Oriental Bar and Kitchen, the Pan-Asian restobar at Park Hyatt Hyderabad, needs little introduction. Much before Pan-Asian became a rage in the twin cities, OBK was dishing out delicacies from the far east. Last year, it enthralled with its series of pop-up kitchens that invited regional cuisine experts to showcase different facets of Pan Asian fare like Dim Sums, Schezwan and Thai. This year, it is taking a closer look at its menu, which was last refreshed in 2014. Earlier this month, OBK invited Chef Azrul Samah from Hyatt Regency, Makkah to launch the new ‘Asian Inspired’ menu at OBK.
The refreshed menu at Oriental Bar and Kitchen promises to take things up things a notch and showcase regional specialities not found elsewhere in the city as well the crowd favourites. Born and raised in Malaysia, Chef Azrul is experienced in vast swathes of Asian cuisines as well as Indian. He has picked dishes that will appeal to the casual diners as well connoisseurs while ensuring that he stays true to the spirit of the cuisine being represented. Earlier in the month, I was invited to a tasting session hosted by Chef Azrul.
But, before I jump into the food, I can’t help but spend a few words on the decor of OBK. The carefully lit dining area is spacious and exudes a sense of calm and comfort. From the shimmering wooden flooring to the long teppanyaki counter to the red upholstered rickshaw, OBK ticks all the boxes to justify its ‘fine dine’ tag.
We began our meal with a bowl of Gado Gado salad, a popular Indonesian street food that means potpourri. It’s a rich yet refreshing mix of blanched vegetables and hard-boiled eggs tossed in a spicy peanut dressing. It’s a sumptuous and delicious salad that’s easy to over-indulge in, but I was forced to be economical as Chef Azrul had an extensive line-up of dishes waiting for us.
Murtabak is a dish that traces its origins to the Middle East and is seen across India in different avatars. From Hyderabad’s own Muttabaq to the Moglai Parota of Kolkata and Baida Roti of Mumbai. The basic concept of the dish is always same- shallow fried paratha stuffed with eggs and (often) minced meat. We were served a Chicken Murtabak at the Oriental Bar and Kitchen. As apropos of a fine dine, the Murtabak was perfect, almost to a flaw. A generous amount of delicately spiced minced chicken was wrapped in a thin and even layer of pastry with a beautiful golden brown hue and just the right amount of crispiness. However, what made the dish really stand out was the simple yet delicious Malaysian Curry. Chef Azrul was rather bemused when I told him that at most places in the city the Murtabak is served without any curry. This popular breakfast dish is almost always accompanied by a gravy in Malaysia.
Laksa is one of the most famous exports of Peranakan cuisine, which is a unique fusion of Chinese and Malaysian. This soup mixes Chinese rice noodles with a coconut milk soup spiced with generous amounts of Sambal. The distinctive element in OBK’s Laksa is the topping of Emping crackers that imparts a touch of magic to this dish with its contrasting texture and flavour.
The fusion of different cultures across the Asian nations has resulted in the creation of many mesmerising delicacies. The Massaman Curry from Thailand, which mixes traditional Indian spices with Thai style of cooking is one of my favourites. Chef Azrul showcased another such creation – Roasted Chicken, which is the result of assimilation of Chinese immigrants into Malaysia. This dish was quite a looker; a large cut of Chicken with its fat beautifully rendered is served on a bed of rich Chicken stock. The aromatic ginger rice was the perfect foil for this dish.
The Lamb Rendang was another beauty. In a Rendang, the lamb is cooked in a rich spice mix and coconut milk until almost all of the liquid is gone. The thick, luscious gravy was delicious, and the Rendang could have been one of the highlights of the night. Unfortunately, OBK erred in the execution; the lamb pieces were a tad chewy.
The Singapore Chilli Prawns bore the comforting spicy, sweet and sour flavour that felt very familiar, yet the dish managed to impress owing to the juicy, fresh prawns.
One of the biggest surprises of the night was the Chicken in Perchik Sauce. In a meal with prawn and lamb, I didn’t expect a Chicken preparation to be one of my favourites but the wonderful gravy did the trick here. Perchik is a basting sauce from Northern Malaysia featuring coconut milk, lemongrass, and curry powder. Chicken marinated in Perchick sauce was grilled and finished off in a rich, creamy gravy of coconut milk, turmeric, and lemongrass.
The desserts at OBK have never been among my favourites, and it remains a section in need of an overhaul. We were served Fried Banana and Cut Mangoes, which were perfectly serviceable but not very impressive. I’d love to see OBK thinking outside of the box and reimagining their desserts.
The first glimpse of the new dishes being introduced at Oriental Bar and Kitchen is promising. Chef Azrul’s biggest success is that he has managed to capture the rustic flavours from the streets of Asia in a manner that is befitting of a fine dine restaurant. I am eager to see what else OBK has in store for the rest of the year. A meal for two at OBK will cost around Rs. 3,500.