It’s quite difficult to put a fine dining twist on food that needs no fork and spoon. A type of cuisine that requires tasting every flavor from the tip of your fingers, diving into that gravy with a piece of torn paratha in the shape of a spoon. But when a chef does make it work, it’s amazing! As part of a Zomato meetup I had the privilege to be invited to, the team at Punjab Grill (Venetian Village, Abu Dhabi) displayed every bit of creative flair I could imagine.
The restaurant is located well away from the hustle and bustle of city – which adds more meaning to the concept behind the restaurant. If you want dine fine, you dine in peace and serenity. Located at the Ritz Carlton, just opposite the beautiful Sheikh Zayed mosque, the Punjab Grill exudes an a promise for a beautiful dining experience. The restaurant itself is quite grand, and every part of the decor suits its elegant, yet simple, crafts on the plate. But we’re here to talk about food now, aren’t we?
Starting off with a beautiful demonstration by Bar Manager, Mr. Ashwini, we got the chance to stand behind the bar and shake up a Virgin Mojito, a Non-Virgin Cosmopolitan and a Rasa – which had a beautiful touch of Indian with a sprinkle of roasted cumin on ice. The very educative session at the bar taught us how the Cosmos are actually supposed to be made.
Moving on to starters, Chef Sandy gave us his exquisite lesson of simplicity – how a beautiful chaat dish can be morphed into an elegant start, a Watermelon Slider. Getting the biggest opportunity to work along side the executive chef, we all had the chance to plate up our own starters. The best part of this dish was how watermelon foam brought out every bit of aspect of the dish – right from the beautiful watermelon base, to the chaat masala to the crisp spinach fritter. It was absolutely intriguing!
As Mr. Jocelyn, the host, and his wonderful team seated us down and introduced the concept of the menu for the night, we were promised a roller coaster of flavors and textures with impeccable service.
Starting off with a soup as well, the Da Ka Shorba (Lentil Soup), had beautiful presentation. Poured out in front of us to keep the spinach fritter, crisp, and a to give a sense of showmanship, it ticked every box of what fine dining meant. Almost perfect with flavor and texture, the chef’s technique on this simple soup was brought up with the scent of cumin that spread right through the table. (Unfortunately, I forgot to click a picture)
Now since this was a special event, we were called on to share our views on Chef Sandy’s creations, and hence got a chance to taste a little of everything. Next up came the mains. a plate of Macchi Tikka (Grain Mustard Flavored Fish), and Kadai Jhinga (Spiced Shrimp Gravy in a cone of Paratha). The fish was perfectly cooked. Moist and still juicy, the tikka flavor was absolutely splendid! What was even more exciting was the shrimp gravy stuffed paratha, rolled in the shape of cone. Yes it’s quite a simple idea, and nothing that extravagant, but when the gravy is perfect in consistency, and the bread isn’t soggy, that’s when the chef has nailed it!
Next we got a chance to flavor something a bit out of the ordinary, especially for a restaurant that serves Indian cuisine. Spiced Duck with a Tandoori Fig Salad and a Glazed Chicken Tandoori with Makhani Sauce. The chicken was quite a simple take and was slightly dry, but the makahni sauce covered up for it – and I actually enjoyed the pairing! The duck however, was amazing! Beautifully pink, and bold in flavor, it was almost continental except, until you could feel the hint of spices that lined up the skin side. And to pair this with a Tandoor Fig salad was actually quite interesting. Sort of gave me fusion flavors from France and India – intriguing right? I think the chef has really displayed his skill here, as this dish was definitely a hit! I’d go back for this over and over again.
The next plate that was served consisted of a Rack of Lamb, a Raan-e-Sikhandari (Slow cooked Leg of Lamb) and a Mutton Dum Biryani. The Rack of Lamb, although slow-cooked, was quite tough. The spices were quite lovely, but the meat itself could’ve been much better.
However, the Leg of Lamb was something I’ve never tasted before. Yes we do have mutton gravies in India, but to slow roast it whole, in a braise that keep the meat perfectly moist and flavors it with all the goodness in Indian Spices, this particular dish was the best out of everything! Then came the Dum Biryani. Oh boy! We were stuffed – and that’s an understatement. But knocking down every obstacle of belt sizes, we went ahead as a strong army. The Biryani was actually very beautiful! Not oily at all, it was evenly flavored and had everything a good biryani should have! There was no sign of how much work the kitchen put behind it, but the simplicity of the dish and its extravagant flavors showed everything of what a fine dining biryani should be.
Last but not least, was the Anjeer Kulfi and the Jalebi Churros for dessert. The Kulfi (made in-house), was beautifully plated. The kulfi is unlike the frozen stick you usually get. But when served with a honey basket, it was a really good take on texture and taste! The deconstructed jelabis, however, took the icing with a very intriguing concept. I’m just going to put a picture here, and the rest is up to your imagination. Think of molecular gastronomy – where you think of something, you see something, but you taste something else.
The Punjab Grill is a beautiful restaurant that promises to deliver an amazing dining experience, and will keep you coming back for more. In addition to the feed, the VERY friendly team in the restaurant, at the bar as well as in the kitchen will ensure you keep coming back for more. A very talented chef to lead the restaurant showed me how committed the restaurant could be to bringing out new innovative techniques in serving Indian food, but only time will tell if this sticks. For all the other reasons – I think it’s definitely a must-visit for a nice weekend date, or a family get-together.