Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tandoor Delicacies at Bukhara, New Delhi - India's Best Restaurant.

One hallmark of Indian cuisine - North Indian in particular - are the many different meats and breads cooked in the Tandoor. The oven itself is a marvel of a cooking instrument: it's fueled by wood/charcoal with heats exceeding 400°C, which give a nice char on any meats on the outside while not overcooking the inside. There's probably tens or hundreds of thousands of tandoors around the world in various restaurants and eateries, but according to the various ranking lists none of them do it better than Bukhara.

Bukhara New Delhi

Bukhara came in as the #1 Restaurant in India and New Delhi in Acqua Panna and San Pellegrino's Asia's 50 Best Restaurants List 2014. It's one of the few restaurants on this list that are completely and unapologetically rustic - no fancy pants fusion or deconstructed molecular stuff here - just 35 years of extracting the best possible result from the clay oven.

Bukhara New Delhi Papadum

The decor is rustic and comfortable (although the tables are a tad low for taller diners), service is warm and jovial, and the (non-vegetarian) menu has just ten items on it. Surprisingly and thankfully there is a Single Diner Lunch option for Rs 2,400 (SGD 50.64), which allows you to choose and sample three different items off the menu! Awesome concept. I go for Murgh Tandoori, Murgh Malai Kabab and Barrah Kabab - Chicken pieces, Minced chicken and Lamb pieces respectively. The lunch option also comes with your choice of bread (I asked for butter naan) and the restaurant's signature Dal Bukhara - Creamy Black Lentil Dhall with a huge dollop of butter.

Bukhara New Delhi Tandoor Meats

Oddly enough I enjoyed the Dal Bukhara most of all. It's entirely unlike the watered down soup we normally get with Prata in Malaysia/Singapore - this one is strong, creamy, buttery, thick - delicious. Of the three clay iron meats, I thoroughly enjoyed the lamb - moist and juicy. The minced chicken however was terribly dry inside - I needed a spoonful of Dal with every bite just to swallow it down, which was surprising for a restaurant that only cooks with the Tandoor. The chicken pieces came somewhere in between.

The lunch set also comes with your choice of dessert - wanting something cold I went with their Kulfi - which is indian ice cream made from evaporated sweetened milk. I didn't find the Bukhara rendition to be really that much different than other Kulfi's we get here in South East Asia.

Bukhara New Delhi Dessert Kulfi

It seems that North indian restaurants almost invariably serve sweetened fennel seeds as a breath freshener to end off the meal. It's definitely a taste that I've yet to acquire.

Bukhara New Delhi Sweetened Fennel

I didn't think Bukhara really deserved its' billing as Best Restaurant in India to be honest. It's definitely a very good restaurant - the service is warm and friendly, decor is rustic and inviting, that Dal Bukhara was supremely divine. But meats cooked in the Tandoor is their specialty, so they should be able to nail it perfectly. Eating dry minced chicken here is like going to Morton's or Ruth Chris and getting a burnt steak. Nevertheless I still thoroughly enjoyed my visit overall, even if some of the kebabs fell a tad bit short of my (admittedly lofty) expectations.

Bukhara is in the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mansingh road, New Delhi. Reservations recommended: mytable.itcmaurya@itchotels.in. No pork and no beef.

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