Wednesday 9 September 2015

K&K at ITC Grand Central -Parel, Mumbai

We were sailin' through familiar seas and I had me looking glass glued to me eye. I was looking for a place that I had visited many moons ago. Soon enough, I spotted it on the horizon. An island with a lone grand palace on it. Unlike last time, the ship was in good health and I was just on the look out for fine grub.

As we approached the island, the radio buzzed. The message told something about a restaurant in the palace celebrating its birthday. Eh! people celebrate birthdays, how does a restaurant do it? Intrigued, I chose that restaurant for my excursion. There be something special about it, I could feel it in me bones.

The erstwhile Kebabs and Kurries renamed itself to K & K. It is an award winning restaurant that is primarily known for North Indian grub especial Kebabs. (Psst, The name was a giveaway.) The establishment is celebrating its tenth Budday...err anniversary in a grandiose fashion. ITC Hotels had summoned eight of its finest Chefs from across India to Mumbai in a celebration fit for a king or at least a greedy Kebab lover like yours truly.

The Ala-carte menu for this event offers forty (yes you read that right) different Kebabs covering eight different cities and local cuisines. Sadly, the event lasts only till 13th September which means you can read this later and head to K&K right now. Its truly a celebration of Kebabs or Jashn-e-Kebab.

I had been invited to a Blogger's table event in which one could sample sixteen of these forty kebabs. I was thankful that it was not forty. It would have been too much to eat and write about. But sixteen is not a small number either. I wonder if I made it into some kind of record books for the most number of different gourmet kebabs eaten in a day. Oi Guinness! are ye listening?

The restaurant has a typical North Indian-Mughalai appearance. The golden lights and decor work well. Although, I found the ceiling work to be a tad bit of a mismatch. One is greeted with an open kitchen where one can see the grub being made. The restaurant defines itself into three regions - The Maidan(Open Ground), The Kheema and Qila(Fort). Maidan is meant for small groups as visible on the lower floor of the above picture, Qila is slightly elevated giving people a view over the entire restaurant and the Kheema is more for community folks on a large communal table.

This is where we sat.

The evening opened with a glass of sparkling champagne and soon enough each of the eight chefs presented two Kebab dishes each. Each Chef brought their signature style of cooking and regional influences on the table. North, South, East, West and Center - Most of India was covered in their collective work.

Gulnaar Kali
A Chef who has been working for twenty eight long years in the ITC Grand Central Kitchens, Chef Haji Mohammad Farooqui has certainly mastered his craft. These tender, succulent Lamb Kebabs were so good, that I compared everything after this with it. It was the paradigm of a good kebab. This had a very North Indian and homely feel to it. Its a cuisine one would rarely come across outside Lucknow. These Kebabs were cooked overnight in malt vinegar and a collection of fine spices. It is said that these Kebabs were once served in royal courts of Mughal emperors and somehow the recipes have survived though a few chefs.

Captain : Oi, as Captain I ask you to give me your Gulnaar Kali.

Crewmate : Mighty nice of you to come straight Captain. But sadly I cannot give you my Kebabs.

Captain : You are disobeying your Captain mate?

Crewmaten : Heavens No Boss. Just that I already ate em'. :D

Peekaboo its Guftaguu - ITC respects its Vegetarian customers and as a result each chef had at least one vegetarian craft on offering. Chef Haji's kebabs are made of minced Cabbage mixed with saffron and cardamom. Although I am not a big fan of either cabbage or vegetarian grub, the melt in your mouth trait of these Kebabs was certainly appealing. These would dissolve right away leaving the spicy mixture as an after taste.

Chef Sundar from ITC Grand Chola presented the Kovalam Vathu Ulartyathu Kebabs. Lets call em KVUs for now. These tender morsels were made of Kerala style pot cooked duck. All right, this was my first time eating a duck so excuse me if I am incorrect - The meat didn't taste that different from chicken but the spice mixture in which it was cooked was quite potent. It was spicy and strangely the addictive kind of spicy. The flavors seemed to permeate deep into the meat making the entire bite a flavorsome experience.

Captain : Duck tastes much like Chicken.

Crewmate : For a lover of fine food, that sounded very naive Captain.

Captain : Who cares? I enjoyed the duck and the spice mix was lip smackin' good.

Vazahapoo Pertati
Chef Sundar's banana blossom and spiced potato Kebabs had a new flavor for me. Though I did not find myself liking this newly experienced flavor of banana blossoms.

Chef Surat Singh from ITC Mughal brought forward the Sarsonka Machi Kebabs. These were made of Fresh water sole. The kebabs were cooked in a mustard marinade, stuffed with chilies-spices and charcoal grilled. The chef wrapped them with a thin slice of eggplant as a finishing touch. These were juicy, soft and almost perfectly cooked. Mustard and fish go very well together.

Kache Kele Ke Kebab had a lot of K in it but apart from that, these were made of minced raw banana wrapped in mace and green cardamom. Though I am not originally fond of Raw Bananas in Indian cooking, Chef Surat had really worked the spices well in this chargrilled banana kebab. The Kebabs tasted much like potato kebabs and they easily got lost in the mouth. These were not the melt in mouth kind but somewhere quite close. It was a unique experience.

Chef Gunjan Goela presented her vegetarian only Kebabs made with a lot of old world knowledge.
Vrantikam Kebabs were well plated. It resembled Tacos in some sense. These were made of thick slices of eggplant stuffed with onion and hungcurd. I however could not get over my dislike for eggplants to enjoy the dish. The thick slices of eggplant did not appeal to my palate at all.

Shabarkand was again well plated and this one synced well with me. These were made of sweet potatoes  cooked in charcoal. These were served with sweet and tangy chutneys and topped with pomegranate and sev. This had a mix of sweet, salty and tangy sensations. It felt very close to the popular Mumbai street food of Ragda pattice.

Its important to note that Chef Gunjan invented both these Kebabs so it would be impossible to find it elsewhere.

Chef Zaki Kazmi from ITC Gardenia brought a wonderful creation in form of Pathar Ka Gosht.
These lamb escalopes were grilled on stones in a technique only used in Hyderabad. These thin slices of meat tasted great. The yogurt and the mild spices made the flavor creamy and savory. These ended up being one of my many favorites at this event.

Captain : These thin sheets of meat be me favorite.

Crewmate : These get over too fast.

Captain : Your shoe laces are untied mate.

Crewmate : Oh let me check. (Bends) I don't have shoelaces on my sandals... HEY where did my Kebabs go?

Captain : You just said that these get over too fast, right?

Chef Zaki's Gulezar Dhungari Kebab resembled Cigars to be honest. These were tasty juicy vegetarian kebabs and I instantly found a liking to them. These were made of minced Garden vegetables, dry fruits and wrapped in aromatic spices. The Kebabs were cooked on skewers in a tandoor and felt soft with a calming flavor. I am no chef but somehow felt that the flavor could have been enhanced further with the addition of Cheese in the core.

Chef Srinevasu of ITC Windsor brought this succulent shishkebab called as Bijapur Mutton Roast. This kebab was made of roasted and yet juicy chunks of lamb cooked in a style popular in the district of Bijapur. The spice mix was unique and I found the flavor of Star Anise to be a new addition to Kebabs. The kebabs were roasted with curd, almonds and coconut and as a result their flavor had married the meat perfectly. The aroma was quite appetizing as well. If I had to judge on aroma alone then these morsels had the best among the dinner platter.

Chef Srinevasu's Tofai-e-Zameen looked like brown ice hockey pucks. The shape was almost perfect and these had a powdery appearance on the top. These were yam kebabs stuffed with cheese and pomegranate. The flavor was a bit strange with sweetness of yam and pomegranate slightly clashing with the saltiness of cheese. It felt very much like a lentil Kebab due to the chickpea it was wrapped with. Can't say I liked this one.

Chef Akshraj Jodha served us with Achari Maans Ka Shola. These were again Lamb Escalopes with an unique addition of Figs and Rum. But somehow I did not feel Figs and rum anywhere and the flavor felt very Rajasthani. The coriander was strong on this one. Chef Akshraj had fused the Royal desert state's spice mix perfectly with the meat. Its surprising how the same Lamb Kebabs can differ so greatly from chef to chef.

Sangriki Shami by Chef Akshraj did not feel Rajasthani. It strangely felt a bit Kashmiri to me atleast. It was made using a Rajasthani recipe involving cluster beans and Chana dal known as 'khersangri'.

Chef JP Singh of ITC Maurya served great meat and vegetarian kebabs. Jhinga Firdaus Shahi was as good as Gulnaar Kali. These were my two favorite meaty kebabs of the evening. These tender freshwater Shrimp kebabs had a crunchy batter coating and a flavorsome core. These were marinated with Firdaus E Mauj spice mix which I apparently have no idea about. All I knew was that these were crunchy and tasty. Just the way I like them' shrimps. These could make great bar nibbles as well.

Captain : I always love me a crunchy shrimpy Kebab.

Crewmate : What is Firdaus E Mauj?

Captain : Uhh..Why don't you google that while I finish eating...err wait for you to find out :D? 

Crewmate : Wait for me? Yeah right Cappy. >_>

Chef JP Singh's Guchhi Paneer Ke kebab was made of Morel mushrooms filled with cheese. These had a little spice and were a perfect combination of spicy and savory. I don't think there was a person on the table that did not enjoy this kebab. I have eaten many mushroom and cheese combinations but this one definitely has been the best duo in my experience so far. Again this would make a great bar nibble. The flavor felt very Punjabi.

ITC's vegetarian Pulao and Mutton Biryani are quite famous in Mumbai. ITC Grand Maratha is said to have the best Mutton Biryani in all of Mumbai but sibling ITC Grand Central isn't too far behind. The mutton Biryani was less oily and definitely one of the best I have had. In fact, there was only one other place which offered better Biryani.

Gulab Jamun Panna Cotta was brought in by smiling Chef Avani Mudbodri who had created this dessert. The Panna Cotta had perfect consistency and would make the best of Masterchef contestants fume with envy. It was properly fused with the essence of Rose and once could savor the flavor deep within. It was paired with Gulab Jamun and both seemed to go well together. This goes on to say that Indian and Western foods work very well together. If only they stop talking about who is better and start working together (wink). The grainy yellow mixture surrounding the dessert seemed to resemble the flavor of Almonds and Sohan Papdi.

The prices are on the higher side as is the case in any super five star establishment. But how often does one get to experience eight experienced chefs from all over India making forty different Kebabs with many signature recipes that no one else can concoct? KnK seems to enjoy good patronage as there were many patrons seated on other tables. The restaurant appeared crowded.

The servers were professional, very well versed with the grub themselves.

I thank you, if you managed to reach this point. I felt that it was necessary to cover all sixteen Kebabs, each was an unique experience after all. That still leaves twenty four so there is a lot left to explore ha. This is once in a lifetime kind of thing. Sadly it only lasts till the 13th of September so if you love Kebabs, you better head out fast.

The Captain's Score : 9/10

"The Banquet is over, stop being greed lads. SIXTEEN Kebabs should keep ya happy for a week. Time to leave this island...for now."

Map Co-Ordinates
K & K

ITC Grand Central,
287, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road,
Parel, Mumbai

-I was invited by ITC Grand Central as part of a Bloggers and Influencers bunch. The meal was thus on the house.-

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