Between the new curry houses, which believe fusion is the way forward, and the seemingly more conventional restaurants attached to the multiple-star hotels, which think that by affixing authentic to their name they won't be labelled insipidly homogeneous, there's Options, a restaurant that adds another dimension to this matrix with its unabashed obeisance to commercialism. And why not? After all it's the brainchild of chef Sanjeev Kapoor, the Julia Child of Indian television, the man who successfully pedalled his dishes to the Indians and Indophiles for almost two decades.
So when his restaurant announces that it's hosting a biryani festival, you simply must go, not because you love biryani, well, that too, but because you know he'll push the boundaries.
And that he does.
From the variety of biryanis to the accompaniments - no raita, mind you, it truly is a fe(a)stival. And through it all, he remains true to taste. No manipulation of the Scoville scale to lure in the rookies or excessive use of cashew nut or tomato paste so as to gain universal acceptance.
So as we - the companion and I - settle down with our refreshing cucumber and mint drink and scan the menu, we realise that deciding on a particular biryani could be considered an insult to the master chef so we order four. Well, actually we wanted five but the fifth one - kathal ki biryani, or raw jackfruit biryani, was not available. Before you try to get us arrested for gluttony, let me explain. We ordered sample portions so that we did not waste food and did justice to the gastronomical kaleidoscope.
The first was kachche gosht ki biryani (raw mutton cooked with basmati rice in a blend of herbs and spices) that comes with mirchi ka salan (mild peppers cooked Hyderabadi style in a tangy gravy). A part of the regular menu, this biryani is can be sampled any time at the restaurant while the other 15 will be served only during the festival.
Yes, there are 16 biryanis on the festival menu, which also satiates those who have parochial preferences. From Kashmiri, Hyderabadi and mughlai to those from the coastal regions of Kerala and Goa, there is one for everyone.
Going back to what I ordered. Out of the vegetarian options, I asked for Hyderabadi subz (a mix of fresh vegetables dum cooked with basmati rice) and Nariyal ki biryani (vegetables tempered with grated coconut and curry leaves and served in a coconut shell). The former comes with baigan ka salan (a brinjal curry) and the latter with tomato rasam. But it was Kolambi Bhaat (a prawn biryani in green masala served with prawn curry) that had us in stratospheric pleasure. Without elaborating on it any more all I am going to say is, it is time you raised your bar for taste, for this is one place which will match it up with its spread.
What Biryani festival, which is on till July 30
Where Convention Centre Office Tower, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai; 04 329 3293
Why For the sumptuous biryanis
Cost Bill for two Dh175