January 01, 2007

Bangalore Day 4 - Sahib Sindh Sultan

Even after our afternoon feast at MTR, we had plans for yet one more nice restaurant. Guidebooks had suggested, and friends had concurred that Sahib Sindh Sultan was a place to go. One thing that I like about dining in Bangalore is that the busy part of the evening starts at around 10pm, and restaurants are still going strong at 11pm. We had been eating early due to jet lag and were often the first or only people in a restaurant at 8pm. We asked the front desk at the hotel to make reservations for Sahib Sindh Sultan the day before because the guidebooks and friends had agreed that on weekends it would fill up and prior reservations were needed. Unfortunately the front desk had not read the guidebooks and hadn't actually called on the day we asked. Fortuntately the restaurant put us on the "waiting list" for 9:30-10:00pm and said that if we just showed up we should be seated relatively promptly.

Sahib Sindh Sultan is in The Forum mall, and we arrived early enough to wander around and look at stores. We saw a disturbing "catwalk" contest event with pre-pubescent girls volunteering from the audience then walking down a simulated fashion show catwalk to bad dance music and showing off their "moves." The Forum mall contains big name fashion stores as well as more pedestrian venues, including a McDonalds, a KFC, and a grocery store.

After wandering around for a bit, we went up to the top floor at 9:30 and announced ourselves to the hostess. She said she'd called our hotel to tell us we had a seating but had gotten no answer but that they could still accommodate us. We were seated immediately.

The restaurant is styled after a 19th century train station and train. We were seated in an antique railcar, the owner has gone to great lengths to provide authentic period details including hats, luggage, and antique style lighting. They work hard to recreate the feeling of luxury during the British Raj. The atmosphere could be overwhelmingly tacky and kitchy or simply charming depending on your mood. I was charmed.

I had noticed that some of the menus we'd been seeing had a section for (non-alcoholic) drinks at the beginning, but we had just skipped over them. This time we decided to try a couple of them, "Sahib Ka Panna" charcoal roasted pineapple with cumin and sugar, and "Sultan Sharbat" sandalwood, saffron, and lemon. The Sahib Ka Panna was an opaque bright green and more savory than we had expected. The pineapple flavor was ... subtle, and the cumin was quite prominent. It was billed as a "digestive" on the menu and like most digestives this was not a "sipping" drink it tasted like it was supposed to be good for you as opposed to tasty. The Sharbat on the other hand was delicately sweet, clear and yellow with a mild citrusy flavor. Very refreshing.

For a soup course we chose to share a "Miskin Paya Shorba" a soup made from simmered lamb's trotter. It was as thick and rich as you might expect with all the gelatine, easily cut with the thoughtfully provided slice of lemon. Very tasty, though the chunks of lamb came complete with small foot bones that you needed to discreetly hide under the soup bowl.

Debbie had a craving for cheese, so we ordered char grilled paneer stuffed with cheese "Lady Canning's Reshmi Paneer Tikka", and cheese naan. I am a fanatic for lamb so we tried to order "Leberiyan" lamb soaked in yogurt then grilled but were told they were out. Instead we substituted a pounded lamb formed around a skewer and grilled. I hoped it would be like the ubiquitous ground lamb dish that goes by "kefta," "kofte" or similar names all around the mediterranean but no. It was a mushy paste that was barely cooked and not very tasty. The head waiter, perhaps aware that this dish was not a resounding success brought us a freebie - "Makai Mothia Seekh" a soft vegetable kebab with paneer and sweet corn. This was utterly delicious and convinced us that yes everyone was right and we really should be trying more of the vegetarian dishes.

Finally we had "Gucchi Aur Kumbh" Kashmiri morels in a thick spicy nut flavored sauce. Apparently mushrooms are traditionally seen as a relatively "impure" food, since they grow on decaying tissue, on the same level as preserved meats or alcohol. I say "more for me!" This dish was very tasty with a subtle creaminess that complemented the earthy flavor of the morels. We had been practicing eating with our hands, and we ate this dish with our naan using our fingers. We were so stuffed we had no room for dessert, so after the finger bowl we wandered out to find an autorickshaw and make our way home.
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