The food of Rajasthan is as colourful as the place. Rajasthani cuisine boasts of simple, homemade delicacies, as well as rich and royal dishes. The food is spicy and the desserts are made with desi ghee. Because of the scarcity of water in some places, Rajasthani food is cooked with less water. So the curries are mostly on the drier side and the high spice level helps to cope up with Rajasthan’s heat.
The ongoing Mewar Food Festival at Tuskers, Sofitel Mumbai, is a reflection of sumptuous vegetarian food from the Mewar region in Rajasthan. We recently tasted some of the dishes made by Chef Jankidas Vaishnav at Tuskers. The dishes were rustic, with varied textures and flavours. Even being hardcore non-vegetarians, we loved their vegetarian dishes cooked with homemade spices. The heat in the dishes is toned down quite a lot, so that the foreigners can also relish the food without feeling too spicy.
We were offered a choice between the two non-alcoholic drinks: Aam Panna and Kala Khatta. AN and I opted for the Aam Panna, which was made with by charring raw mangoes. We loved the fact that artificial green mango syrups are not used for this drink. Aam Panna made in this way is a great thirst-quencher which people love to sip throughout the summer season. The Aam Panna was perfectly balanced in acidity. We loved the fact that it is neither too sweet, nor too sour.
We chose the Set Menu 3 for this review. Each menu is priced at around INR 3000/- per person. They have three different set menus to choose from. Alternatively, if you like, you can choose from a big list of à la carte dishes. Our Set menu had four kinds of appetisers, five kinds of main-course dishes and a dal. In the Set Menu 3, they also serve Jeera rice and Vegetable Pulau, along with assorted breads (like roti and naan). There are also two different kinds of traditional desserts in the Set Menu 3.
We kicked off with the Bharwan Paneer. A thick slab of creamy and soft paneer was slit and stuffed with a very little amount of mint and coriander chutney. The paneer, marinated with homemade masala and curd, is then cooked in a charcoal oven to get that smoky flavour with a hint of spices. We love this filling appetiser, and we think, this is a perfect dish to start your Rajasthani meal here. What followed next was overwhelming!
The melt-in-the-mouth Palak Anardane ke Kebab at Tuskers, was the dish of the day. The fresh pomegranate seeds and curd stuffed in a soft spinach kebab, played the perfect hide-n-seek. The textural and colour contrast in this appetiser is something to fall in love with.
The Makai Cheese Roll was, however, nothing great. It had deep-fried American corn stuffed with paneer, cheese and green chillies. Although the crust was nice and crisp, the filling was nothing to die for. Moving on to the super-crisp and gorgeous Hing Dal Ki Kachori, we loved the stuffed yellow lentil flour dumplings served with curd, sweet and spicy chutney, chopped onions, fresh coriander leaves and sev. Although delicious, we suggest to eat this in moderation so that you can enjoy the main course dishes as well, as the Kachori is quite filling (and tasty).
We also ordered the unique Dahi Vada from the à la carte menu. This Dahi Vada was different as the vadas were made with moong pulses, instead of the usual urad dal. This change in the lentils is enough to make a huge difference to the dish. Although I love the evergreen urad-dal version, the moong-dal version from Mewar is a welcome change! The vadas are served with coriander and mint chutney, along with fresh coriander leaves and tamarind chutney.
In the mains, we had the Sangri ke Kofte. Ker are small, dried desert berries and sangri are dried desert beans. I have always loved eating Ker sangri, but this was different. Using pickled Ker sangri as a stuffing for koftas, is brilliant. The koftas were made up of cottage cheese and the gravy was made with tomatoes and curd. The dish was finger-licking goodness. It was a celebration of Rajasthani flavours!
The Tarkari Bhaji Pala was made with seasonal leafy greens with garlic and green chillies. This dish was outstanding in terms of the flavour. I loved the smoothness of the leafy greens and it tasted great with the Indian breads.
The Mewad Mix Vegetable is a dish of seasonal vegetables cooked to perfection on slow flame with garam masala. The vegetables were cooked perfectly and I loved the fact that these weren’t mushy. The slightly sweet factor in this dish worked well for our palate.
At Tuskers, we tried the Bharwan Bhindi (okra filled with spices and sautéed on pan) too. The okras were crunchy and the stuffing was well-balanced in spices.
We also had the Panchmeli Dal, which was served with the popular Rajasthani dish called Bharwan Bati. A Bati is a flour dumpling roasted slowly until totally cooked. Although the Bati takes some time to cook, the dish tastes out-of-the-world when dunked in Panchmeli dal, which is a spicy preparation of five lentils cooked together. The Bharwan Bati is a stuffed Bati flavoured with ghee, and the Tuskers version uses the stuffing of green peas, chillies and coriander.
The Rajasthani Arvi Kadi is a spicy yogurt-based gravy in which small cubes of colocasia (arbi) are cooked until tender. We had two bowlfuls of this Kadi. Simple and soul-satisfying, this was really good. Although we had most of these curries with naan, one can also opt for a side of Vegetable Pulau (an aromatic vegetarian pilaf with carrots, French beans and green peas) or Jeera rice (steamed rice flavoured with cumin seeds).
From the à la carte, you can order other interesting dishes like the Pithod ki Subzi (steamed gram flour cubes in a spicy curd gravy), Makai Khichiya (a papad made with rice flour, corn, cumin, green chillies and sago). In the dessert, try a Mawa Kachori (pastry filled with an aromatic mixture of mawa and nuts).
Continuing with the Set Menu delicacies, we skipped the Malpua with Rabdi (a dessert pancake dipped in sugar syrup and topped with reduced milk and ordered the Churma Laddoo (powder mixture of fried whole wheat flour, ghee, sugar, saffron, cashewnuts, raisin and poppy seeds made in round dumplings). People say, the Churma Laddoo tastes awesome just after your Dal-Bati dish. But we say, Churma Laddoo is always flavourful. Elvis, the restaurant manager, shared that NRIs visiting Tuskers get boxes of Churma Ladoos packed before they leave the country! The Churma Laddoos at Tuskers were very flavourful indeed.
Tuskers–pure vegetarian dining–looks pretty with orange and green tie-and-die fabrics from Rajasthan. The Rajasthani dolls hanging everywhere makes the ambience more festive. Rajasthani and Hindi old-fashioned songs in the background will transport you to a different generation altogether. Traditional puppet dance, dhol and lac bangles custom-made on the spot for you, add to the unique Mewar-style dining experience. The Mewar Food Festival at Tuskers, Sofitel Mumbai, celebrates vegetarianism in the perfectly rustic Indian style.
The Mewar Food Festival is on till 22nd February, 2016. Jain food is available on request.
Address: Tuskers, Pure Vegetarian Dining and Bar, Sofitel Mumbai BKC.
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