As Neel opens its shutters in Andheri, we get a sneak peek into what’s cooking in the kitchen that retains old favourites while adding wonderful new elements, urging suburbanites to throng this above-par Indian cuisine restaurant
A modern chic vibe has always characterised any of Rahul Akerkar’s restaurants — Indigo, Indigo Deli or Neel. This time around, the suave restaurateur has found inspiration in Andheri’s Veera Desai Road (just like Imtiaz Ali did for Alia Bhatt’s character in Highway). Giving company to Pizza Express, Neel restaurant, has opened its shutters with pleasant white interiors and glinting steel bars forming a parabola stretching from the ceiling to the pillars, in its signature fashion.
The interiors of the new eatery are subtle and chic, adding a steely sheen
This reporter (an Andheriite) perked at the thought of being able to dine at a restaurant that will finally know its Dal Makhani from a Kabuli Dal. Andheri has a concentration of Punjabis and Sindhis, says Anurag Katriar, one of the directors of the restaurant, making the suburb a very exciting market.
Raan-e-Mukhtar could very well be a benchmark dish of Neel
According to Katriar, one can anticipate recipes from Lahore to Bangladesh at this outlet, just like at its Mahalaxmi flagship eatery.
Nalli ka Awadhi Shorba has the perfect viscosity to warm you on a chilly evening. Pics/Nimesh Dave.
Lending half our brains to the banter and the other half to indulging in the food, we were presented with Khade Masale ka Pomfret (Rs 685) that had a fine crisp layer of spices coating tender fish, that came right off the bone. The winner, however, was the Mint Chutney which had a novel addition of the raw mango. Finding a gregarious Punjabi in Katriar, our host informs us, “Pomfret and Basa are very popular in this part of the city. So, this is one dish that is created especially for this place and will later be presented at Mahalaxmi.”
Rahul Akerkar, Owner. Pic/Bipin Kokate.
Another specialty only present at this restaurant will be the Broccoli Kali Mirch Tandoori (Rs 445) that was a good thought but lacked the suppleness of cauliflower. Chef Mukhtar Qureshi, our other company, disagreed.
Next up was the mind-blowing Raan-e-Mukhtar (Rs 1,285), a simple plain blowout. With a rich mix of flavour, it only hit the palate after the meat dissolved in one’s mouth. As our discussion regarding Indian cuisine continued between bites, the treatment of protein became the topic of discussion. “One of the most difficult things in this cuisine is getting your chicken or mutton right. You can put salt or oil on a dish, but you can do nothing about spongy, dry chicken,” shares Katriar. Chef Qureshi breaks a vital common notion: “In Indian cuisine you need to taste the meat. It’s not only about the spices.”
As Taazi Bhooni Sabzi (Rs 445), Murgh Baradari Korma (Rs 585)and Kabul ki Dal (Rs 485) arrived, our girth had become ever-expanding. The first was a fresh, light break from the intense cuisine and from how it’s cooked elsewhere in the city. Korma and Dal were initiations for us as we traversed Kabul and Lucknow learning a different treatment of food altogether.
Another standout was the subtle and smoky Nalli ka Awadhi Shorba (Rs 325). Moving on, Parde Me Khubani (Rs 325) could find a befitting place as the perfect dessert to crave for, as the apricots superbly complemented the pastry. Doodh Ka Halwa could offer the roasted kalakand-ish succour for the sweet-toothed.
Neel Ki Rabdi Ice Cream (Rs 245) is definitely for the curious. Refined with an experienced approach, the chutneys, the mutton and the desserts could have us go on and on. Our only regret? A complete miss out on the famous kebabs.
At: Neel, ground floor, Crystal Paradise, off Veera Desai Road, Andheri (West).
This was a preview and hence, not conducted anonymously.