The moveable feast : Rich tastes of Saffron

Our menu combines the best and the most unusual of Rajasthani, Lucknowi, Hyderabadi and Punjabi food

Kathmandu :

Saffron in the Shangri-La is the newest flavour in town and its tastes and aromas are likely to spread. As executive Chef Dheeraj and his Saffron Chef Shekawat maintain, “Our menu combines

the best and the most unusual of Rajasthani, Lucknowi, Hyderabadi and Punjabi food.”

The almond, pistachio and saffron flavoured drink thandaai, which originates in Lucknow was declared, “As good as it gets in Lucknow,” by Indrajit Arora, my benevolent banker from The Everest Bank, who applauded the three piece classical musical band Sur Ramaya declaring them a perfect a complement for the food.

Arjun Gurung, late of the Shangri-La Singapore and Saffron incharge, brought on the Ajwani Machhi Ke Tikkey which is a fillet of river sole in a rich marinade of dil, fennel, ginger and honey, cooked in the tandoor. Its taste was light and it had a palate-pleasing after glow.

“Ajawain is good for the digestion,” said Kalpana Arora, who is an expert cook.

Ram Tamang, who was bringing the delectables, presented the Maas Ke Sholay and Indrajit, generally vegetarian, fell off the wagon and declared delicious the lamb in a marinade of cloves, red chilli, yoghurt and kachri (a sour, cucumber-like vegetable from the melon family) and oven cooked on skewers. A mix of spices gets you and the balance goes towards a tender spiciness. Says Indian cooking authority Jiggs Kalra, “In Rajasthan there are as many ways of cooking meat as there are Maharajas. Sholay the ‘smoked’ Rajasthani Kebab, for example, is barbecued in 11 different styles.”

Chef Shekawat who comes from Rajasthan and has served at the Amar Villas Oberoi and the Ram Bagh Palace both in Rajasthan, has a menu tilted towards his native State and his interpretation of Laal Maas was a combination of bliss and perfection with its chilli peppery flavour.

Indrajit was wondering silently about how to bank the recipe while Jiggs Kalra wrote, “Rajasthan’s favourite lamb preparation is only for those with steel-lined stomachs — it is easily the ‘hottest’ dish in Rajasthan.”

And no wonder, classically you have 30 whole red chillies with 1.5 kg of spring lamb.

But it took Chef Dheeraj to explain the Aish-e-Jehaan, which was a Chicken Tikka in a paste of raisins, almonds and poppy caressed by rose petals and mace. “It was created by Hakeem Dulare who mixed the meat with the spices appropriate to his customers health,” said Dheeraj. You get hit by slight sweetness and then comes an under current of spiciness.

But Kalpana, Indrajit and I thought that the Shahi Subz Galouti was probably going to become (along with a Laal Maas and the Aish-e-Jehaan and... everything else) the signature dish of Saffron.

Like the non-vegetarian Galouti Kebab, the Shahi Subz has the same mixture of spices which ranges from saffron to mace to cardamom with a touch of a flowery screw pine essence. It was as light as a dream and so good you didn’t want to wake up. Galouti means melt-and-in-your mouth; it does.

The Biryani was cooked in steam or was Dum pukth and thereby hangs a tale for later, but of Biryanis and this one was perfect, Madhur Jaffrey says, “Biryanis with the layers of meat and rice cooked in a slow oven perfumed with saffron are for grand festive occasions.”

A visit to Saffron at the Shangri-La is just such a festive occasion. Call 4412999