Kathmandu:

You are welcomed to The Soaltee Crowne Plaza’s Kakori Restaurant as you would have been in the courts of the long vanished Avadh, a small empire that included Lucknow, Kakori and numerous other small towns. We were greeted by Birendra Bahadur Basnet, Food and Beverage Executive and we were served by Mahesh Gautam.

The starter at Kakori is the famous Indian street food Gol Gappa or Pani Puri which is a semolina and potato hollow dumpling with various condiments like yoghurt, tamarind, mint chutney and peas which you load it with and they burst in your mouth increasing the appetite.

The secrets from the kitchens of Nawab Mir Wazier Ali Kazmi of Kakori have been handed down to his sons and grandsons. Today Nawab Syed Nazir Haider Kazmi, the consultant for the Kakori restaurant preserves the legacy and authenticity from the kitchens of his ancestors.

In a typical Kakori meal you begin with the Kakori Seekh kebab created by the late Syed Mohmmad Haider Kazmi who had it cooked as far as perfection could go. He was challenged to make a better Seekh kebab by the British.

The Kakori with a faint taste of chilli or spices gets better all the time. It is said the Kakori has a large content of fat which is good because I have a fat tooth instead of the sweet tooth.

Another favourite is the Galauti Kebabs which are meant to melt-in-your-mouth. It is what Galauti means. Galauti is a smoked kebab using a burning charcoal ember. The spices mingle together with nutmeg leading and they pack quite a wallop.

From the vegetarian kebab platter, we experimented with a green pea kebab which was delicious for vegetarian and non-vegetarians. It is lightly spiced and the taste of the peas is wonderful. If Chef hadn’t told us it was vegetarian I wouldn’t have guessed.

Executive Chef Rajiv Srivastava said of the Yakhni curry and the Yakhni Pualo, “The Yakhni is basically a curry that comes from the juices of the cooking Raan, Nahari Ghost or Nalli Ka Rara and the Pulao comes when you braise the rice in that stock. You add the meat later.” The Yakhni Pulao was as intricate as only a risotto can be and the only Yakhni curry I’ve had that is equal was cooked by Raju at The Indian Ambassador’s Residence.

The Raan-E-Avadh is roasted in its own fat and is mildly flavoured but boldly light at the same time. I remember when the late Ajit Haksar was experimenting with Avadhi cooking for the Maurya Sheraton in Delhi, his version was more robust and much less Avadhi.

The newly added Methi Chilgosa is a true vegetarian delight that mixes fenugreek leaves with pinenuts, spices and burnt garlic. Since the dish is stir fried each ingredient come out. It’s become my favourite, outdoing everything else.

Popular today is The Rara Nalli Ghost that was exactly as I remembered it which is a compliment to the chefs of Kakori since consistency in food is not always possible. Rara is a combination of meat pieces and minced meat which you cook over a slow fire, an essential part of Kakori and Avadhi cooking. The gravy is thick, the meat tender and delicious.

Thinner and lighter is the Nahari Ghost which is best cooked the night before, re-heated in the morning with a touch of mustard oil and farmer’s wives send it into the field for their husbands. The meat comes from the ankle of lamb called Nahari.

Why search for vanished Avadh when you can eat the best of its cooking at Kakori. Call 4273999, 4272555.