The food is rich and varied at the ‘biryani and kabab festival’ at Hotel Sangam

Rain played spoilsport last weekend. Yet, the open courtyard of the Chettiar house – at the Aathangudi restaurant in Sangam Hotel -- had only two tables vacant. The smell of wet Earth was weakened as the strong flavours of the Mughals stole the way. The secret recipes of Sous Chef Azhagu Raja behind the succulent kebabs and steaming hot biryanis appeared to be delighting all those who braved the downpour.

The weather, music, ambience, everything was perfect to treat the stomach to a wonderful meal. But, for the mosquitoes. Though the dining area is sealed with net doors, the staff needs to do much more to rein in the irritants if customers have to eat in peace and enjoy the wholesome and flavoursome food.

A vegetarian is usually a loner in kebab environs but the chef has ensured there is a fine melange of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies made of well chosen exotic spices and ingredients. “Kebabs are all time favourites,” he says, letting out a small secret. He got the idea of this special “kababs and biriyani festival” from “The Great Kabab Factory” at Chennai’s Radisson Blu where he worked earlier.

“No”, he quickly smiles, I have not hijacked their menu.” “Keeping the local taste in mind, I have tweaked the assortments.” He says though the regular ingredients such as cumin, coriander, garam masla, jaljeera, black salt, saffron, maida, ghee have gone into the preparations, aijwain is his mainstay.

Its time to embark on the food trail after the soft-spoken chef wins the debate over whether it is “kababs or kebabs”. Spell it either way, the enticing combos were a perfect teaser.

Not my favourite vegetable, I quickly get over the ‘phool gobi shorba’. The wait for the hariyali mushroom tikka, dahi samosa and Lucknawi broccoli is little long. But I don’t mind as it is fun to watch the speed and synergy of activities of the open kitchen through the mesh. One cook swirls the maida dough on his finger tips as it smoothly expands to the shape of an umbrella and turns into a rumali roti. Another slides the chicken, mutton or lamb pieces on the seekhs and shoves it inside the big tandoor. Another chops and cuts the cooked items with flair and decorates the plates with colourful salads before they reach the tables.

For the main dish, the chef recommends ulta parantha galauti, rumali roti and subzi-miloni but it also gets filed up with tangy machi ajwain, juicy achari paneer talwar, sumptuous Lucknowi murgh biriyani. I can’t miss digging into the chatpata tandoori aloo or ploughing through the firm anananas ka tikka or the chef’s special haraa-bhara kabab which marvellously holds itself from crumbling. I am compelled to tell the chef I am trying to diet and also want to leave space for the desserts.

Surely, the kababs are succulent and the aroma of the entire spread intoxicating. Instead of going for a la carte items which come in for Rs.69 to 299 each, a good choice would be to go for the veg (Rs.499 plus tax) or the non-veg (Rs.599 plus tax) platter. It is elaborate and completely filling with sweets ranging from the dry jamun called langcha to saffroni phirni, shahi meetha and matka kulfi. Take your pick and rewind to imperial kitchens of Mughal emperors in your imagination.

The festival is on for the next three weekends. It opens Friday to Sunday nights only from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. For details and reservations call 4244555 or 2537531

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