Long before chefs became celebrities, there was Imtiaz Qureshi. Those were the days when what we know as gourmet food was restricted to a few top restaurants in the city. Dum Pukht, which celebrated the many splendours of Awadhi food, was one such restaurant at the ITC Maurya. And Chef Qureshi was the man who wielded the magic karchi there.
So, I was very happy to know that the chef’s son Ahsan Ali Qureshi had followed in his father’s footsteps. Last week, I had a taste of some of the dishes prepared by Ahsan, and was most impressed.
I am talking about a new delivery outlet called the Biryani Central. It has been set up by Chef Ahsan and Ishita Sudha Yashvi, who has a rich background in marketing. They run a company called Cross Border Kitchens and Biryani Central from its outlet in Vasant Kunj. (75, 9, Kishangarh Village, Vasant Kunj; thebiryanicentral.com, 9873333047/8 for orders). Right now they deliver only in south Delhi, but will soon extend to Gurugram. They also cater and accept bulk orders.
I got a sampler, and thoroughly enjoyed the Awadhi Murgh biryani (₹275), a surprisingly light preparation of long-grained basmati rice with nicely succulent pieces of chicken resting in it. The flavours of the chicken and the rice — enhanced by the fragrance of a natural attar — had mixed well together, and I had a very nice meal indeed of the biryani and an extremely creamy raita, with some salan on the side.
The galauti kababs (₹495) were rather good, too. The kababs had been marinated with raw papaya, and the outcome was a soft, minced-meat kabab, flavoured with just the right mix of spices. I had that with some taftan (₹65), a tasty, puff-pastry kind of bread, and left the ghee-laden sheermal (₹75) for the Dal bukhari (₹325). The urad dal, slow-cooked with some tomato puree, butter and cream, was superb. I think it outdid ITC Maurya’s Bukhara dal.
What didn’t work for me was the Hyderabadi nihari (₹545). I found the goat meat and trotters dish a bit too bland. But the malai phirnee (₹150) was out of this world — granular rice mixed with creamy and thickened milk, topped with a generous helping of chopped nuts.
The menu is rather interesting. It includes Kathal burrahs (jackfruit marinated in hung curd, ₹395), Bombay masala biryani (with plums, deep-fried potatoes, ₹245), lal mirch ka aloo (potatoes spiced with red chillies, ₹295) and keema kaleji (minced meat slow-cooked with liver and freshly ground spices, ₹495). It also has haleem, a mix of grains and meat, garnished with fried onions, mint and lemon (₹650).
Though Id is over, there is always time and a place in the stomach for the celebration of biryani and its allies.
The writer is a seasoned food critic