Food critic Suresh Hinduja was walking through the bylanes of Kashmir when he met chef Bashir Wazza at a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant. This chance meeting started a series of collaborations where Hinduja brought down the chef and with him, the authentic taste of Kashmir to Bengaluru.
The Wazwan food festival at LUSH, the fine dining restaurant at Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel is yet another one of their joint ventures. This time resident chef Sanjeev is also part of the team.
The traditional wazwan is a 36 course meal served only at weddings. Hinduja has crafted the menu in such a way that the essence of the meal is kept but without the mind-boggling number of dishes.
We started off with a ‘Kahwa punch’. The cocktail was a mix of concentrated Kashmiri green tea with vodka. With notes of cardamom and cinnamon, the smooth drink was a refreshing play on ice tea.
For appetisers, we were presented with a ‘Nadru and mushroom kebab’ and a ‘Seekh kebab’. The lotus root kebab is a traditional dish that has been amped up with the addition of mushroom. The crisp coating with a dusting of chaat masala keeps you going back for more. The seekh kebab has just the right amount of spice and a generous amount of ghee.
Moving on to the main course, we had the choice between ‘Zereshk pulao’ and ‘Gucchi pulao’ as our rice dishes. My choice would be the former. The tart barberries with the long-grain rice was a delightful combination. Gucchi, the prime ingredient in the second pulao is a black morel mushroom. The vegetarian accompaniments were a creamy rajma and an ‘Aloo palak’ with as much complexity as a meat dish. The ‘Rogan josh’ and ‘Shalgam gosht’ both had perfectly cooked mutton but the depth of flavour was slightly lacking. It was also disappointing that the Rogan josh, usually a dish that makes you reach for the water, was slightly on the sweeter side.
To mop up the gravies, we had two choices of bread. The ‘Sheermal’, a slightly sweet bread flavoured with saffron and the ‘Girda’, a fermented bread similar to Afghani naan.
The star of the Wazwa, often served as the last course, is the ‘Gustaba’, a mutton meatball. The dish will be made in Kashmir by chef Bashir and brought down to the city for the festival.
We ended with a host of phirnis. The paan and gulkand one was a favourite around the table for its subtle taste of paan. The kesar one was a classic done right. My favourite was the gur phirni, which was similar in taste to an ‘Ada pradaman’.
The festival will run from February 17 to 27, from 7 pm to 11 pm, at LUSH, Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel. A meal for one is priced at Rs 2,200 plus taxes; with alcohol the price is Rs 5,000 plus taxes.