The chicken plater at Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor at the Melia Hotel Dubai. Image Credit: Oliver Clarke/GULF NEWS

If you are craving a creamy butter chicken, Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor is not the place to go. The celebrity Indian chef’s new “premium” outlet, opening tomorrow at the Melia Hotel in Dubai, does a lot of traditional Indian dishes, but not your usual butter chicken.

tabloid! had an exclusive sneak preview with Chef Harpal Sokhi, Kapoor’s associate, presenter of Turban Tadka on Kapoor’s FoodFood channel, and or the last 12 years, the creator of Kapoor’s restaurant concepts.

“I decide what goes in and how it should happen with Sanjeev and see it is carried out,” said Sokhi, running his hand over the silver peacock and leaf motif on the restaurant’s china. The restaurant is decked in muted tones with white light filtering through organza panels. A teppanyaki-style table sits in an alcove.

Sokhi explained the menu.

“The restaurant is in a 5-star property. We serve not just authentic traditional food, but more refined and progressive cuisine that is visually attractive to create an international appeal. Also, keeping in mind single diners, we have smaller portions and a tasting menu”.

I’d heard of fusion, authentic and traditional, but “progressive” was a new word in terms of food. “It’s Indian but subtly using not-so-Indian elements,” he said, serving me what looked liked fried beans. “Yes, we have asparagus, but as these,” he said pointing to fritters. “You have a harabhara kebab [mixed greens kebab] with an avocado chutney and asparagus fritters on the same platter. When we do menus, we also have to keep in mind what is locally available and the local spice level. You can’t say this is not Indian. That’s why it’s progressive food”.

Indeed it would have been difficult to identify that the flavourful chutney was made from avocado had I not been told.

“Speaking of butter chicken,” he continued. “I cooked it out of the tomato gravy. I make one from stock infused with lemongrass, green cardamom, mace and nut paste. I’ve used the traditional tandoori chicken which is not the red-coloured one you may have had. This is light and creamy, flavoured with ginger-garlic paste and black pepper. The garnish is zaatar rather than kasuri methi”.