Omer Khushro has inherited his mother’s catering business. Like the best food anywhere, the late Mrs. Khusro did it strictly as a hobby, rather than out of economic necessity. The family is originally from Hyderabad and it is the food of that city that Iram prepares. There is a bunch of cooks, one or two actually dating back twenty years, when the catering business started, that continues to make the orders.
Perhaps the best part about Iram is the gentle (and genteel) Omer Khusro who takes the orders and who suggests the menu for you. And because he too does it as a labour of love in the memory of his mother, it’s not run the way a hard-nosed business would be. The other noteworthy aspect is that even if you catch Iram on a day when they have more orders than they are comfortable with, the quality will be good. Of course, if you order on a day when they’re not busy, the quality will be superb.
The finest dish on the menu is the haleem. Because of market forces (as well as perhaps to prove that they really do use lamb), the meat is not made into a uniform paste, but has a couple of bones. Haleem depends on its silky texture, which in turn, depends on the proportion of lamb to dal. Iram’s haleem does not have the texture of the dal and the spicing is light and subtle.
The spicing of the Dum ka Keema is anything but light: the spices are assertive, but it’s not the spices that give the dish its characteristic aroma, but the doongar: the smoking process that is done with a lighted coal and ghee.
The third dish that impressed me was the Dahi ke Chops. Industrial quantities of coriander powder was used and the gravy – just a tiny bit, mind you – was redolent of this most under-rated of spices.
Fortunately, Iram is not about meat only. The vegetarian offerings outdo their non-vegetarian counterparts. Khatti dal is masoor dal with a healthy dollop of fresh tamarind. The sourness is pronounced, so to that extent, it is an acquired taste, but the smooth texture and the unusual fruity tartness is great. Palak raita is tasty, a cooling counterpoint to all that oily, rich, spicy food. And mirchi ka salan is made from a lip-smacking combination of ground sesame seeds, peanuts and a smidgeon of jaggery. It is a spicy dish however, and one that I would imagine needs to be treated more like a chutney than a sabzi.
A few things didn’t work for me. The tomato ka cut was a standard tomato chutney. The dum ka murgh lacked one dominant flavour and the Hyderabadi biryani mutton was good, but Iram catering is not about good food – it’s about absolutely stupendously great food! On the plus side, if they can deliver acceptable food even on a bad hair day, it just shows how they perform when they’re at their best.
Iram is located in Gurgaon. They deliver your food all over Gurgaon and parts of South Delhi at a flat fee of Rs 300. That is because they cook and serve in the same utensils and the car has to return to your address the following day to pick them up.
H 19, South City 1, Gurgaon
Tel: 95124-4082528, 9811224451
Meal for two: Rs 1,000
Payment: cash only
Orders need 24 hours notice at least.