At Michelin star Atul Kochhar's restaurant NRI, we got a taste of what's cooking in the homes of Indian communities settled abroad
There is a saying in Gujarati: Jya vasse Gujarati, tyaa vasse Gujarat, which loosely translates to: You will find Gujarat where a Gujarati resides. This stands true for all Indians settled abroad. Who would know better than Michelin star chef Atul Kochhar, who has been wooing them to his London eatery, Benaras since 2003. At NRI, which is Kochhar's first foray into India as restaurateur, he attempts to serve Indian cuisine, transformed across the seven seas over generations.
Ti Cardi d Agneau
Our first visit to the BKC eatery was a mixed bag affair. While we loved the flavour-packed Dalim Shakarkandhi Chaat (Rs 225), the Mutton Bunny Chow (Rs 525) was underwhelming. The Butter Chicken (Rs 450) and Dal Makhani (R200) — served with an outstanding sweet flatbread from Malaysia, called Roti Canai (Rs 75) — were the best we have ever had. All we could taste in the Malay Korma was coconut milk. The Pind Da Hummus (Rs 225), a Punjabi-fied version of the Middle-Eastern staple, spiced with chhole masala, tempted us to break into a bhangra. While our fellow taster felt the Gondhoraj Tart lacked punch, we loved how we winced under the powerful tang of the Bengali lemon.
Piqued and keen for a second dekko, we dropped by after a fortnight. The interiors have eight light installations in the shape of milk canisters, rows of bulbs and kitschy coloured-glass that lends to a warm yellow ambiance. We began with Baigan Bulgar Salad (Rs 275). Cracked wheat is used in Indian sweet lapsi, prepared on auspicious occasions. But here, it had a rugged texture, adding a crunch to the savoury salad that came with grilled aubergine.
Baigan Bulgar Salad. Pics/Shadab Khan
The pomegranate-reduced sauce on the side gave it a sweet-tangy finish. In a mood for risks, we opted for Ti Cardi d Agneau (Rs 375), a Creole-inspired lamb offal with fiery Cayenne pepper. Offal, the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal, is an acquired taste. While we took more to the crunchy batter-fried pieces, the tender meat pieces were bearable, thanks to the dry tomato onion gravy, heavy on turmeric, coriander and cumin.
The South African Piri Piri Wings (Rs 275) came tossed in the country's curry mix, again heavy on cumin, fenugreek, cloves and chillies. The chicken was succulent, fall-of-the-bone quality and we washed it down with a galangal-flavoured drink called Affandi.
A hand cart sits pretty inside NRI
For mains, we ordered the Mombasa Jeera Paneer (Rs 350), whose star ingredient is jeera in its rustic, roasted form. Here, we got a taste of Kochhar's weapon — simple flavours. We had this with a layered lachcha paratha, called Bush Up Shut Roti (Rs 90) that had a flaky cover over a soft warm naan. It was served crushed like a crumpled handkerchief. This was the highlight of our meal.
We paid a long visit to the dessert cart, unable to decide between Masala Chai and Baileys Brownie (Rs 200) and a red-coloured Passion Fruit Milk Cake (Rs 200). Buckling under pressure, we ordered both. Baileys overpowered the first indulgence, and we craved for a spicy chai aftertaste. The latter won hands down for its dense, fruity freshness and dark chocolate ending.
NRI sheds the frills and theatrics that eateries have got us used to. Drop by if you crave for a hearty meal. And, on your way out, stop by for a whiff of curry powders sealed in jars. You'll see why.
Time 12 noon to 12 midnight
At 2 North Avenue, Maker Maxity, Bandra Kurla Complex.
NRI didn't know we were there. the guide reviews anonymously and pays for its meals.
Chef Atul Kochhar's street food binge
Michelin-starred chef, Atul Kochhar brings back flavours of India from around the world to his soon to launch BKC restaurant, NRI (Read more)