The Indian fine dining restaurant Firdaus at Taj Krishna in Hyderabad has always served up dishes to best showcase Deccan and North West Frontier cuisine that it represents. Guests have always come back with an experience to remember, with great food and terrific luxurious service. I was invited a couple of weeks ago to sample the new menu. Chef Nitin Mathur and his team have spent a lot of time and passion researching dishes that would be worthy of representation. Several signature and star dishes from the original menu remain, while new ones to regale guests have been added.
We started with Murgh Jahangiri Shorba which is a creamy chicken broth, flavoured with tomatoes and Indian spices. Served with a small bite of a tava paratha on the side, it was a god start to the meal. I am not very fond of soups and consider them appetite killers contrary to them being touted as appetizers. But this soup with its deep flavours was quite nice. The vegetarian offering was a Bhuni Mirch Makai ka Shorba and quite honestly this was the better of the soups. The flavours of the roasted Mirch and Makai (corn) added so much depth of flavour to the soup.
My favourite part of the meal is the appetizer course. I almost always enjoy starters and dessert much more than the main course. From the vegetarian selection, we had the Sangri lal mirch ka kebab. Sangri is a sort of bean or a pod that grows in the desserts and is dried for future use. In this dish, the rehydrated sangri is combined with special fiery mathania chillies from Rajasthan and made into kebabs and pan fried. The Sangri takes on a meaty texture and is very robust, lending this kebab good body.
The next item was the Makai Motiya Seekh. Seekh kebabs made out of corn. These kebabs were well spiced and the texture was creamy unlike the dry vegetable seekhs one usually has. The Jaituni Malai Paneer was a disappointment. Chunks of paneer, coated in a marinade that was almost akin to a tapanede, the olives were lost on me and what remained was just oven cooked paneer chunks. I gave this one a miss for seconds.
Non vegetarians always have prized pickings at the appetizers especially with Deccan and North Western cuisine, both well known for their meat heavy kebabs. Kebabs were meant to be made with meat anyway, so the variety that is available is always good. We were served three different starters from their selection. The Kakori Kebab always has me drooling. Meat pounded and almost creamy, mixed spices, rose petals and the nutmeg shining through. This was to be my favourite non vegetarian starter. The Pathar ka gosht, looked good, but did not deliver. The spice rub and the meat seemed to be miffed with each other, while the meat was cooked to a succulent, lending itself completely to the stone it is cooked on, the spices had a mind of their own. I was disappointed, which I told Chef Nitin Kumar about and he promised to check on it. The Kebab-e-Firdaus was a chicken starter amidst the other mutton preparations. Succulent thigh pieces marinated in yogurt and spices and cooked to perfection in the tandoor. This was my second most favourite starter after the kakori kabab.
The other guests at the table included very senior journalists and I always enjoy conversations with them about food and the ever bewildering traffic situation. When the main course arrived, I was more than ready. Firdaus has a live roti trolley, equipped with a gas burner with a chef who rolls it over to a table and doles out freshly made rotis of choice, smeared of course with ghee. Chef Nitin Kumar told us that this is one of the most endearing aspects of the restaurant and guests often exclaim that getting hot puffed up rotis at the table is a luxury reserved only for trips back to the home town, as busy lives make most of us accustomed to eating cold food.
The vegetarian dishes that comprised the main course included Laal Mirchi ka paneer, the gravy drew its intense flavours from the red chillies, Chowgra which is a well known Hyderabadi dish of mixed vegetables and the absolutely outstanding Aloo Wadi Bharta. I am not a big fan of potatoes, but the flavour and character of this dish was entirely from the home made wadis, mashed into it. How can they be homemade despite coming out of a five star restaurant kitchen you may ask. That is because the recipe is from the home of Chef Nitin Mathur’s wife. The recipe was extracted from her grandfather and after consultations with a few other members of the family, the wadis were made. This attention to detail and the dedication to get the ingredients, recipe and the preparation right is something that reflects in the menu at Firdaus.
The non vegetarian main course consisted of Murgh Tarmezi Korma which in my opinion is one of the best kormas I have eaten. Usually kormas are flavoured with fried onions, and that is a flavour which dominates. This one was a korma with flavours so subtle, I was afraid to taint it with roti and actually spooned it into my mouth as is. The white gravy in total contrast to the usual brown and orange ones we are so used to, is delicate and creamy with the ground cashew paste. The Korma was to be my favourite main course dish of the day.
Next we sampled the Kaddu ka Dalcha. Now let me tell you, if one has grown up around a Hyderabadi house one has had many encounters with this Hyderabadi staple. I for one, am very critical of all the dalchas I encounter, only because my mother makes a really fabulous one and two because I’ve been surrounded by families who make terrific ones. Being spoilt for choice, it is rather rare to settle for anything less. I am happy to report that the Kaddu Dalcha was outstanding. It tasted of home, which I suppose is a compliment to a Five star hotel kitchen – just the right tang from the tamarind extract, pieces of bottle gourd and creamy lentils. Again Chef Nitin Mathur informed us, that a detailed discussion on the preparation methods, the use of lentils etc. led the team to choose this variant over the others. I have always had dalcha that uses a combination of chana and tur dal and I find that the flavour is much deeper and the chana also acts as a thickening agent. This was the same combination and I ate the dalcha as is. Usually mutton is added to the non vegetarian version which again adds to the flavour, but this one was terrific even at the cost of repeating myself.
I gave a cursory taste nod to the Subz Biryani and the Kache Gosht ki Biryani. Both good, and have been firm favourites on their menu, and why not, we are in Hyderabad afterall! The biryanis were accompanied by Mirchi ka salan and raita.
There was also ‘melt in the mouth’ Dahi Wada garnished with chutney.
The menu offers many more well recognised dishes such as Paya Shorba (broth of roasted lamb trotters), Dum ka paneer (Paneer cubes cooked in a gravy that’s rich with cream and flavoured with brown onions). There is also the classic Shikampuri (Lamb kebabs with yogurt, mint and finely chopped onions stuffed into the centre) and of course the much loved Gongura Mamsam (lamb cooked with tangy sorrel leaves)
The Dessert platter that was served had some classics – Double ka Meetha which is one of my favourite Hyderabadi desserts. Again the twist here was that it was firmer than it usually is and much less sweet and the distinctive flavour of saffron that was used in the soaking syrup. Sometimes Indian sweets can be overwhelmingly sweet and it was good that this one wasn’t because it was a delight. We also had some Badam ka Kund, which was very similar in taste and texture to the Moongdal halwa (which I don’t much care for). But the best was the Kulfi – Handmade Kulfi, rich and creamy with all the goodness of malai (cream), decadent and the hint of Chikki (peanut and sugar brittle) elevating it completely. Topped with good old Rabdi and Sabja (basil) seeds which give it a very Falooda on a plate feel. There was also freshly cut fruit.
For me, this delightful meal felt special because of the attention to detail with the selection and construction of recipes. Each one carefully chosen, well researched and ingredients sourced carefully. This is a reflection of the passion of the Chef. He spoke to us about each recipe in great detail and there was no question that went unanswered.
Firdaus at Taj Krishna, Banjara Hills
Appetizers:Sangri lal mirch ka kebab, Kakori Kebab
Main course: Aloo Wadi Bharta, Murgh Tarmezi Korma, Kaddu ka Dalcha
Desserts: Double ka Meetha
Hours: Lunch: 12:30 PM To 03:30 PM
Dinner: 07:30 PM To 11:30 PM
Location: Taj Krishna, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad
Credit Card Accepted: Yes
Valet Parking: Available
Telephone: 040-66293306 (Reservations are recommended)
PS: The meal was complimentary as I was invited by the hotel to the restaurant, however the views are my own.