Sanjeev Kapoor, a Padma Shri Awardee Celebrity Chef of India who has understood the Indian cuisine and helped Indians resonate the Indian cooking in their minds through his Indian Television history’s long-running and most popular cookery show – Khana Khazana, has commenced his new venture in Abu Dhabi – Khazana – Grain of Salt. The restaurant that fuses Indian cuisine with International cuisine on the minimal extent, which is quite contradictory to Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s reputation and image on foreign shores.
Often dubbed the Rachel Ray of India, Sanjeev Kapoor has featured twice on American TV with her. United Nations (UN) chose him as the Indian Ambassador for their Clean Cookstoves Campaign, which was aimed at the underprivileged in developing countries. Under the Spanish government’s Indian Future Leaders Programme (IFLP) he represented India as a Food Ambassador. Another feather in his already colourful cap is the exciting CNN project in Copenhagen, Denmark in November 2011. He worked along with Chef Rene Redzepi, owner of the number one restaurant in the world, Noma. Noma is known for its reinvention and reinterpretation of Nordic cuisine and ‘soul food.’ Sanjeev also represented India in 2012 in the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) at Daejon, South Korea and initiated the ancient ways of Ayurvedic cooking to the world of chefs. His food label (Khana Khazana) was launched at the House of Commons in the UK by Mr Fabian Hamilton, MP, North East Leeds, Yorkshire. The event had the who’s who of UK present. Sanjeev Kapoor was one of the chief speakers/presenters at the Worlds of Flavour, International conference and festival organised by the Culinary Institute of America at Graystone, California. The list of his international recognitions and well-known works is long.
With such stature and persona, Sanjeev Kapoor has always been a connoisseur of Indian gastronomy and cuisines. Khazana could have been a complete Indian fusion themed restaurant, but the minimal fusion makes it stand out of the crowd. Impressive and straightforward dishes with an element of intrigue on plates keep the theme of the restaurant more Indian than fusion cuisine. The stone serving boards, mirrored menu card, simple and elegant interiors, and excellent quality of ingredients makes Khazana a choice of diners who wants to taste Indian food with a hint of International flavours and utterly hospitable environment.
The crunchy outer shell and cheesy & juicy filling of Mushroom Dumplings are apt Amuse Bouche with Urad Papads accompanied with raita, pickle, salsa, and chutneys in Khazana. The very Indian Tandoori Tikkas – Paneer and Chicken are smoky and mildly spicy; the Hariyali Chicken Tikka topped with cheese is the fusion of Indian Tandoori preparations with Italian cheese, and it is on point. The simple and fresh Tandoori preparations are always gratifying to start a meal as Appetisers. Still, a dash of Italian cheese makes an impression and elevates the flavour profile of Hariyali Tikka. The Paneer Tikka is an average affair in Khazana as the marination of Paneer cubes doesn’t dominate the creamy flavour of Paneer; the lack of spiciness is the reason. However, the freshness of Paneer and Chicken is unquestionable.
The Naans are well-baked in Tandoor, and Sun-dried tomato Parathas are unique and should be in the right combination with spicy curries. Still, the spice level of Khazana’s curries is adjusted to suit the palate of Arabs and other nationalities residing in Abu Dhabi; this is not preferred to robust Indian taste buds and doesn’t justify their combination with Naan and Parathas.
The Chicken Masala is the undefined recipe, and every other person and region in India has its version of ‘Chicken Masala’. When North Indians use dairy and nuts in abundance to cook a gravy of Chicken Masala, South Indians sharpen it with lots of whole and powdered spices. East Indians develops the Chicken Masala with a prevalence of spices in combination with mustard oil, the western population of India gratifies their taste-buds with hot spices and chillies. Chicken Masala is customised and versatile curry cooked as a staple across India. The Khazana’s Chicken Masala is North Indian version where Tomato-onion based gravy has nutty and spicy notes, and it is subtle. Vegetable Jalfrezi is cooked with similar gravy devoid of nuts; it has the crunch of vegetables. The curries are not exclusive and provide customers with an average experience which is not expected in Sanjeev Kapoor’s restaurant; everyone expects extraordinary experience. The curry containers and bread baskets are impressive as in any other fine-dine restaurants of Abu Dhabi.
The Biryanis of any Fine-dine restaurants are not as authentic and delicious as they are at small Biryani outlets across the city; the need to strike a balance between supply and demand is the reason for indifference. Generally, Biryani is cooked at once served for a day in specif Biryani outlets, but this practice doesn’t apply in fine-dine as they have plenty of things to offer to customers than mere a Biryani and there are chances of wastage of Biryani at the end of the day, if not sold completely. Khazana’s Biryani is more of Pulao than an authentic Biryani. They cook the rice, they prepare the chicken and vegetables, they give Dum to each of them separately and customise it in Pan by frying as per customer’s need and serve in a clay pot sealed with bread (representing Dum). However, the hint of rosewater, spices, kewra essence, and saffron is no less than original Biryani, but the x-factor of Biryani is missing. They fuse Lucknowi Jhol (saffron milk) with Hyderabadi flavours for Biryani and which is acceptable when it comes to fusion because Biryani cannot be and should not be merged with any characters other than India one.
The Molasses in brown sugar when caramelised emits the bitter taste, and that bitter taste is aptly used in ‘Misti Doi Brulee.’ The sweet and sour Yoghurt with caramelised brown sugar is the excellent treat after a heavy meal and highly recommended in Khazana; this French-Indian fusion food works pretty well. Khazana’s Gulab Jamuns are decent in taste and fresh.
A menu which doesn’t consistently represent the fusion food concept of the restaurant (it’s minimal fusion); an average taste of Paneer Tikka; an inappropriate combination of bread with curries (the spiciness of curries should be addressed), Khazana – Grain of Salt lacks the extraordinary element of Fine Dine Restaurant and merely standing on the extraordinary reputation of Sanjeev Kapoor and excellent location of World Trade Centre (Abu Dhabi). Although by the time of this Blog, they are not serving all dishes of the menu, time only will decide how will the restaurant impress the customers in future.
Khazana’s fate is a sheer play of legacy of Sanjeev Kapoor.
Average Cost: AED 240 for two people (approx.)
Location: WTC Mall, 3rd Floor, Opposite to Novo Cinemas Hamdan Street, Abu Dhabi
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