10 February 2017

Koshur Saal by Mrs. Rajni Jinsi at Holiday Inn Mayur Vihar

Holiday Inn Mayur Vihar is hosting a Kashmiri Pandit food festival till the 12th of March, called Koshur Saal. The festival in a crux- Rajni Jinsi, a homecook who descends from a Kashmiri Pandit family and lives in Faridabad now, from where she operates and supplies food that she cooks herself, is the woman behind this festival. A culinary mentor of this festival, her recipes have been followed to the T and not one change or improvisation, however slight, has been made to her recipes by the hotel. She brings a lot of years of experience, a touch of love and passion,  an unparalleled fondness for the cuisine, brimming with knowledge and skill, and a lot of other great things to this festival. It's Mrs. Rajni's first tryst with a corporate kitchen, but she has blended herself in and presented her art in the form of food to Delhi like nobody has ever done before. For a homecook to come and manage a hotel kitchen overnight, and excel at it with such flair and finesse, keeping her humble loving infectious nature intact, is a big big big deal! I'm all praises for her and this festival, and you will be too, once you meet her and taste her food.

Mrs. Rajni was discovered by luck by Suprabhath Roychowdhury, the hotel's F&B Director who comes with uncountable years of experiences as a chef in various prominent hotels. While looking fervently for someone who does Kashmiri Pandit cuisine, he chanced upon his neighbour's house who gave him Mrs. Rajni's reference. What happened thereon is a story being unfolded in front of you. This is Chef Suprabhath's first doing in the hotel and he's creating quite a stir with his very first promotion. Excited to see what else comes up in this hotel with his leadership.

Kashmiri Pandit cuisine uses no onion, garlic and tomatoes in the food. So to know that and still taste dishes that scream deliciousness, and have a look of surprise when you taste dishes like Rajma and Paneer and know there's no tomato gone into them. Also, the spices used in the food for this festival are all Kashmiri spices.

Fast forward to the Koshur Saal festival at Holiday Inn which has been receiving praises from the best of food and beverage industry, it's a complete package of appetizers, main course, dessert, breads and chai here. There's a live section for appetizers (two veg and two non veg), that remains the same throughout the festival unlike the main course that is prepared on a rotational basis. Kabargah (fried lamb ribs) and Gadh Pakoir (fish fry) in non vegetarian and Aloo Mondi and Nadru Tikki in vegetarian. Kabargah was very delicately spiced, and the taste that was shining belonged to the juicy meat itself. Very nicely done. Would day the same for the fish. So subtle, yet so flavourful. Melt in the mouth good- gobbled up around 8-9 pieces between the two of us. Brilliant freshwater fish used and what cooking! The two veg appetizers were both in the form of tikki, one with aloo and the other with lotus stem and aloo. A little too oily but great in taste. There were three chutneys you could take with these, or with all the other food as well. Walnut Chutney (Doon), Radish Chutney (Mujh) and Mint (Pudna). Absolutely adored the radish chutney!

We then sipped on our Kahwa, which in the Kashmir Pandit community can be had at any time of the day. Breads in Kashmir are of various types, most of which are had with tea, as a the fan that we have here with our tea. Most of the breads are flaky and hard, and when you have them with tea or dip them in it, it soaks in the tea and becomes soft. A nibbling snack. They also have sweet breads which are another form of Sheermal with varied degrees of sweetness.

The main course variety was huge! About 5 dishes in veg, 5 in non veg, and two kinds of rice. Rogan Josh and Gadh Kaliya were my favourite from the non vegetarian dishes. Soft meat falling off the bone in the Rogan Josh with such a nice flavourful curry. The Gadh Kaliya was fresh water fish with a Kashmiri Yellow Curry. Delicate, yet again, but so flavourful and aromatice, yet again. They did a vegetarian version of this too. Murgh Shaim was minced chicken ka shammi- perfectly round pieces of shammi cooked with milk, dipped in a thin yoghurt based gravy with some mustard oil. The shammi was simply to die for!

The vegetarian fare is equally excellent, if not more. Razma- rajma cooked with turnips, Nadur Yakhni- lotus stem in a Yakhni gravy with curd and spices, which is rich and slightly thick in consistency, Methi Chaman which was paneer cooked in a thick gravy made of fenugreek seeds (to give a reference, somewhat like palak), Haak which was the healthiest dish on the menu because of the green leaves and subtle spices that kept it so fresh, the Dama Oluv which was Kashmiri Dum Aloo in a gravy so brilliant in taste that I wish my stomach had an endless pit to devour it all. Had all of this with rice, and tried Modur Polav too, which was a beautiful rendition of Kashmiri sweetened rice with dry fruits in it. Took me back to my childhood days and the meethe chawal we loved made by our grandmother.

A plethora of breads! No personal favourites, because it was my first time tasting most of them and they were all so unique in their own ways. Kulche, Baqarkhani, Sheermal, Ghee Roti, just a few of the names I actually remember. They have a whole section devoted just to breads.

Desserts weren't my favourite course for this festival, because they were completely new to me and I think it will take me a lot of time to develop my taste buds to like these.

The food is so so so good that I am short of words. Not a single dish was good, everything was phenomenal! Excuse my judgment if you go and find something not as great as I did. I don't have something to compare a Kashmiri Pandit food experience with and no experience with the food in the past, but I for sure know the food tastes heavenly! Everything is made in mustard oil (that's a relief), no item in the menu makes you feel full because of excessive richness or fat, every single dish is so full of flavour and deliciousness, and you must must must meet Mrs. Rajni while you're there. Her stories made my eyes well up and to know that it's a homecook making all these waves in the food industry is so heart-warming! She's received all well-deserved accolades during this festival and is going to be rightfully flooded with orders post this. Kudos to the team of Holiday Inn to find such a gem and work in harmony with her, not changing her recipes one bit, making her the centre of attraction for the festival, and doing everything in their power to make sure she has a brilliant time in their kitchen and taking a step back to let her shine.

There are some greta products displayed for sale outside the restaurant. Pickles, honey, kesar, and what not. Kashmiri artefacts, some information about the Kashmiri temple and a background of Shivaism. Do go through all this when you visit them and soak in the entire experience. 

Address: 13A, Mayir Vihar, District Centre, Delhi 110091
Contact: 01141105555

Timings: 7 30 PM to 11 PM 

Disclaimer: The review was done on an invitation from the restaurant. All views expressed are unbiased in nature but readers are advised to exercise their own discretion.

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