K & K is one of ITC Hotel’s crown jewels that serves authentic and delectable Indian cuisine. With ancient culinary secrets and recipes that were part of royal kitchens, K & K boasts of tantalizing guests with the some of the finest and richest Indian culinary experience. The beauty of K & K is in the use of various techniques of cooking; clay and iron tandoors, angethis, tawas, sealed deghs and copper handis. This award winning restaurant celebrated 10 glorious years and we were invited to be a part of a truly exceptional gastronomic experience. We were met eight legendary chefs from ITC Hotels all over India. They created 40 kebabs for this occasion and we were among the few chosen to try them.
The table was set and the champagne was popped. The Jashn-e-Kebab began.
It started with Chef Haji Mohd Farooqui’s Gulnaar Kali (Rs 1600) and Guftaguu (Rs 1300). Sigh what a start! Chef Farooqui’s humble demeanor and his experience reflected in both these dishes. Gulnaar Kali was succulent lamb morsels steeped in brine and cooked overnight with a heady concoction of Royal cumin, yellow chillies, whole garam masala, malt vinegar cooked in a lagan. Chef Farooqui informed us that the choicest cut of lamb was used for this kebab. The Guftaguu stole the show by being the most desirable kebab of the evening. It was fresh cabbage, yes that’s right, cabbage mince, flavoured with cardamom and saffron, and shallow fried in ghee. It had the texture of a Galaouti kebab but we were shocked to see cabbage cooked in this form, and it didn’t even taste like a veg kebab. The melt in your mouth texture won us over.
Next, were two kebabs by Chef Sundar from ITC Grand Chola. He presented two unusual kebabs using flavours of Kerala – Kovalam Vathu Ulartyathu (Rs 1650) – Kerala style pot cooked tender duck, spiked with roasted spice blend from Kovalam. We had never tasted duck cooked with such robust flavours with hints of coconut oil and curry leaves. The duck was beautifully cooked and the fat was well rendered. It is disappointing to see that duck, in the Indian market, is usually well received only if madewith South East Asian or European style of cooking. With this menu, K & K also promises to bring the patrons and kebab lovers back to their roots, to the traditional Indian flavours, by using meats and vegetables that have never been tasted in a kebab form. Chef Sundar’s next kebab was Vazhapoo Pertati (Rs 1300) – Banana blossom mixed with spiced potatoes, shaped as patties and pan grilled. This kebab brought back memories of my time spent in Kerala, where my grandmother used to make banana blossom as a sabzi on wood fired stove. Chef Sundar was not only able to pack the flavours of Kerala in both his dishes, but was also able to bring out the flavours of the main ingredients.
Chef Surat Singh from ITC Mughal’s kebabs were Sarsonka Machi (Rs 1550) and Kache Keleke Kebab (Rs 1150). The pocketed diamond cut of the Indian salmon was marinated with mustard, stuffed with pickled chilies and wrapped with wafer thin aubergine slices, chargrilled from the embers of an “Angethi”. The fish was grilled so well, I couldn’t believe it had a skewer run through it. Hats off to the Chef for the precision in the cooking time. When we served the fish, it was not wrapped in aubergine slices, we would’ve loved to taste that combo, but nonetheless the fish kebab was delicious. The Kache Keleke Kebab, was raw banana seekh kebab made in tandoor with hints of mace and green cardamom. It was a bit too spicy for our palate, and it felt like the binding agent, which was in excess, diluted the banana flavour.
The next kebabs were by Chef Srinevasu from ITC Windsor. Bijapur Mutton Roast (Rs 1600) and Tofai-e-Zameen (Rs 1150). The Bijapur Mutton Roast is a signature preparation originating from the Bijapur district in Karnataka, succulent lamb pieces, bhunaoed with curd, almond, coconut and flavoured with aromatic spices like star anise and “Kalpassi”. Kalpassi is the native name for Black Stone Flower, locally called Pathar Ka Phool or Dagad Phool. These lamb pieces had so much flavour that it was impossible to stop at eating just one. Tofai-e-Zameen was again a shami style kebab, grilled on the tawa, made with the humble yet versatile yam stuffed with royal cumin, pomegranate and cheese. We were in kebab heaven. It was unbelievable that veg kebabs got more votes than the non-veg ones, and that each kebab was better than the previous one.
We thought that it couldn’t get better, but Chef Gunjan Goela changed our mindset about vegetables. Chef Gunjan has been with ITC for past 20 years and her wisdom for choosing the vegetables she did, was astounding. She said “Food is our medicine, and ayurveda identifies six tastes of food – Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent and Astringent and it is important to include these tastes in each meal”. Her kebabs were some of the best veg kebabs we’ve had. The first one was called Vrantikam (Rs 1150) was batterfried eggplant stuffed with onion and hungcurd. It surely made all those who detest eggplant, fall in love with it. It is one dish that I will most certainly have to try making. The Shabarkand (Rs 1150), charcoal grilled sweet potato barrels stuffed with thin potato sallis and pomegranate, served with sweet and tangy chutney. It tasted almost like a chaat. Both these kebabs were mindblowing.
Next up was Chef Akshraj Jodha, who brought us flavours of Rajasthan with his kebabs. Achari Maans ka Shola (Rs 1650) and Sangriki Shami (Rs 1300). The Achari Maans ka Shola were lamb escalopes infused with green coriander paste, garam masala, figs and rum, and then grilled on Angethi. It was well prepared and tasted really good but the Sangriki Shami drew our attention. This delicate shami was made with traditional Rajasthani “Kher Sangri”. It completely knocked our socks off with how beautifully Chef Jodha translated “Kher Sangri” with this kebab. It was brilliant.
Tasting the next kebabs was like a dream come true. More than the kebabs, it was this particular Chef who we were waiting to meet. Chef J P Singh, of the one and only Bukhara at ITC Maurya. One of India’s most celebrated chefs, Chef Singh has fed a host of Heads of State on multiple occasions. Bukhara as a restaurant, has won many accolades for its traditional clay oven and tandoor,and the delicious menu of succulent tandoor-cooked kebabs, vegetables and breads. It was indeed a pleasure to taste kebabs made by this culinary genius. He mentioned that the menu at Bukhara, has not changed for the last 38 years.
Now about his kebabs, he presented the best batter fried scampi that we had ever tasted, Jhinga Firdaus Shahi (Rs 2350). Fresh water scampi, marinated with ‘Firdaus-e-Mauj’ spice mix and batter fried, finished with Kebab masala. Crispy and Crunchy, every seafood lovers delight, this brought a big smile to Joash’s face. The veg kebab was Guchhi Paneer ke Kebab (Rs 1300), stuffed morels with cottage cheese, slow cooked in tandoor, finished with a dollop of butter and delicate spice powder. Personally, I love morel mushroom prepared in a kebab form and the aromatic spices and saffron made it scrumptiously delicious. The cottage cheese was soft and the morels were well cooked, soaking up all the lovely marinade.
Then Chef Zaki Kazmi from ITC Gardenia, came with his set of kebabs; Pathar ka Gosht (Rs 1700) – Traditional Hyderabadi preparation of escaloped lamb marinated with yoghurt and spices, grilled on stone. The escaloped lamb were marinated so well and the yoghurt and the spices tenderized it to give it a melt in your mouth texture. He also shared the history of how this dish came into being. The second kebab was yet another wonderful seekh kebab, the Gulezar Dhungari Kebab (Rs 1150) – skewered mince of smoky garden vegetables and dry fruits scented with cardamom, cooked in tandoor. It was difficult to crown the best veg kebab of the evening as all of them shone better than the non-veg ones. This kebab was really delicious.
We were stuffed but couldn’t leave K & K without having the yummy biryani made by Chef Farooqui. He enlightened us about the way biryanis are made in Lucknow. He said there are about 18 varieties of biryani and he was really excited to feed us the Dumpukht Biryani. He very sweetly said that when biryanis are made in Lucknow, they are made in a manner where you wouldn’t feel the need to pick out a single spec from your mouth while eating it. It was fragrant, fluffly, light and sinfully indulgent. The meat fell off the bone, it was just cooked so well. The best we have had in recent times. Even the vegetarians seemed to have enjoyed the Lucknowi Pulav, the vegetarian version.
Now it was time for dessert, and we had no idea we would be spellbound with what was served to us. Pastry Chef Avani Mudbidri, got us what was Gulab Jamun with Rose Panna cotta on Pistachio and Almond Crumble garnished with Dark Chocolate, Sesame Crisp and Rose Syrup. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end our meal. The not so sweet Rose Panna Cotta, with rich and soft Gulab Jamun, was a match made in heaven. The dry fruit crumble added the needed texture to the dessert, so did the sesame crisp. The dark chocolate balanced out the flavours with earthy notes and the rose syrup lifted up the whole dessert adding a perfect sweet ambrosial hit. It was epic.
We had best taste of traditional Indian cuisine, and we will cherish the wholeexperience for a long time. We were accompanied by Chef Bhaskar Sankhari, Executive Chef of ITC Grand Central, who kept giving us insight on how these dishes were created. A lot of hard work, immense talent,and years of experience were portrayed in all the dishes that were served. Dining at K & K is an experience one shouldn’t miss. This festival features 40 kebabs that were specially created for this occasion and one will not find these at any of the ITC restaurants in India. Chef Sankhari also discussed how K & K has continuously enhanced the diner experience by educating the diners about Indian food. We highly recommend yousome of the kebabs at this festival. It’s on till the 13th of this month. Don’t miss it for the world!