As a self-titled biryani buff, I am willing to trek to the ends of the earth if it means I get to dig into that sumptuous one-dish meal, often touted as an all-time favourite of Indian kings. And trek we did from Shaikh Zayed Road to Baniyas Street in Deira, when we heard of the ongoing Bellyful of Biryani promotion at Ashiana restaurant, in the Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers. Thankfully, heavy traffic we'd battled was the last thing on our minds once we entered the slightly-worn, yet palatial, restaurant.
Instead of going straight for the jugular and ordering some of the more unusual biryanis available — such as gosht gulmohar biryani (lamb shanks flavoured with fennel, ginger and rose petals, layered with basmati rice — but more on this later), we decided to try out a few starters and curries.
Why this culinary transgression? Well, step into most Indian restaurants and your options are dominated by either tandoori chicken or butter chicken. So imagine our delight when we spotted a few dishes that went beyond the usual pedestrian staples.
Don't miss palak anjeer ke kebab. The pan-fried cutlets made with spinach and gram, stuffed with figs and cashew, grabbed our attention because of the unusual mix of ingredients. This will be a hit among foodies who love a mix of sweet and savoury. The figs gave the dish an unusual texture as well as making it a crunchy snack.
Next on our demolition list was kodi sukka (chicken nuggets sautéed in tomato and onion, topped off with coconut shavings). Though we were told that it was flavoured with potent spices like star anise and cinnamon, it was its subtle flavour that impressed us. Trust me, the star-shaped spice if not in the right quantity can be overwhelming and a put-off.
But the chef nailed this spicy starter with aplomb. His penchant for sprinkling coconut — gave it the right boost. We then decided to get right to the point and appease the biryani-buffs in us. After scanning the biryani promotion menu, comprising six unusual biryanis, we got distracted once again. This time around, it was the mutton ishtew (spicy lamb stew with tomato, onion and mace sauce) has us straying off our chosen path. The succulent lamb in tangy sauce is a departure from the traditional South Indian ishtew. Instead of the sweet coconut-milk gravy, the unexpected twist was embraced because the onion, tomato combination worked and made us wonder: after all, what's in a name?
Now back to biryani. Out of the half a dozen choices offered, it was daskshin yera biryani (shrimp and rice tossed with garam masala and curry leaves) which got an appreciative nod. The rice was flavourful and the shrimp were not overdone (in most Indian restaurants, overcooking shrimp tops the culinary crime list).
But our next helping — gosht gulmohar biryani — was not a resounding success. Somehow, lamb shanks flavoured in fennel, ginger and rose petal concoction and then slow-cooked with basmati rice did not gel as amicably. But that was soon forgotten as we dug into an unusual vegetarian gucchi biryani. Instead of meat, morels (mushrooms filled with pomegranate and cheese) were the mainstay.
As die-hard meat lovers, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that a biryani stripped meat and replaced with mushrooms can be equally tasty.
- Where: Ashiana, Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers
- Tel: 04-2071733
- Must-have: Mutton ishtew and dakshin yera biryani
- Ambience: Intimate and palace-like
Don't miss it
TheBellyful of Biryani promotion continues until September 25. Prices from Dh44-Dh98.