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Bellyful of biryani

There's this place tucked away on Castle Street for biryani lovers


"WHAT ADDS to the biryani's popularity is the fact that it is considered to be an aphrodisiac," informs the graffiti at Biryani Merchant, a restaurant that is definitely understatedly elegant. For all ye uninitiated, Biryani Merchant is located in a quiet and leafy stretch near the bustling Brigade Towers, and is a labour of love for the urbane Vishy Shenoy, CEO of Epicurean

Entrepreneurs P. Ltd. He gave up an international career in marketing to pursue his dream.

The team's other members include Abhik Biswas, a computer professional, and Ramesh Sivaram, an entrepreneur in the processed food industry and a pioneer in food safety.

Shenoy, a self-taught biryani chronicler, says he discovered his raison d'etre the day he tasted his first biryani way back in 1975.

Quintessential

Biryani Merchant, with its logo of a man sporting a `biryani belly', aims to offer the quintessential biryani experience with as many as 40 biryanis. "I was always a biryani buff, but the turning point came at a Bohra wedding I attended," confesses Shenoy who believes that the taste and flavour of the community's biryanis is indeed peerless. "My personal favourite is the Calicut Biryani which is served with vinegar pickles and papads fried in coconut oil," reveals Shenoy, who grew up in that Kerala town. Even as soulful ghazals by Pankaj Udhas played in the background, I got off to a delicious start with the gazak or kebabs that included the bharwan capsicum and paneer pasanda, among others. Three vegetarian and non-vegetarian biryanis comprise the main course. Cutlery is provided if you want, but otherwise you simply roll up your sleeves and go for it. "That's how the biryani is truly relished," Shenoy beams.

Accompaniments



Vishy Shenoy: `I was always a biryani buff, but the turning point came at a Bohra wedding I attended.' -- Photo: G.R.N. Somashekar

The biryanis are served one after the other along with the traditional accompaniments like raitas and salan or gravy, papads and pickles.

The tahiri biryani comes first, followed by the delectable Sindhi biryani, and finally the superb mushroom biryani in the vegetarian section. The burrhani raita, a native of Hyderabad is not to be missed.

The best part in this restaurant is that vegetarians don't feel marginalised. "There are so many popular vegetarian biryanis like the rajma biryani and kathal (jackfruit) biryani unlike elsewhere where you get one standard vegetable biryani," says Shenoy.

Meanwhile, my dining companion, Partha, was tucking into the murg mussallam biryani, Hyderabadi biryani and the Avadhi mutton biryani with gusto. "Very nicely done meat, it's just right," he stated appreciatively between mouthfuls. It is creditable that the biryanis aren't greasy.

Only traditional desserts are served here. The kaddu ka kheer was a refreshing low-calorie surprise. But then, your meal is not complete without the refreshing and aromatic Suleimani chai. Your tummy is actually begging for it after you have tasted some sinful biryanis.

Office crowd

The restaurant is a big draw with office crowd thanks to its location. "We have succeeded in creating hardcore biryani lovers," declares Shenoy with justifiable pride. You can go for the Classic Biryani Experience, priced at Rs. 300, which allows you to sample the biryanis of the day. You also have the choice of having a single biryani, which is priced at Rs. 100 for the vegetarian selections and Rs. 125 for the non-vegetarian. This charming restaurant, done up in vibrant shades of red, yellow and maroon, is an ideal place to chill with family and friends over a leisurely meal. It has a takeaway facility in Koramangala for people on the go.

You can check out Biryani Merchant at 32, Castle Street. Phone: 51128081.

HARIPRIYA SRINIVASAN

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