In the recent past, Hyderabad has witnessed increasing number of stand-alone restaurants experimenting with food festivals. Punjab Grill is the latest to join the club. The ‘Rangla Punjab’ food festival promises a unique menu featuring authentic and rustic culinary delights from the villages and towns of Punjab.
The Rangla Punjab festival is on until the 26th and features a specially crafted a la carte menu. I was welcomed to the blogger’s table with a kulhad of ‘Kaali Gajar ka Kanji’- a fermented drink prepared from black carrot and mustard. The pungency of the mustard along with the fermentation lends the Kanji a distinctive sharpness. It’s a terrific summer drink and I ended up requesting multiple refills; however, the pungency might not appeal to everyone.
The appetisers featured Chargha Murgh, Mutton Tawa Tikke, and Tikki Chholey. The Chargha Murgh is a popular recipe from across the border. The chicken is marinated in spices for several hours and then twice cooked – first steamed and then fried. This results in a beautifully marinated, juicy chicken with a crisp outer layer. Mutton Tawa Tikke – spicy, pan simmered muttons cubes – was also well liked across the table. What surprised me though was the heat levels of both the dishes. While Punjabi cuisine is known for its rich use of spices, most dishes are not high on chilli or pepper. The vegetarian appetiser, Tikki Chholey, was a disappointment -a tad too dry and bland.
I was excited to see Atta Chicken in the main course selection. Atta Chicken is a unique preparation from the town of Kotkapura in Punjab. A whole bird is marinated, wrapped in muslin and sealed inside an Atta dough. This dough is then put inside tandoor and cooked at high heat. My first experience with this dish was at a brunch in the city. The Punjab Grill rendition stood out due to the rusticness of its marinade and the juicy chicken, but was let down by an undercooked masala. The other highlight of the main course was the Keema Karela – well cooked, masaledar keema wrapped in bitter gourd. The bitterness from the karela was perfectly calibrated to balance the grease and the pieces of the keema. The other dishes in the main course were par for the course. Makhan Chooze is similar to Butter Chicken, but it’s lighter on the cream and heavier on the tomato. The Wadi Pulao seemed promising but flawed execution marred the dish. The sun-dried dumplings (Wadi) had been overcooked to the point of charring.
Punjab Grill burst onto the Hyderabad food scene amid much fanfare. It hit all the right notes during my maiden visit; from the gorgeous Chaamp Tajdar to the simple Tarkari Kesari Biryni. So when I was invited to blogger’s table for Rangla Punjab I definitely walked in with high expectations. Unfortunately, Rangla Punjab experience was a bit uneven. Many of the dishes, especially the vegetarian selection, were rather tepid. Nevertheless, The festival menu features a few interesting preparations like Chargha Murgh, Atta Chicken, and Keema Karela that are worth a try. A meal for two will cost around two thousand bucks.