Dining at Adaa – the signature Indian restaurant at Taj Fakalnuma is not just about food. It’s also an invitation to get a fleeting glimpse of the royal lifestyle of the bygone era. I booked the 7:30 pm slot at Adaa for dinner with dad. We reached a little early so that we could watch the palace transform as the sun goes down. The Falaknuma Palace, which was painstakingly renovated by the Taj group, is a sight to behold. The palace is beautiful even during the day. But, once the sun goes down and the lights come on, it transforms into something magical. There is a half an hour tour for all the restaurant guests at 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM which briefly touches upon the history of the palace and guides the guests around the various rooms of interest.
Adaa is located at the far end of the palace in one of the smaller rooms. It doesn’t have a lot of tables, so you need to reserve your seat well in advance. The room is adorned with massive old school paintings and chandeliers. There is a Chef’s Choice set menu, which costs Rs. 5,500 plus taxes per person, and is the recommended dining experience if you can afford it. The price of this set menu has been significantly increased from what it was a year or two back. We opted for a la carte which is comparatively lighter on the pocket.
We began our night with a couple of cocktails – Old No. 7 and Mango Kaffir Lime. The former was Jack Daniels No. 7 mixed with mango syrup, which the latter was tequila in mango syrup with a hint of kaffir lime. Both the drinks were excellent.
In starters, we ordered Zafrani Murgh Tikka and Patthar ka Gosht. The Murgh Tikka was a delight to all the senses. It had five large pieces of succulent, soft chicken that were grilled in the tandoor to perfection. Adaa also did a remarkable job with my perennial favourite dish – Patthar ka Gosht. Remarkably the mutton pieces were even tender than the chicken.
In the main course, we ordered Kachche Gosht ki Biryani and Kalije ka Lamb. My first visit to Adaa was a couple of years back, and Kachche Gosht Ki Biryani had blown me away then. Since then I had been dying to taste this dish again. It’s the best rendition of the Hyderabadi Biryani, and far superior to the Biryanis available at various old city joins. Of course, the comparison is not entirely fair, since Adaa also charges almost four times more than the traditional old city outlets. But, before we could dig into the Biryani, we were served a portion of Tamarind Sorbet as a palate cleanser. I didn’t like the flavour of the sorbet much, but it definitely did its job and removed any lingering taste of the starters. The Biryani was as good as I remembered it to be. The slow cooked mutton pieces were tender and oozing with flavour. The long-grained basmati rice was also rich in aroma and flavour. You could smell the rose water and saffron distinctly. However, people used to consuming “double masala” biryanis might find it a little light on the spices. For me it was perfect. The side dish was – Keema Kaleji – a semi gravy preparation of mutton liver with minced meat.
All of the dishes were enough in quantity for two people, and by now we were stuffed. For desserts, we ordered a platter of Sorbet and Icecream. I picked two sorbet – Jasmine Tea and Lemon, and one ice cream – Paan. The paan ice cream was the first disappointment of the day. The flavour was very light and felt artificial. I’d pick the Ci Gusta’s Paan ice cream ahead of this any day. The sorbets were, however, brilliant. The texture and flavours were just right. The lemon sorbet stole the show though – as it often does.
Throughout the meal the service was extraordinary. Adaa clearly believes in quality over quantity. Both the number of guests and the number of items in the menu is fairly limited. However, the attention to detail is impressive. The only sore spot is that in spite of already charging you a hefty amount for the food and liquor, they also feel the need to charge you an outrageous amount for water. During the course of the meal we were never given the option of regular water, yet we were charged over Rs. 350 (inclusive of taxes) for two bottles of water. This definitely leaves a sour aftertaste.
The mandatory minimum spending for dinner is Rs. 3000 per person (plus taxes), and we comfortably exceeded that. Our meal for two ended up setting us back by around Rs. 7,800. If you want to dine in the Gol Bunglow, which offers a splendid view of the city, the minimum spend shoots up to Rs. 6,500 per person (plus taxes). Reservation is mandatory and they have dress code (smart casuals) and other restrictions (children below 12 years are not allowed). Adaa definitely commands a premium, but the experience is absolutely worth it. I look forward to going back again for a special dining experience.