Daawat-e-Saffron, JW Marriott Mumbai

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By popular demand Saffron, the Indian specialty restaurant at J W Marriott, which is operational only for dinner; has now opened its doors for patrons so that they can enjoy a lavish Thali experience.

Master Chef Shahnawaz Qureshi, the Sous Chef at Saffron, has curated an impressive Avadhi menu that will be served in the format of a Thali every Saturday. Being the fourth generation of the famous Qureshi family, his knowledge about spices and preparations is extensive. He brings in his experience and a lot of secret recipes from his family. Some of his recipes have been handed over by his ancestors for over 200 years.

We had the opportunity to savour the taste of the royal kitchens of the Awadhi Nawabs through his cooking. The Thali includes traditional dishes like the Galouti Kebab, Malai Jheenga, Nihari Gosht, Murg Baradari, Hare Mutter ki Tikki, Sarson ka Saag, Guchhi Mutter and Shahi Tukda, paired along with Indian cocktails. They’ve also got live Tabla and Sitar players playing Indian classical music.

The Thali. We have had authentic South Indian food at Saffron before but this was our first Thali experience here. We were excited and looking forward to it. Priced at Rs 1800++ for Non-Veg and Rs 1500++ for Veg, these thalis come with Appetizers, Main-Course, Assorted Indian Bread Basket and Dessert.

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For starters we had the Galouti Kebab, Lehsuni Jheenga, Seekh Kebab and a Chicken Kebab. Each one, better than the other. We found ourselves tucking in second helpings of the Galouti Kebabs as they were absolutely delicious. Melt-in-your-mouth and perfectly cooked just as it should be. It was served on a piece of buttered roti. The kebabs were moist, well marinated and perfectly charred. The meat was tender and cooked well. Every creation sort of projected the finesse of a seasoned chef. We also tried the Mutter Tikkas and a veg Galouti Kebab that was made of mushrooms. Nice. 🙂 We also loved sipping on Satvik, a refreshing drink made of freshly squeezed lime juice, simple syrup and Rooh-afza and Mint Sour made of fresh mint, lime juice and club soda.

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Then the Thali was served. Loved the silver thaal with bowls that made the whole experience more feel more royal. We were served the Gosht Ki Nihari, Murg Baradari, Dal-e-Khaas, Paneer Methi Makhan and Gosht Biryani. A bowl of Dahi bhalla was also added to our Thalis. What we love about Awadhi cuisine is how earnestly a recipe is followed. Known for its slow cooking process and the variety of spices, Awadhi cuisine has a place in every true food lover’s heart. We loved every bite of every dish we tasted. The Gosht Ki Nihari was creamy with the meat falling off the bone. The Dal-e-Khaas was thick and rich, just the way we like it. It was superb. The biryani was flavourful and each grain of rice was fluffy and aromatic. We were in food heaven. In a tete-a-tete with Chef Qureshi we came to know the history behind each dish and how each recipe has evolved. He took pride in letting us that all the spices and important ingredients are transported from Lucknow to ensure the authenticity in the taste of every dish. He said that every dish has its own set of spices that are ground together. The ratios/proportions are a family kept secret that is passed down to every generation. Can you believe, the garam masala he uses has a total of 46 spices? Wow! We were just amazed with how much he knew about spices. It was great to understand his way of cooking and where he comes from. His expertise and extensive knowledge of each ingredient showcased the passion with which his family is known for.

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It was time for dessert. We were awestruck with what was plated for us. A rich decadent piece of Shahi Tukda and pillowy soft Rasmalai laced with Rabdi, garnished with pistachios and strands of saffron. It was pure indulgence. You have to taste it to believe it. It was the best versions of these two desserts that we had ever tasted. We loved the spun sugar that added sophistication to the platter.

We enjoyed the Thali at Saffron and absolutely loved learning about Awadhi cuisine from Chef Shahnawaz Qureshi. It’d be a sin not to relish these delicacies, we will definitely be back for more.

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