Kashmiri food in sylvan surroundings
Atmospherics: though the address of J&K House is 5, Prithvi Raj Road, the entrance is from the Amrita Shergill gate. Whether you are allowed to park inside the compound or on the road is largely a function of the security ruling du jour. There is a small fountain in the courtyard, a glass cabin selling nouvelle Kashmiri handicrafts, a few tables out in the open and Mealability, also in a glass cabin that seats 24 persons. Though there are Kashmiri elements, they are all contemporary; no age-old handicrafts here. The food is served on metal platters, with katori-like bowls, where appropriate. In this weather, the courtyard is a wonderful place to sit: the tinkle of the fountain and the breeze afforded by the overhead trees is a large part of the magic of a meal here. Most of the food can be ordered as part of a platter.
Table talk: Every Kashmiri caterer’s nightmare is to provide ‘appetizers’ in a cuisine that has none. Haakh kebabs (Rs 399) are a genius idea that is likely going to be plagiarized very soon. Collard greens have been cooked simply, ground to a paste and deep-fried, after being crumb coated. You are very likely to order the vegetarian (Rs 999) or non-vegetarian (Rs 1199) tasting platter. Nadru yakhni, tomato paneer, dum aloo, haakh and khattay baingan will each be served in katoris around a mound of rice in the vegetarian platter. In the non-vegetarian version, you will be given gravied chicken, roghan josh, goshtaba, mutton kaliya and rista. It is notoriously difficult to cook Kashmiri wazwan outside the Valley: it is essentially a banquet meal where the animals are slaughtered, the food is cooked and served all in a continuous process. Rejigging it for a restaurant format is a compromise, but one that has to be made. Also, pieces of meat are rather larger in a Kashmiri meal than elsewhere and certain cuts of meat are used for specific dishes.
Plus and minus: a regional cuisine served in attractive, upmarket settings is a dream for many. Service can be slow and I’ve heard (but not experienced) reports of inconsistency in the food. What irked me is the size of the seekh kebab, which had been cut very obviously to go around further: just make smaller kebabs, no?
Food: 3.50; Service: 3.25; Décor: 3.75
5 Prithvi Raj Road (entrance from Amrita Shergill Marg only)
Open from 12.30 pm to 3.30 and 7.30 to 11 pm
Credit cards; no alcohol served
Meal for two: Rs 2,200