Weekend grub: Andaaz takes you back to the Mughal era
With so many security advisories and checks, Andaaz has become the waterhole of most of the diplomats as well as visiting foreign delegations in Islamabad as it carries a “clearance tag”.
The eatery offers fine dining Pakistani cuisine as well as the ambiance. Corporate dinners, embassy treats and Islooties looking for a quiet evening out, Andaaz provides the recipe.
Where to go:
Nestled in the lap of Margalla Hills in Saidpur Village F-6 Islamabad, Andaaz interior manages to cast nostalgia on the guests the moment they enter the eatery. The décor is nothing but mesmerizing.
Black and white photographs of music gurus of yesteryears dominates the grey stone walls of the eatery unfolding the stories of the legends of the sub-continent’s music world. Malika Pukhraj, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Roshan Ara Begum , Pathanay Khan and many others take the guests at Andaaz down memory lane.
When to go:
The eatery opens at 12 noon for lunch and lights are off at midnight. With seating capacity exceeding 70 in number and that too on split levels, it is hard to decide which floor has a better view of the majestic mountains and the Hindu temple neighboring Andaaz.
What to order:
As we seated, toasted pappadums, in golden brass ramekins arrived in not more than five minutes of waiting. The overdose of dips in the likes of kachomar salad, tamarind chutney, sesame garlic paste sauce and mint chutney made it difficult to pick and savor one particular taste in the mouth. As we were a party of six and it was a lunch time on a Sunday, the place had a full occupancy.
We had decided to go Dutch so the order was massive. Cheese chicken kebabs, tandoori jheengay, , paneer sabz seekh , kandahar kebabs from the grilled side and jheenga karahi, chutney murgh and daal makhni were the other picks of the day on the gravy side.
Before the food was served, a server carrying a traditional samawarappeared on our table for finger-dips taking us back in Mughal era. We all got excited and felt like a royalty. Four silver platters arrived on our table and the waitress gently placed one piece each of char chicken cheese kebabs on the plates laid out for the hungry appetites.
The cheese chicken kebabs were divine; an amalgamation of cheddar, gouda and mozzarella, with a dust of Parmesan and two grilled mushrooms on the side, the plate looked pretty, as well as appetizing. 10/10 for marination and the grill, the cheese oozing out of the meat clearly distinguished it’s own flavor with that of mince chicken.
These kebabs are a must try; order atleast two helpings if you’re a big bunch because we all wanted seconds. The server had warned us before hand on the quantity of tandoori jheengay(four on one plate) so we ordered more. Grilled to perfection, the jumbo prawns were infused with umpteen home made sauces.
“Jheengas require 24 hours marinating time, as more than 25 different ingredients go into the homemade recipe, which I use for both the tandooriand the jheenga karahi,” explained the Andaaz head chef.
Paneer sabz seekh and daal makhni were picked from the menu to balance the meat orders. Finely cut, as well as proportionately balanced, cubes of cottage cheese arrested in a skewer along with thinly sliced bell peppers and an onion ring, with a hint of tamarind sauce, managed to attract the three diehard meat eaters.
Daal makhni had all what one could ask for. Right amount of cream, well cooked lentils and the spice level acceptable to all. It was heavy on the appetite but tasted like the traditional makhni from across the border.Chutney murgh came out to be a Hyderabadi dish. Tandoori grilled boneless chicken chunks, beautifully laid out on a bed of green chutney, homemade sauce with caramelized onion garnishing; the dish got polished off in a jiffy.
The menu for dessert was as appealing as the main menu. Dhai ke kheer, shahi tukray and gulab jaman burlee was where we stopped. Unfortunately had to ignore the chocomosa, which was a pastry filled with melted dark chocolate and shaped like a samosa, deep fried and served with vanilla sauce. Neither our appetite nor our pockets could afford it any more.
Served in clay baked containers, the kheer lived up to it’s name as well as innovation. Topped with raisins and pistachios, the chilled delight was a mix of cream and yogurt. One could not decide whether it was the sweetness of the raisins or crunch of the pistachios or the tang of the yogurt that made this novelty a hit with one spoon bite.
The jaman burlee too, seemed to be an infusion; a thin layer of custard cream, topped with gulab jaman spread before being caramelized, carried the color as well as a unique taste.Two spoons each were enough to appreciate the patisserie chef.
Damage on the pocket:
Andaaz is no doubt heavy on the pocket. Prices range from Rs 800 to Rs 1800. Char cheese chicken kebabs are priced at Rs 890 whereas tandoori jheengay will set you back Rs 1890. Similarly, kandahar kebabs carry a price tag of Rs 990, as does the paneer sabz seekh. Chutney murgh is for Rs 1190 whereas all veggies fall under the Rs 700 belt. An average bill per person should be Rs 1500 to Rs 2000.