Aromas of Afghanistan @Terracotta, Vivanta by Taj, Whitefield, Bangalore

Whitefield has a few secrets, and last Saturday I explored one amongst them. Terracotta, the north-west Frontier cuisine restaurant at the Vivanta by Taj, Whitefield hosted a few food aficionados for their ongoing Afghan Food Festival. Not only was I excited to have received the invite, but extremely curious to venture this hitherto unheard venue.

As I walked into the lobby, Akash from Edelman lead us to Terracotta. As I walked up the landscaped steps to the mezzanine floor, I could not help but notice the earthy ambience of this beautiful property. The décor is contemporary urban chic with hints of rusticity thrown in to add diversity. The north-west has a romantic appeal to its culture and tradition, and Terracotta captures that beautifully.

We were greeted by the Director, F&B-Ujjawal Bhimwal. He also explained the concept behind the festival and how it stands out from the regular menu served. As we embarked upon this culinary experience, I realised that it has been a while since I tasted the cuisine. My anticipation grew as I flipped through the artistic menu card curated specially for the event.

As a welcome drink, the traditional Doogh, Butter Milk with a hint of Mint was served. What followed was an absolute delight in the form of a Cucumber and Orange punch. The Bonjan Salad, a spicy Eggplant Salad with Lavesh followed and I was delighted by its raw appeal. The Afghani soup-Kalah Pacha is a clear soup made of Lamb head after being skinned and cleaned was up next. However we were served a very succulent piece of Lamb instead of the head used in its original version.

It was time for the Appetisers and no sooner did they arrive in all its grandeur and pomp. We were served in true Afghani style a trio of Chicken Kibbeh, Lamb Chops and Chapli Kebab, a Shammi Kabab made of minced Beef. The latter was a first for me and its spicy and tangy undertone made me order a couple more. The Kibbeh is an equivalent to an Indian Kofta and is peppery in taste. The Lamb Chop was so succulent it almost melt in my mouth. I was in Kebab heaven and we asked for repeat portions to satiate ourselves. We then tasted the Afghani Malai Fish Sheekh which was unique and delectable. The green chillies added to the Fish mince was reminiscent of the Fish Tikka Kati Roll I used to swear by in Kolkata.

It was time to order another Mocktail and I decided to stick to the traditional Blue Lagoon which would serve as a good Oxidant. The Mains were served next and I was waiting impatiently to taste the famous Shebet Pulaw. We were also served the Lavand-E-Murgh, Chicken in a Yogurt Gravy and Qurma-E-Ghost-Kachalo, an Afghani preparation of Mutton with Potatoes. However it was the traditional Mantu, Steamed Dumplings filled with Minced Lamb and Onions topped with an Yogurt and Quroot based sauce that emerged the ultimate winner of all. I simply loved the various flavours this dish rendered and its earthy appeal. I paired the Ghosht with Obi Non, a thick bread made of refined flour. The sweetness of the Pulaw and the Yogurt gravy of the Chicken complimented each other.

It was time for desserts, and which Afghani meal would be complete without Baklava, my personal favourite? The Dates and Pistachio Baklava was an absolute delight. The Sheer Khurma and the Sheer Berinj followed before we were provided a peekaboo into the tandoor of the open kitchen. The spices and condiments used were displayed very tastefully at a corner and I was able to locate the infamous Bhoot Jalokiya among the selection. This special menu is available till tonight for Lunch and Dinner and has been going on for a week now. My heartfelt thanks to Akash Thakur for the invitation.

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