Mr. Khanna in his heavy Punjabi accent emphasised that we should cancel all our plans for the evening and come for his sons wedding. Despite our reluctance and subsequent denial, he made some hasty calls and spoke to someone to arrange a car that evening to get us picked up for our hotel at Chandigarh’s Sector 35. Without being given much of an option he gave us his card and took our details and promised to see us that evening. The car arrived on time and to our surprise was driven by a man wearing a black tuxedo who definitely wasn’t a driver. He introduced himself as Mr. Khanna’s youngest son. Mr. Khanna had asked him to personally pick us up and make sure we were well attended. We thoroughly enjoyed the celebrations that ended in the wee hours and had not experienced better hospitality in our lives.
Apparently this was the first time we were visiting Chandigarh and knew no one in the city. We were there for a food trail that we had long wanted to do. While we were hopping eateries adding milestones to our culinary memory we met Mr. Khanna at Gopal Sweets not very far from our hotel. As we were indulging in our respective ghobhi samosas and trying to contain our awe, we met Mr. Khanna who was there for some last minute sweet requirements for his son’s marriage. We told him about our food trail and asked for suggestions of eateries in and around Chandigarh. A ten minute conversation and you know the rest of the story.
This can happen only in Punjab and we relived our memories a few days back on our invite to “Pind da Kahana” festival hosted by Baluchi at The Lalit not just with respect to food but also their hospitality.
FROM THE DESIGNERS PERSPECTIVE!
The Lalit is located close to the International Airport and is an easy find. Baluchi is a Pan Indian restaurant located on the ground floor of this luxury 5 star property and is hosting “Pind Da Khana” fest from 5th Aug to 20Th Aug 2016. This restaurant is done with sober interiors, which is kept simple. It has wooden chairs with cushioned seating and wooden tables with glass tops. The place is maintained clean as expected from a restaurant, which is a part of a 5 star hotel. The ambience is comforting and pleasant. You can chose to sit on the glass walled periphery tables where you can overlook the grand lobby and indoor fountains or take the tables inside to be in close proximity of the live gazal stage.
PC: The Lalit
DRINK IT BABY!
Shikanji Soda was the first drink that arrived on our table. It was an absolute pleasure to sip this one as it had mild shikanji flavours and was soda based. The drink was topped with pan-roasted zeera and crushed mint leaves that gave the drink an exceptional flavour. We asked for an extra one here. Awesome!
Chowk Wali Lassi is served in earthen clay tall glass that adds to the feel and taste of the drink. It is thick sweetened curd drink that is kept simple but tastes splendid. The clay glasses soak the little water in the drink thickening it further. We sipped the drink till the end but could not have enough of it even after gulping down the huge glass. You can never have enough of good food right!
Mattha is buttermilk flavoured with roasted cumin seeds, chilli, ginger and coriander. This is served in kulhads giving the drink an earthen feel. We enjoyed this one too!
FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD!
Fried papads were served as a welcome gesture to start our meal. We dint want to stuff ourselves with the sides so almost passed this one for the amazing food we were expecting at our table.
They serve homemade garlic pickle, raw papaya sweet pickle, mint chutney and chilli sauce to accompany your meal.
Right in the beginning they placed two shot glasses full of greens representing a vegetarian table to facilitate servers.
The dinner plates are preheated to sterilize.
Here came the real food; the starters, and the first one we had was Patiala Shahi Paneer Tikka Multani that was medium soft with dahi marination which gave it a slightly sour taste. The paneer was sprinkled with chat masala to give it the amusing chatpata twist.
Lahori Seekh was one of our favourites of the evening. This seekh kebab is a moist kebab made of minced vegetables (majorly cauliflower) spiced with cinnamons that gives it a mesmerising flavour. The spices are used appropriately to make it a mouth-watering dish. This one’s a must order!
Malaidar Bhutte Ki Seekh is a delicious preparation with natural sweetness and creamy texture of corn. They are mildly spiced but have a very prominent and delightful flavour of saffron. This is a rich preparation and we totally loved it.
Bhatti ke Khumbh is a delicious preparation of tender and fresh mushrooms marinated and tandoor cooked. The mushrooms are juicy with a spicy and tangy marination. Life is so endlessly delicious!
With starters they serve salad at the side and lime wrapped in a net cloth. We admire this detail as it adds grace to the dish and at the same time helps in retaining the seeds while you squeeze the lime.
Chur Chur ke Naan for us is synonymous to love. The naan encloses mixed stuffing and has a prominent Ajwain flavour. It is surprisingly soft and crispy at the same time as the chefs cook it to perfection and then hand crumble it. It was served to us with Pindi Chole that was just beyond perfect for our taste buds. The chole were cooked to give them a deep brown colour and were extremely chatpata. They were loaded with amchur and we just got indulged. Condiments were served alongside the dish, namely homemade mango pickle, vinegar onions and salad. It was another fantastic preparation of the evening. Got to try it!
Martabaan Ke Achari Aloo is a dish to crave for. It is a fantastic creation by the chef that left us humming mmmmmm…in every bite. Baby potatoes are cooked in brown gravy with tomato, onion and pickling spices. The baby potatoes are pre cooked and are tossed with cumin seeds to give them an authentic Punjabi flavour. The gravy was tangy and peppery. If we had used our hands to eat this dish, would surely have licked our fingers clean. MFT Recommends!
Tarkari Methi has veggies like peas and cauliflower cooked with tomatoes, spices and fresh fenugreek leaves. This dish was a little above average but yet very desirable.
Bhein De Kofte was the only dish we liked a little less probably because the other dishes were too good in comparison. Lotus stem dumplings were cooked in rich yellow gravy. The dumplings were a little dry. This one got neglected.
Dhaba Dal is a mix of the various lentils coming together on a slow flame to make a scrumptious dish. Majorly consisting of black lentils and chana dal this one reminded us of the slow cooked dal we had on our trip to Chandigarh. It is absolutely mesmerizing. The dal here is cooked in tomatoes, onions and chillies with the most perfect flavours. Feel free to add a dash of lime if you need it.
FROM THE BAKERS OVEN!
Atte Ki Naan is fluffy bread made of wheat. It is a little sweet and is super soft. It is one of their proud servings.
Naan was crisp even when it had turned cold. The crunch was maintained and it did not have a hint of chewiness. We love it that way. Few places are able to do justice to a Naan.
Varki Paratha is soft and has layers similar to that in Laccha paratha. This one is again sweet and is loaded with greasing so is heavy on one’s appetite.
Besan ki roti is crisp and flavourful.
And to dine well come here.
Atte Gond ka Halwa is a sinful preparion loaded with desi ghee. The halwa is roasted brown. The flavour and fragrance of such a well-roasted halwa is just out of this world. Pieces of edible gum add a crunch to the pasty atte ka halwa. We were mesmerised!
Gulab ki Firni is served in a clay pot. The firni is thick in texture and is rose flavoured. The reduced milk with rice is a loved sweet Indian desert and the flavour of rose only makes it more desirable.
HOW MAY I HELP YOU!
One of the best hospitalities we have experienced in the recent past was at Baluchi, The Lalit. We were welcomed in Punjabi style with Bhangra, Dhol and famous peppy Punjabi numbers. It felt like a celebration of Punjab in Mumbai. Namrata our host for the evening gave us a warm welcome and made us comfortable at Baluchi. The chefs arrived at our table to give us an overview of the festival before we started our meal. With every dish the chef appeared on our table to explain us the preparation. The servers are well trained and are good hosts. Live instrumental music is played to make the evening livelier and we made our requests too. This experience was a breath of fresh air and de-stress after the tiring workday.
HAWK EYE VIEW!
The hospitality is commendable, the food is outstanding and the experience is memorable. The chefs have taken care of minute details and that is reflected in the food that they serve. We have had unsatisfactory experiences at most of the restaurants of this genre but Baluchi just took us by awe. It is surely a place to tickle your desi taste buds in the most scrumptious way.
Chowk wali Lassi, Lahori Seekh, Bhatti de kumbh, Chur Chur ke Naan, Pindi Choley, Martabaan Ke Achaari Aloo, Dhaba Dal and Atte Gond ka Halwa.