DUBAI As many as there are languages and states, there are exotic culinary styles in India.
So when a restaurant boasts of bringing the flavours of four different regions under one roof, you’re bound to wonder if it knows its onions.
It’s with this trepidation that I set foot in Gharana, a name which originates from the Hindi word ghar (house) and typically refers to a family of musicians or dancers linked by lineage and adherence to a particular style of Hindustani classical music.
“But what’s that got to do with food?” I asked as I settled into a maharaja chair and an Indian band fronted by immensely gifted singer Anwar filled the air with melodious tunes.
Restaurant manager Ramesh Padmanabhan explained the connection. “Indian cooks create their dishes with the same dexterity that the country’s musicians play their ragas (notes). We have tried to fuse the musical rhythms of Jaipur, Punjab, Lucknow and Hyderabad regions with flavours from the cuisines of these places and hence the name Gharana.”
A marriage of food and music? Forget appetising, it didn’t even sound convincing.
My doubts evaporated faster than they had set in. And it took just a platter of piping hot kebabs to do that. As I gorged on the enviable entrée - delectable murgh ghazala (marinated chicken cooked in a dry oven with grounded spices) and kastoori seekh (Dh60), I instantly realised why chef Mohammad Alam’s consummate reputation precedes him and why he’s so sought-after. Before Gharana, Alam worked for Ritz Carlton and was also part of the team that launched Asha’s in Dubai.
Next up was Punjabi bhuna ghosht (Dh65), pan-fried succulent lamb cubes with a thick gravy, and murgh Lucknowi masala (Dh55), diced chicken cubes cooked in a gravy of tomato and ground cashew nuts. Expertly prepared and presented, they were absolute winners – especially the bhuna ghosht which was decidedly the best I have had outside India.
The dishes were served with an assortment of breads including my favourite - butter naan. No ordinary butter naan, mind you, but a multi-layered variation loosely modelled after lachcha paratha.
“There is no fusion food here, only authentic Indian cuisine,” said chef Alam with a hint of unmistakable pride as I dug myself into his signature dish – Hyderabadi lamb biryani (Dh60).
Coming from India’s culinary capital Lucknow, I know a thing or two about biryanis. And yes, I am also aware of the fierce rivalry between Lucknow and Hyderabad purists over who makes it better. I leave that argument for later, but for now I can tell you, and with some measure of authority that the Hyderabadi biryani at Gharana is perhaps the closest version of the original stuff in town.
I rounded off the filling meal with an exotic dessert – lychee rabdi – and promised myself to come back, especially on a Saturday evening when Gharana organises a street food night showcasing a variety of dishes in an extensive buffet for just Dh95.
Location: Holiday Inn, Al Barsha, near Mall of the Emirates
Sitting capacity: Around 50