA BASU

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