Peshawari, as many would know, is Bukhara by a different name. Bukhara at ITC Maurya in New Delhi is loved and loathed in equal measure, but with its status in the upper echelons of Indian restaurants, it cannot be ignored. Even the ITC group which has converted Dakshin, Dum Pukht, Kebabs & Kurries etc. into chains of restaurants across its properties, calls its other tandoor-based restaurants Peshawari, ostensibly to avoid dilution of the Bukhara brand. Having eaten at Peshawari at ITC Mughal in Agra and ITC Maratha in Mumbai, I was impressed by the consistency of their décor, food and service, till I had a very disappointing meal at the Peshawari at the Chola Sheraton in Chennai.
So, it was with a great deal of skepticism that I decided to host guests at the newly opened Peshawari at ITC Grand Chola. The welcome extended to us was warm and the staff were well informed, which made things a little easier for me. Then the Tandoori Jhinga won over each of us. Some praise was so exaggerated that I am reluctant to quote them for fear this review sound ‘fixed’. Subtly applied flavours allowed the freshness of the prawns and perfect grilling to shine through. Sikandari Raan is usually a part of my standard order, at least on days when I can afford it without breaking the bank. It did not disappoint on this occasion, just that the huge portion served needs a few helping hands (or mouths!) to finish it. Seekh Kebab was ordinary and nothing better than what one can get at dozens of places in Delhi. The mutton barrah was fabulous; char grilled but not to the extent of being burnt as sometimes happens at Karim’s, another place that’s famous for its barrah. I was impressed by the chicken reshmi kabab. In trying to prove that meat is ‘succulent’ there is an increasing tendency to go overboard with tenderizers. Here however, the chicken hadn’t turned into mush as is usually the case.
Even as I was gorging on the meats, past experience reminded me not to miss the paneer tikkas and they didn’t disappoint either. ‘Fried+grilled’ cooking of Tandoori Phool gives cauliflower a unique flavor and texture and is possibly the best bet for vegetarians. Still, in spite of the best efforts of the chef, the vegetarian menu at Peshawari will always come across to me, as an afterthought.
The breads were alright with the Pudina Paratha better than the others we ordered. The kitchen wasn’t yet geared up to serve the Naan Bukhara which I find to be a touristy gimmick in any case. There’s enough written about Dal Bukhara already so I will just add that with all those kebabs on the table, it isn’t a bad option to dip your naan into.
We hardly had any appetite left for desserts but as an Awadhi national, I fell for the I am from Kanpur and trust me that the gulab jamun here is superb sales pitch of our waiter. The stuffed dumplings were melt in mouth soft, and so not a bad recommendation but never forget, it is meat from the tandoor you are in Peshawari for.
Does Peshawari have the best tandoori chicken, the best mutton barrah, the best raan etc.? The answer is an emphatic No. But is there any other place which does all of these really well and as consistently? The answer again is No.
Ed: Cover photo not from Peshawari, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai.