Whether it’s Italian or Indian that is your cup of tea, binge on pizzas and biryanis on a budget this week

Outside, the heat is inescapable: a scorching sun seems determined to roast us to a shrivelled brown. Within the swanky interiors of Dimora, there is heat of a different kind: there is the roasted toss-up of rice, meat and spices presented in 10 avatars of the biryani, and then there are the fiery embers glowing inside a svelte Italian designed oven where thin pizzas are being fired.

The May offer on biryanis from across Indian regional cuisines along with pizzas, prepared as close to the traditional Italian way, is a combo that allows you to binge on a budget. The Italian-Indian combo is the restaurant’s attempt to entice customers with Indian food and introduce them to Italian, in a city which has a dearth of Continental options. “When people see the ambience, they may hesitate to step outside. We hope to entice people to try our food and introduce them to new cuisines,” says Dinesh, managing partner. “Once you try a wood-fired pizza, you can never go back to the chain produced ones,” claims Dinesh. For those used to the traditional thick crust cheese-bursting pizza, the wafer-thin pizzas, come as a pleasant surprise. Freshly made dough smeared with tomato puree spiked with garlic and basil is topped with mozzarella cheese, shredded chicken and jalapenos. The pizza is pushed into a brick oven and cooked within five minutes.

Stewards smartly dressed in black march up with 10 plates, each a different type of biryani, for us to sample. Though the menu description and the presentation do little to excite the palate, the gentle but persistent aromas persuade us to dig deeper. “We have tried to replicate the colour, taste and authenticity of the biryanis of various regions as closely as possible,” Thanigachalam, a veteran chef from a star hotel in Chennai who has been roped in to design the menu, informs us. The Ambur Kozhi biryani, with its distinctive seeraga samba rice and understated dash of spices, is the best choice for those who prefer to stick to a selection from closer home; the Dindigul biryani does not have much to write about.

A personal favourite was the Andhra biryani, where each spoon leaves the lingering zest of the green chillies dancing on the tip of the tongue. The popular Hyderabad biryani with the layers of rice bears a hint of the rose water used as garnish. The Karachi biryani is a tad spicier and sweeter than its Hyderabadi cousin. For meat lovers, the Peshawari biryani with minced meat that is embroiled so well with the rice that it hard to figure where one stops and the other starts. The Gilli biryani, with meat soaked in tomato based mutton roganjosh gravy is worth a try. The Mughal biryani is a milder version with cream and cashews. For seafood lovers, there is the Malabar biryani. Though it doesn’t make a great first impression thanks to the overtones of squid, the prawns and rice prove tantalising as one sinks in. For vegetarians who demand biryani, Noor Mahal, innovatively filled with cheese balls made of cottage chess, is the only option on the menu.

Dimora offers a special menu with pizzas priced at Rs.99 and biryanis for Rs.123 till May 16.