Recently, AN and I were invited for reviewing the revamped menu by Chef Angad Rai, the new Chef de Cuisine at Westin’s Kangan restaurant, which specialises in North-Western Frontier cuisine. Being an expert in Awadhi and Mughlai cuisine, the talented Chef is a great addition to the Kangan team. Carrying influences from West Bengal, Hyderabad and Eastern Uttar Pradesh, the chef has perfected the art of cooking with both robust and subtle spices like Pipri, Kachri, Pather ke phool, Nag kesar, Mogra flowers and rose petals.
During his student life, Chef Angad stayed in Metiabruz in West Bengal, which has a rich culinary history in itself as the last Nawab of Awadh took refuge here during British rule. This was the place where he learnt some of the secret family recipes from the local Bawarchis. He confidently and successfully uses even Bengali spices and condiments like the Radhuni and the Kasundi, in some of the Kangan’s dishes. The Bong in me was glad to know that he loves using the aromatic lemon from Kolkata, the Gondhoraj Lebu, in one of his dishes!
Chef Rai graduated from the Subhas Bose Institute of Hotel Management in 2005. Before joining Westin, he worked at many reputed hotels, such as Centurions in Pune, Trident Bandra Kurla, Hotel InterContinental Marine Drive and St Regis. Chef Angad has also worked at Neel, Movable Feast Banquet and Tote on the Turf with Celebrity Chef Rahul Akerkar.
The whole menu has been revamped by the chef, except a few Kangan best-sellers like Dal Kangan. Each dish that we tasted from the new menu at Kangan was a show-stopper in its own right. I was enthralled by the quality of the food served here. Chef Angad treated us with some of the best flavours from the Awadhi and Mughlai cuisines. His understanding and love for spices and the willingness to experiment with lesser known ingredients shows his brilliance in his field of work, and the same thing reflected in each of the Kangan’s dishes that we tasted recently.
The Dahi Ke Kebab was spot-on! The plump kebabs never tasted so special. I thoroughly enjoyed the Dahi ke Kebab at Kangan. There was a hint of sweet and spicy flavours in the kebabs. I loved the addition of sweet mango pickle in this. The kebabs were firm, yet one could taste the yogurt as the dominant flavour, rather than the binding agent overpowering the dish. The deep-fried kebabs looked gorgeous with a poppy-seed coating, which also added some texture to the otherwise smooth kebabs.
The Nadroo Shikhampuri tasted a bit like banana flower blossoms. These were actually braised lotus stem patties, stuffed with spiced raw mango and pan-seared. Soft and a beautiful colour on outside, it gave us a texture boost in each bite. The flavour was delicate, yet balanced. Both the vegetarian appetisers were superb.
But did the new Chef do justice to the legendary Kakori Kebab? Yes, absolutely! The Kakori Kebab was soft, melt-in-the-mouth and divine. The meat was pounded perfectly with a hint of chilli and a variety of Awadhi spices. The resultant seekh kebabs were skewered and cooked lightly in tandoor. I was glad that the kebabs were not overcooked and the spices were very wisely balanced.
The Habibiya Tawa Gosht was something that I can’t explain in words. Saying that it was outstanding would be an understatement. We never imagined the flavour volcano of the meat covered under those humble fried eggs. Underneath were pan-seared and beaten lamb chops marinated with hand-pounded, fragrant Awadhi masala. This single dish itself was enough to make me a fan of Chef Angad’s food forever.
The Murgh Bardari Tikka was spicy and full of bold flavours. The chicken was marinated with yellow chilli, Kasundi mustard and cheese. It was then cooked in tandoor for that smoky finish. Paired with onions and green chutney, it was just perfect for a monsoon evening!
The sour and spicy Gongura Jheenga is a must-try. The sour Red Sorrel leaves (called Ambaadi or Gongura in Maharashtra) added the perfect magic to the tiger prawns. The combination was very good and I felt like I was eating a pickle! I wonder why people don’t experiment with these flavourful leaves? A big thumbs up for the chef for this unique preparation. On the other hand, in their Khatti Jheenga, the flavour was citrusy as the chef used Kaffir lime leaves in the marination. It was then tandoored, taking care that the prawns retain their juiciness perfectly and don’t get overcooked. The chef expressed his desire to improvise the aroma of the dish even more with the use of Gondhoraaj Lebu (an aromatic lemon from Bengal) in the future.
The dish close to my heart and a must-order was the tandoored Sarsoon Mahi Tikka, where Rawas fish was marinated with Bengali kasundi (mustard sauce) and wild celery (also called Radhuni: used extensively in Bengali cooking). I am happy to finally find a Mumbai-based chef who thought out-of-the-box and delved deep into Bengali cuisine for making a few of his signature Indian appetisers. Using Bengali spices like the medicinal Radhuni is quite uncommon these days, and wow, here’s a chef who has finally given me a non-Bengali dish with this Bengali spice!
Moving over to the main course, we tried the Purvanchal Ka Saag, where Chef Angad showed us the flavours and techniques of his hometown (Uttar Pradesh). This was the dish which reminded me of the Bathua saag that I often used to eat in Delhi when I was in school. This dish at Kangan had a medley of organic greens, including Chef Angad’s favourite leafy green: the Gongura. These greens were partially pureed and then griddle-cooked with a dust of minimal spices. The natural, humble flavour of the dish was soul-satisfying. As I write this blog post on a rainy monsoon evening, I am really craving for nothing but just a warm roti and Chef’s Purvanchal ka Saag for dinner. Life is happy with thoughts of good food, like this one!
The flavourful Murgh Awadhi Korma was another dish to die for. Succulent pieces of chicken married the Awadhi gravy perfectly in this dish. The creamy dish will make your day, when combined with soft and mild Zaffrani Taftan: a rich leavened Indian bread with saffron and milk. The Korma gravy was cooked with great flavours indeed!
The lamb-lovers must try the mogra-perfumed Sasranga Gosht. The dish is unique because it is something in-between the Kashmiri Gustaba and Ristaa. Young lamb meat was meticulously hand-pulled for making this Kashmiri delicacy. Instead of making balls (like in Gustaba), the Chef leaves it as it is, and cooks a light and delicious curd and saffron-based gravy using these hand-pulled lamb pieces.
And here’s a chef who gives me a Kacche Gosht Ki Biryani like never before. Tasting almost like the famous Kolkata Biryani (minus the potatoes) of my hometown, it reminded me of Kolkata instantly. Chef Angad added an extra dimension to the biryani by adding dried rose and mogra petals to the rice for that extra aroma. Instead of the heavy kewra essense, he added kewra water to the biryani for a milder flavour. Unlike most heavy biryanis that you get almost everywhere now, here’s a light and aromatic biryani with flavourful and succulent mutton pieces, cooked in a thoughtful combination of unique biryani spices in right proportions.
After such outstanding dishes in the appetisers and main course, it was surprising to see that the desserts were very average. The Ras Malai was good, but it was nothing to rave about. A handful of other sweet dishes in the dessert menu sounded good, but I was looking for more. As Chef Angad specialises in savouries much more than desserts, I think, it would be a good idea for Kangan to add a dessert expert to the team, who would create unique Indian desserts to match the high quality of food created by Chef Angad.
Chef Angad is the one whose Indian dishes are flawless, honest and brilliant. I must say, I am his fan now, and for some of the best Indian dishes with the right balance of flavour and aroma, I will always look forward to Chef Angad. Hey Mumbai, here’s a gem!