The ongoing biryani and paratha festival at The Residency is a gala affair

It has a rich chocolate filling and comes topped with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Served hot, the ‘ice cream paratha' is a specialty at the ongoing ‘Biryani and paratha Festival' at The Residency. Says executive chef S. Ashok Kumar: “This time, we have 10 varieties of parathas on the menu. Vegetarians can choose from gobi, aloo, mooli, paneer, mutter and beetroot parathas. For the non-vegetarians, there is kheema paratha. The shallow-fried Virudhunagar parotta is yet another specialty.”

And, of course, there is the crispy plain paratha, veechu parotta and kothu parotta. Try the plain parotta with the kozhi milagu kari. This spicy curry goes well with any variety of parotta. The biryani corner is ever crowded, serving out generous portions of steaming-hot biryani off a live dum. Chef Zashimuddin, the biryani master, just can't stop smiling, for the guests keep coming back for more. “We've made sure there is a good mix of spicy and not-so-spicy biryani varieties,” he says.

The murgh Shalimar biryani, for instance, falls in the latter category. The biryani is mild and fragrant, with succulent pieces of chicken. “We've added green chilly paste to the dish instead of red chillies,” explains Zashimuddin. There also is a medium-spiced fish biryani — the jalpari biryani. The soft-cooked fish is mild and flavourful. The gosht sofiyani biryani, the spiciest of them all, is sure to be a hit with biryani buffs. Try it with the delicious mutton dalcha. The butterbeans biryani and mahabarri biryani are a must-try, points out Zashimuddin. “The mahabarri biryani is flavoured with a paste made of green chillies, mint, coriander and parsley,” he says. The masalas for all the biryanis are apparently hand-ground to lend the right flavour.

Making the perfect biryani is an art, and having been in the business since he was a seven-year-old lad, Zashimuddin is an expert. “I learnt the nuances of biryani making from 68-year-old ‘Nabeena' Ustad in Lucknow. My ‘ustad' was blind, but he taught us to get everything from the texture to the taste and flavour just right!”

The biryani and paratha festival is on at Pavilion, The Residency, Avanashi Road, till September 3. The buffet is priced at Rs. 650 for adults and at Rs.350 for children. For details and reservations, call 0422-2241414.