Are you ready for the Royal Indian Experience? The newly launched pure vegetarian restaurant Shakahari at JW Marriott Pune makes you feel so special, you might actually begin to believe you are royalty.
Shakahari plans to showcase the cuisine of the princely states of India. Various royal families ruled over the different regions of our country. Now you can experience their food first hand in a fine dine setting. A lot of people in India are either pure vegetarian or follow a vegetarian diet most of the time. But many ethnic vegetarian recipes are hardly ever seen on a restaurant menu. The latest royal experience at Shakahari hopes to remedy that.
Maharaj Jaikishen brings decades of experience to the Shakahari kitchen. He has worked with other hotel brands like Taj and Hyatt and also cooked for some eminent families like the Birlas, Mittals and Lord Swaraj Paul.
Our visit began with a traditional welcome and a refreshing sprinkling of rose water from a gulab dani. Fresh tube roses perfumed the air with their heady fragrance. Silk napkins and silver platters created a luxurious table setting. I was feeling special alright, even before a single morsel of food was served.
The main meal is served right at the table, with unlimited portions. There are plenty of condiments to choose from, like everyone’s favorite mint chutney to an interesting plum chutney. And there’s papad too! Believe it or not, the papad is an essential part of the meal and you will find most people reaching for it, irrespective of how many courses there are in the meal.
The appetizers or starters were served first. The Palak Patta Chaat was a different concept, where the crispy spinach pakora formed the base of the chaat. Paneer Khurchan or Amristsari Paneer was robust, and so were the beetroot tikki and spinach/black eyed peas tikki. My favorite among the starters was the Lasooni Rajma salad, made with burnt garlic and kidney beans.
The Royal Indian Experience at Shakahari will showcase two royal regions at a time. We were treated to the royal cuisine of Rajasthan and Northern India.
When you think of Rajasthani food, the first thing that comes to mind is Daal Bati Churma. I can honestly say I enjoyed this dish for the first time. The bati, made with a stiff wheat dough and oven baked is doused in ghee. It is served with a daal soup. You dunk the bread in the daal soup, or crumble it with your fingers, pour the daal on top and mix it all up with your hand. The churma is made with the same bread and is slightly sweet.
Jodhpuri Gatte Ki Subji was made with steamed gram flour dumplings simmered in a yogurt sauce. The Ker Sangri Kofta was a first for me. The tart berries of the dessert got quite a makeover in the kofta.
Palak puri and Ajwaini puri were a great side, satisfying the fried food craving. The phulkas were light and soft, perfect to soak up all the different gravies.
The Northern region wasn’t far behind. The Makhmali Kofta was a winner. Tiny dumplings stuffed with plums and nuts were simmered in a rich cashew sauce, flavored with cardamom. The Dum Paneer Kasoori Methi was subtly spiced, and redolent with smoky flavors from the paneer. Pindi Chole were a rustic preparation suitably tangy with dried pomegranate seeds.
Garlic Naan, parathas and kulchas were offered to go with these portions.
Rice lovers had choice of Gatte ka Pulav from Rajasthan and a Morel Pulav from Kashmir.
And now for dessert. This is truly the icing on the cake. The team at JW Marriott has ensured that even the most jaded of ‘foodies’ will not fail to be impressed with their ‘Mishtan Bhandar.’ What’s that, you ask? A whole roomful of desserts. Sinful and delectable alright. A buffet system is followed here and you can choose from an array of fruits, hot desserts like Gulab Jamun or Moong Dal Halva, frozen dessert like Kulfi Falooda or ice cream, traditional mithai like Kaju/Badam rolls and moti choor laddus and plenty of other milk based desserts.
The lavish meal ended in Paan. If you have never had paan before, this is one thing you should definitely try when you visit India.
We are in an era of heavy competition when it comes to food. New cuisines, new techniques, funky ambience, fusion – restaurants are trying to outdo each other while trying to provide an irresistible experience for their patrons.
Shakahari has boldly taken a step back in time to bring us a unique and fulfilling experience. Get back to your roots and enjoy the ethnic cuisine and rich culture of our country with a royal Indian experience at Shakahari. I guarantee it’s one you will cherish for a long time.