;Aquum (pronounced Acume) is run by the Qureshi brothers, offspring of the legendary Imtiaz Qureshi of ITC Welcomgroup fame. It has a heavy, dark look at lunch time, but sparkles at night. And though the kebabs run the gamut from barely passable to good, the curries are the best in their category anywhere in the city. As for the biryani? I can’t wait to go back for more!
The Qureshi brothers are, not surprisingly, on home territory for the chicken and lamb kababs. Peshawari Murgh Tikka (Rs 359) was succulent and had the optimum amount of spice to complement the main ingredient. The Kakori and Galawati Kabab (Rs 379 each) were expectedly good. I detected a rather too generous hand with the grated papaya, but the fact that you are getting the glories of Lucknow for so competitive a price means that shortcuts are being taken.
My personal favourite was the Malai Seekh (Rs 359). Innovations had been done on the good ole chicken seekh kebab. It was filled with a ginger-garlic-mint-coriander paste and napped in hung curd and cream. The menu said that “cheese and spices” are added. Cheese in kababs are my pet peeve, so I’m glad to report that you cannot taste it. Malai Seekh is a royal kebab that is low on spice and high on flavour. Highly recommended.
The vegetarian kebabs are nowhere near the quality of their non-vegetarian counterparts. Thus, the Harra Kabab (Rs 279) had too dense a texture, the Aloo Moti Tikki (Rs 279) was an artery-clogger of a deep-fried morsel and the Paneer Dudhiya Kabab (Rs 279) had too little going for it to recommend it.
Though the Mirch Baingan ka Salan (Rs 329) is excellent – flavourful with a tang – the Dal Dum Awadh (Rs 229) beats it hollow. Try cooking masoor dal so that, on one hand, it is fully cooked and on the other, is not mushy: almost impossible! Lip-smacking with the addition of chunky tomatoes and enough spice to make it interesting but not enough to drown the pulses themselves, it was the surprise of the menu. (Dal Qureshi – black urad – is also featured, but I did not try it).
The qormas and qaliyas of Aquum is where the real excellence lies. Lucknowi Nehari (Rs 399) is a too-inexpensive-to-be-true lamb gravy where one can discern a mildly gelatinous gravy of lamb shanks that have been slow-cooked till the lamb turns incredibly tender. It is Qureshi cooking at its best. No one flavour dominates, but like an orchestra, each element helps to achieve the final result.
The Murgh Rizala (Rs 349) is a mild gravy that is more elegant than its counterparts in Kolkata. You can taste the pounded almonds in it. Recommended for those whose spice tolerance levels are low.
I cannot praise the Dum Gosht Lucknowi Biryani (Rs 399) highly enough. Full-bodied, spicy and bursting with flavour, it is served in a sealed dough-wrapped clay pot, has a generous amount of lamb chunks in it and is a treat with nothing more than Raita (Rs 89). Now, where else in South Delhi would you be able to enjoy a five star meal of biryani and raita for less than Rs 500? <I>And<I> you can order a chilled beer to wash it down!
GF 11, 12, 14A, D-2 Southern Park Mall, District Centre, Saket
(behind Select Citywalk)
Open from 12 noon to 1 am
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Meal for two: Rs 1,200