Sunday brunches are no longer a novelty and every restaurant worth its salt is trying various tricks to attract guests to its Sunday brunches. The challenge is to create something unique that will keep them coming back for more.
Some restaurants like to promote the offer of unlimited beer or wine in their brunches, while others highlight the vast spread of dishes. However, patrons now take these offerings for granted. So, what’s next?
The folks at Punjab Grill at Juhu decided to club the lucre of unlimited beverages along with the idea of live counters as the USP for their Sunday brunches. So, for INR 845++ (veg), and INR 895++ (non-veg), per person, guests can enjoy unlimited Indian beer and sangria along with three starters, three gravies, two rice preparations, two dals and six desserts, besides various chaat items.
GOING LIVE AND RUSTIC
These live counters are located in the deserted al fresco area of the restaurant, which was unsurprising considering the muggy and sweaty atmosphere of Mumbai summer afternoons. We made a beeline to the chaat counter to check out the Dahi Bhalla Chaat, Karare Palak ki Chaat and Papdi Chaat – quintessential Delhi street fare. There were no surprises in the Dahi Bhalla and Papdi Chaat that were drenched with thick, sweetened curd and chutney, except that the sweet tamarind chutney was livened up with chopped cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds. The batterfried spinach leaves in the Karare Palak Chaat were too dry for our liking and even the healthy slathering of curd did not moisten them enough.
One could choose from three types of pani for the Pani Puri. There was the very sour tamarind version and the regular mint concoction. We however recommend the Aam Panna mixture, which has a spicy tang courtesy the healthy quantity of chopped ginger in it. We ended up drinking the chilled Panna straight up, sans the puris, and wished we could have bottled some of it for the ride back home!
We liked the fact that all chaat items were served in earthenware, which is how they’re best enjoyed. Even the Thandai and Lassi are offered in earthen kullads, reminiscent of the Lassi one can enjoy in Delhi streets during summers. The pineapple chunks present in the Pineapple Thandai when we had it last at Punjab Grill was missing this time around, but the taste was still as sweetly refreshing. My 10-year old loved the Mango Lassi, which she called “pretty rad” and went on to have a couple of kullads of!
We noticed that the chaat counter saw the maximum footfall, and it made sense why Punjab Grill had decided to maintain fewer options in the brunch’s main course. Most people will more than whet their appetite with the chaat and barely do justice to the mains in the brunch buffet.
GRILLED, BUT NOT TO PERFECTION
The outdoor grilling station had marinated vegetarian and meat preparations ready, which were barbecued as per the guest’s request and served at their table. The Subz Gilafi was too dry and tasteless, and the rather large cauliflower florets in Gobhi Tandoori could not properly impart the smokiness of the chilly-infused cheese wrapped around it.
The chunky Ajwani Fish Tikka had a nice crust, but as one cut through the meat, it had a slightly overcooked texture. The outer part was extremely spicy and the carom seeds in the marinade helped highlight its flavor.
It was equally difficult slicing through the big piece of Chicken Kebab. The chunkiness of the meat acted as its disadvantage. A better idea would be to have slightly thinner pieces of meat to allow the marinade to permeate perfectly. The grainy Mutton Sheekh Kebab, on the other hand, was well-spiced and the presence of coriander, mint and spring onions helped retain the juiciness of the meat.
Punjab Grill wanted to extend its idea of a live counter to the mains as well. That is how the Tava Sabji came into play. Deep-fried pieces of baby aubergines, lady fingers, baby corn, potatoes and mushrooms are arrayed around a large tava and guests can choose the vegetables for their personal tava masala.
When we had first visited the newly opened Punjab Grill at Juhu three years ago, we fell head over heels in love with its Dal Makhni. The slow cooked, buttery dal was one reason we would frequent it repeatedly over the years, and we were happy to see it feature on the brunch menu. Sadly, the Dal Makhni had undergone a transformation and it was unnaturally creamy, which took away from its original flavor.
The Mutton Punjab Grill scored much better, with succulent mutton pieces floating in thick, onion-tomato gravy that was redolent with the taste of cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. We also enjoyed the Fish Curry, which had whole coriander seeds playing peekaboo in the gravy. We do wish the chef went easy with the amount of cream used in the gravies – it filled you up too quickly and weighed you down. The Chicken Biryani cooked on dum was exactly what one would expect from Punjab Grill’s kitchen – a fine balance of spices, caramelized onions melding perfectly with long grains of basmati rice.
ENDING ON A SWEET NOTE
Going full steam with its concept of live counters, we were not surprised to see fresh Jalebis fried on order. We also tried the creamy Kesar Phirni that was garnished with chopped dry fruit, but were too full to try anything else. Since we believe that a meal at Punjab Grill is incomplete without savoring the Paan Shots, we had a round of this paan-infused drink. Frankly, this concoction was the best dessert we could have asked for, and we ended up asking for some more.
The Sunday brunch at Punjab grill does offer value for money, though other than the chaat items, the remaining dishes are pretty humdrum and do not carry the indelibly innovative stamp the establishment is known for. The buzzing flies are a nuisance, despite the restaurant’s efforts to keep them at bay with the use of pest repellents. In fact, it was this reason alone that we gave the salad counter, with the partially covered salad dishes, a miss.