Wednesday 30 July 2014

A Taste Of An Age Old Tradition - 'Bukhara' Celebrates 35 Glorious Years!!

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste, experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for a wholesome and rich experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt                                   
Bukhara is celebrating a milestone!!
The much acclaimed Indian restaurant 'Bukhara' at ITC Maurya, New Delhi is celebrating 35 glorious years of excellence in authenticity and taste and we had the honor to be a part of this iconic legacy. The restaurant has been the consistent recipient of numerous awards and accolades, both national and international making it a perennial favorite with everyone, including foreign dignitaries and various visiting head of states. Topping the list of the distinguished guests who have dined here are President Barak Obama, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Bryan Adams, Hilary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenneger to name a few.
In this world of ever changing restaurant  trends and innovations 'Bukhara' proudly holds on strongly to its roots and tradition.  Infact since its inception in 1978, nothing has changed. Executive Chef J.P Singh, who has been associated with the restaurant since the last 23 years, proudly claims that the dishes found on the menu are exactly the same today, without a single new addition, as they were on the menu when it began. Even the taste of all the dishes is exactly the same as it was 35 years ago. Really, hats of to the chefs!! It is indeed quite a task to master this kind of consistency and perfection and deliver the same taste and flavor over a period of so many years. 
To achieve this level of perfection in making every dish a masterpiece, the menu is kept short and crisp with limited dishes and standardized recipes so that the quality and taste are not compromised on. Maybe this very reason alone beckons loyal customers to come back again and again to savor and indulge their taste buds with the comfort of their favorites flavors and aromas that are etched in their memories. 
Infact we were told that even the decor- the stone walls, log tables and stools, copper utensils hanging from the walls, the bead curtains and the earthenware crockery we were served in remains unchanged till date from the time the restaurant opened. 
All the food cooked here is made in tandoors or clay ovens, reminiscent of the traditional style of Indian North-West Frontier region. Though Chef J. P. Singh claims all the dishes served in the restaurant to be extremely popular, the signature favorites stand out to be Sikandri Raan, Murgh Malai Kebab, Paneer Tikka, Tandoori Jhinga, and of course the legendary Dal Bukhara. I believe 25 Lakh Dal Bukhara's have been sold till date. How is that for a benchmark? 
To commemorate the celebrations, Bukhara is holding a 10 day long promotion from August 2 to August 11, where every diner will get unlimited, complimentary Dal Bukhara and a glass of Champagne besides a big bowl of Phirni to take back home. Also the restaurant will be adding two new dishes and a bread to their menu after 35 years as a surprise element which will be unveiled only on 2 August. Not only this, every day at 8:30 pm and 10:30 pm there will be 'Celebration hour' where you get a chance to be a part of the 'Chef's Winning Table" where a table will be picked out randomly and the dinner for the lucky winning table will be on the house. 
Not only is the food at Bukhara unique but the entire hotel is a spectacular work of art and is no less an experience in itself,
As you walk around the hotel lobby you get an unparalleled art gallery experience. You can see showcased a rare collection of contemporary masterpieces by eminent Indian artist inclluding Tyeb Mehta, Krishen khanna, Akbar Padamsee, Sanjay Bhattacharya and M F Hussain.
One look at the huge central lobby of ITC Maurya is enough to take your breath away. The luminous central dome of the lobby has been created in the style of Chaitya(Buddhist hall) with the surrounding walls containing a beautiful 3000 square foot mural by Krishen Khanna, one of India's leading painters. Also in the lobby is a series of paintings on glass by M.F. Hussain, which illustrates Kautilya's "Arthashastra" written in Mauryan times.
The wall outside the restaurant is filled with framed photographs proudly holding testimony of the visit of every dignitary, head of state and celebrity who have enjoyed the flavors at Bukhara. Also on the wall is a framed photograph of M F Hussain and a painting of his trademark horses, a memento of the memorable time he had at the restaurant.
As you enter the restaurant  strong aromas of grilled meats engulf you, firing up your entire sensory buds and immediately making you salivate in anticipation of things to come. 
As we made ourselves comfortable we were made to don aprons - red ones for the non vegetarians and green one for the vegetarians. Not only do they help the server to distinguish between  the meat eaters and vegetarians but also serve as great napkins to wipe your hands as in Bukhara there is no concept of using cutlery and the tradition is to eat with your hands. So go ahead and lick your fingers - no one will really mind!! 
We were also told that the table that we were sitting on was the same one on where President Clinton had dined. This obviously had us all feeling mighty pleased.
We were fortunate enough to have Executive Chef of Bukhara J.P. Singh join us for the evening. He walked us through the amazing journey that they had undertaken the past 35 years to make Bukhara the legend it is.
According to the chef strict precision is followed while preparing each and every dish. When the  Prawns and legs of lamb are procured they have to be within a strict weight range otherwise they are rejected. The sourcing of meats and raw materials are done by local suppliers making it easier to procure and maintain the consistency. The Jumbo Prawns, each weighing approximately 80 to 120 grams were specially cultured by the hotel in water tanksAlso no artificial coloring agent is ever used in any dish and only natural agents like Turmeric and Red chillies are used if the dish need any color. The cooking time and cooking temperatures are separate for each dish which the staff is trained to adhere to strictly. No wonder for these very reasons Bukhara is counted amongst the world's best restaurants.
Our gastronomical journey began with the server getting us four dishes precariously balanced on one arm. As he laid down the plate before us one by one, beautiful aromas began to tickle our nosebuds. The Paneer Tikka was soft and had a lovely smokey flavor. According to the chef, unlike the traditional way, there was a special technique used in making the paneer which helped retain its moisture and remains soft. Tandoori Jheenga were huge and really delicious. Both the Seekh kebab and Murgh Malai Tikka were exceptionally succulent and just melt in your mouth. Seekh Kebab made with lamb mince mixed with ginger and green chillies and spices which we were told were made fresh in the restaurant itself were served whole unlike other places where they are cut into pieces and served.
Till now I had considered the Burrah Kebabs at Karims to be the best but here the Burrah kebabs won hands down. Full of flavor, the kebabs were so tender that the meat literally fell off the bones. If you enjoy your meats, Sikandri Raan is a must try. It is a whole leg of lamb marinated with malt vinegar, black cumin, cinnamon and red chillies. Finished in a tandoor and then shredded to pieces it is served on top of a leg bone to give the illusion of a whole leg. Nicely charred and smoky from the tandoor, the taste is divine.
Amonst the vegetarian food, I thoroughly enjoyed the Paneer Khurchan and Tandoori Aloo. The Aloo had a tangy chatpata filling of mashed potatoes mixed with lemon juice, chopped ginger and nuts for texture. Another favorite was the Tandoori Salad which had grilled pieces of capsicum, onions, paneer and pineapple. You can't imagine how good the grilled pineapple tasted.
The best part about all the dishes apart from the fact that they were all grilled in the tandoor, was that they were not overladen with spices which meant that we could actually enjoy the true flavors of the dishes served.

Keeping in mind the Anniversary celebrations each dish had little flags to let the customer know how many of each dishes have being sold till date.  
Seekh Kebab
Murgh Malai Tikka
Lamb Burrah kebab 
Sikandri Raan
Chicken khurchan
To delight the Vegetarians :- Paneer Khurchan, Tandoori Gobhi, Tandoori Salad and Tandoori Aloo
Naan Bukhara accompanied the iconic Dal Bukhaara with much fanfare. We were told that virtually the Dal Bukhara is never put off the fires until it reaches your table. The chef told us that in 40 to 60 kgs of dal only 2 kgs of butter is used so it is actually not that rich as it is believed to be.  Actually the dal gets its thick creamy consistency due to it being constantly simmered for  a long time. Daily easily 135-140 portions of dal are served. The Naan Bukhara served with the dal was a spectacle in itself. At 4 feet long the naan is so huge that it can be easily shared by 5-6 people. The dal did not disappoint at all and truly lived up to our expectations.
Once we were through with our main course, we decided to give our poor tummy's a little break. The Chef was gracious enough to take us for a tour inside his kitchen. It was an experience in itself watching the humongous Naan Bukhara being made.
After the kitchen tour we were back to our tables to relish the Desserts. Amongst the sweets, a special mention to the Rasmalai (which I have always been partial to), but believe me it is a killer here. You literally can't stop at one!! Perfectly sweetened, the Phirni was smooth and creamy with an exquisite taste from the lightly infused saffron and pistachios.
Our gastronomical adventure ended perfectly with a plate of meetha paan.
Thanks ITC Hotels and Chef J.P. Singh for inviting us over and being such gracious hosts. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

You too go ahead and prepare yourself to join the celebrations and be a part of this iconic legacy. Get prepared to wrap yourself with the rustic charm and lose yourself in the warmth and comforting robust flavor that Bukhara so famously stands for.

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