Subtly flavoured tandoori fare takes centrestage at Magnolia
The management of Magnolia, a slightly difficult-to-find restaurant in. Sector 29 of Gurgaon, is reported to be running a couple of high profile restaurants in Washington DC. You’d never imagine it going by the formulaic desi decor, but the menu is sophisticated and the food even more so. The prices are as low as they only can be in Gurgaon, so my advice is head there fast before the prices head north and the quality south!
I have only tried their tandoori both times I’ve visited Magnolia, but it is a class apart. Nobody else is doing subtly spiced food where the basic ingredient comes into play as much as the spice. Most North Indian restaurants depend on a multitude of spices and unnecessary ingredients (like roasted gramflour and Amul cheese) that drown out the meat completely.
Kakori kebabs (Rs 200) actually taste of lamb, not potli masala and grated raw papaya (papaya is a well-known meat softener in restaurant kitchens). In fact, if there is one fault in the kakoris, it is the absence of potli masala. However, the spicing is subtle and the flavour of the lamb comes through clearly. Somehow, Magnolia’s kakori kebabs hold their shape quite well and don’t crumble all over the place.
Gilawat kebabs (Rs 180) are another good bet. They too melt in the mouth, yet hold their shape well without dis-integrating. They don’t have the punch of potli masala either, that mélange of rare and exotic spices that Luck-now’s cooks use liberally.
Even chicken manages to make a more honourable appearance than it does else-where. Our kali mirch ka tikka (Rs 180) was made with de-boned chicken legs, so that they had a more succulent texture than a chicken breast would. And though coarsely ground black pepper was the most assertive spice, there was the merest hint of others lingering subtly in the background.
The most unusual part about the service, which is as good or bad as any other place, is that both our chicken kebabs were served to us in two parts. First came two pieces of kali mirch ka tikka, then came two pieces of murgh malai kebab (Rs 180) and after a suitably long interval, we were asked if we wanted the rest of our order, whereupon two more pieces of each were served, fresh from the tandoor. The murgh malai kebab was quite different from its country cousins served in other restaurants. There was just a touch of creaminess and the lightest hint of spices. Amul cheese, so beloved of chefs all over Delhi, was fortunately missing from the scene, as was the rather mealy texture of roasted chana dal, which serves to bind all the spices to the chicken meat.
Magnolia does have a curries menu: it is just that I have never gotten beyond their kebabs.
Tender bites: Lightly-spiced, succulent kebabs and tikkas are among the highlights of the menu
Address: Magnolia, Sector 29 Market, Gurgaon (near Lemon Tree Hotel)
Open from: 11.30 am to 11.30 pm
Average cost for two: Rs 1,000
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted