Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pearls of fine dining

Often I have noticed that an out of gamut question like ‘who designed this place?’ to a waiter in Bangalore will intimidate him/her to blurt out a sequence of guttural noises as if I asked him the square root of an eighteen digit number in Swahili. Having said this I should add that the fine dining restaurants in Hyderabad are well designed. They are typically designed by architects with an eye for the appropriate (in Bangalore they are probably designed by butchers or venture capitalists). The waiters are informed, hospitable and have a few things to say about your choice of food too. A remarkable change from the quizzical daze back at home.

I have nothing to do after seven in the evening when I travel. So what do I do? I find better places to eat dinners.

I am in Hyderabad on a long running project and that is exactly what I have been doing. So here I am propounding on a relational study of fine dining between hometown and this new winding swish avatar of the twin cities.

Lebanese was the unanimous choice last night and we landed up in the swank place on Road #2 Banjara Hills in a mall – Zafraan Laguna was the name. The mezze platter was immaculately presented with deep marinated meats three delectable dips of eggplant, chick peas, sour cream and Tabouleh – fine cut parsley mixed with onions, cinnamon, lemon zest and olive oil. The chicken was crispy outside and soft flavored inside. The last I have eaten a similar meal was at Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill in a Dallas suburb. We also got ourselves a grilled river sole, Lebanese style. This did not disappoint us either. Without much ado the fish was cajoled to fill our soul. The adjective here is succulent.

Today we were assaulted by chopped green peppers, comparable to the formidable habanero, hidden in our working lunch sandwiches. I had to call the fire brigade.

This does not deter us from our search for the perfect dinner. We were not too hungry and opted for Malaysian soup and starters – Amana on Road #12 (what’s with these numbers?). The waiter knew that traditional Malaysian carpenters designed the place. Though located in an upmarket wannabe mall, the restaurant from the inside is put together like a renovated heritage home – as spacious as a colonial bungalow. Double height ceiling with a look-down mezzanine, a dark wood bar tucked under it and large fake windows mounted on the walls to complete the mis en scene.

The saltwater jumbo prawn satay was a work of art. The peanut sauce was well textured and perfect. I supplemented this with a crab soup with coriander and egg whites threaded in. The most optimal, satisfying and yet easy-on-you dinner I have had in the near past.

At that point I realized that the Nawabs have moved on with their traditional haleem and biryani for a new set of fine gourmet diners in this city of pearls.

There was also an exception. I will not pollute this post with a rant. Watch this space.