Kebab Festival, Copper Chimney, Khar, Mumbai

One of my unfounded beliefs is that any restaurant that bothers to maintain clean and pleasant-smelling washrooms pays a lot more attention to way it caters to guests, in terms of service, presentation of the meal and even the way the food is prepared (I did mention that this belief is unfounded). Give me a restaurant that has nice lavatories and you’ll have a regular diner on your hands, I say.

And this is the first thing I noticed, and appreciated, about the year-old Copper Chimney restaurant in Khar. A giant tureen filled with fresh flowers, clean copper washbasins with delicate engravings, a giant ornate mirror in the commodious washroom – this surely was an auspicious start to my meal. After all, when you are told that the restaurant – that is known for having stuck to its limited menu for over 40 years with little changes, is hosting a Kebab Festival, expectations are high.

This latest addition to the chain of Copper Chimney restaurants, the Khar outlet is quite spacious with a nice laid out feel and ethnic Indian touches. It’s main menu is pretty restrictive, as is the one for the Kebab Festival – don’t expect to be dazzled with a wide variety to choose from. But the Sous Chef, Ram Singh, says the objective of the Kebab Festival was to showcase select preparations typical of Punjabi cuisine, which might not find a permanent place in the main menu. Good thinking!

We began our meal with the Tara Machali (550), fillets of fish said to be marinated in celery paste, though we could not detect the taste of celery at all. The Pind Da Tawa Murgh (345) has chicken pieces marinated in spices that are pounded in the restaurant’s kitchens, rendering it a nice, wholesome, spicy taste. Its aroma actually conjured images of homely Punjabi matrons pounding masala in a pestle in Punjab – that’s how refreshingly fresh it was. The Murg Shikara (345) is barbecued juicy chicken chunks and when I say juicy, I truly mean it. Dig your fork into the meat and a trail of fragrantly spiced juice ensues, though taste-wise it was ordinary.

An accompaniment of four chutneys is served as part of the Kebab Festival – a coriander and mint chutney, a fig preparation, one of dates, and a spicy tomato version. Of these the minimalist date chutney was delish – just soaked dates that had been hand pressed with salt and little else. In fact, I liked it so much that I used it to polish off my Fatehpur Paratha (60) – a well layered paratha with a crispy exterior and plump and spongy inside.

Talking about the breads, the festival offers 4 options, including the Fatehpur Paratha. The Gilafi Kulcha (85)had a nice smoky taste; that’s how much the flavour of the tandoor it was roasted in had permeated into its soft fluffiness. The Tawa Warki Paratha (60) had a distinctly different taste, which the chef later revealed was because whole black grapes and red chillies were mixed with vinegar and then added to the dough. Even the simple roomali roti (70) had been given an interesting twist for the Kebab Festival – finely chopped rose petals, rose essence and rose water were added when its dough was kneaded, which explained the mild sweetness of the roti. Very innovative indeed!

Coming back to the kababs, the Angoor Ke Chaap (775) was quite disappointing. Though the lamb chops were mercifully well-cooked there was an overdose of spices, which resulted in just spiciness without any distinct flavour coming flaring through. The Jhinga Jaitooni (1000) had plump tiger prawns marinated in yogurt and cream, and then barbecued, with a solitary olive held in place by the tail. The capers mentioned in the dish’s description were conspicuous by their absence. Well, there wasn’t anything unusually fantastic about the dish, but seafood lovers will love the freshness of the prawns.

Vegetarians are also well taken care of in this festival. Personally I found the Karari Lasoon Palak Sheek (250) strictly alright, but my dinner mate correctly pointed out that it was a good departure from the de rigeur potato or corn based tikkis that are usually palmed off to vegetarians. Point duly noted! The Paneer Tulsi Tikka (Rs 300) was another disappointment. While the paneer was amazingly soft, its marinade had not seeped into the paneer leaving a slightly raw undertaste. The Tandoori Aloo Methi (260) was soft, well-cooked baby potatoes with small slits filled with cream and fresh fenugreek paste – and thankfully the bitterness that fenugreek is renowned for did not come through. Now the restaurant made a valiant effort to gratify the health conscious folks in the Kebab festival menu, by including a Broccoli Makmali (170) – big florets of broccoli marinated in cream and barbecued. But wait, isn’t that preparation ironical in itself? Ah well, you can’t please them all.

We decided to end the meal with the Butter Chicken and Dal Makhni that the restaurant is known for, along with a wee bit of Jeera Rice. And it’s easy to see why the Butter Chicken is the most ordered dish here – it had the right mix of sweetness and spiciness without being too creamy. The Dal Makhni was not the best we had, but passed muster.

All in all, this was a meal that reminded us that a vacation in Punjab is long overdue – if for nothing then just to dig into some nice kebabs, butter chicken and dal makhni. Till then… burrraaahhhh!!