It is probably one of the most stylish Indian restaurants in this country. The recent makeover has made it more traditional and classical in appearance, while making the food lighter, less spicy and rich yet just as flavourful. DumPukht used to be something of an also-ran compared to its more popular neighbour, Bukhara. However, since the makeover, there’s only one way of ensuring that you get a table, and that is by reserving one well in advance. Is the popularity due to its more vegetarian-friendly menu? To the new interiors? To the lighter cooking? It’s hard to say, but Chef Ghulam Qureshi continues at the helm of the restaurant and he appears to have come into his own.
All of the items on the menu have painstaking descriptions of the ingredients as well as the spicing. However, taste a morsel and you’ll never be able to guess what it is composed of, so skilful is the orchestration of the finished product. Take for example Kham Khatai (Rs 1050), described as delicate aromatic patties of green moong lentils, spiced with brown cardamom seeds, blades of mace and saffron and pan-grilled in butter. It’s a pan-grilled kebab all right, but it would have been impossible for me to guess that moong dal was the chief ingredient. The texture is vaguely like a shami kebab and because the (delicate) spicing is not unlike that of a non-vegetarian dish, kham khatai is a great choice for someone who has turned vegetarian and who misses the flavours of a meat dish.
It’s the same case with Habibia chops (Rs 1350) that are lamb chops marinated with black cumin, black pepper, figs and malt vinegar. There’s not a trace of vinegar or for that matter any other of the ingredients: all have been skillfully blended into a homogenous whole. The chops themselves have been cooked so that they are firm enough to have a definite texture yet are tender. The marinade highlights the chops but does not disguise it.
Mahi sarson (Rs 1550) is, as its name suggests, fish (in this case the delicate, flaky Kolkata bekti) napped in a sauce that is made from pounded mustard. It is served as if DumPukht was a modern Indian restaurant, that is to say, the fish is placed on the serving and poured over with just enough sauce to blanket it. There’s not enough “curry” to eat with a mountain of rice, yet the spicing is traditional, so it is not modern Indian food, neither would such a cuisine sit well in the grey walls and white arches of the re-designed restaurant.
The one disappointment of the meal was DumPukht badenjaan (Rs 1250), a completely un-Indian dish of roundels of aubergines with tomato concasse, topped by hung curd piped out from a piping nozzle. After all that trouble, it didn’t even taste good!
Dum Pukht has made an effort to find its own iconic dal to match that of dal Bukhara. It seems to have found it in maash qaliya (Rs 550), billed on the menu as split green lentils, slow cooked with spinach, ginger and green chilies, tempered with white cumin seeds and topped with browned onions. At the price, it is sure to be ordered by every diner till it becomes as famous as dal Bukhara.
ITC Maurya – The Luxury Collection
Open from 7 pm to 11.30 pm (reservations mandatory)
Credit cards accepted, alcohol served
Meal for two: Rs 4,000