Dosa, sambhar, idli, vada, curd-rice, rasam and lemon rice are some of the dishes that north Indians relate to south Indian food. They aren’t wrong as this has been the perception built over the years by most south Indian chains that operate in this part of the country. Further, most of us never looked for stand-alone South Indian fine dining options as none existed in Gurgaon. The best one could hope for in Gurgaon were Sagar Ratna, Coco Palm and Naivedyam among others. These, as I’m sure you’ll agree, cannot be called fine dining by any measure.
When we were invited to review the food at Zambar, I did not expect much. On entering Zamabar however, I gave full marks to the interior designer. Zambar has a beautiful house boat theme that uses all available space without compromising on the space and privacy of its patrons. The house boat has special significance in Kerala where people want to show off the beauty and length of boats, and take regular part in boat races. The lighting, seating, music and setup can accommodate over 90 guests and reminds one of sitting in a Kerala style house boat. A glass covered kitchen gives a picturesque view of chefs working in south Indian attire. Three kitchen exits ensure smooth movement of waitstaff.
There were many options in cocktails and mocktails. Zambar is one of the few south Indian restaurants with a bar license; a fact I found quite endearing; probably a first for Gurgaon. We tried a few mocktails like Coastal Iced Tea (Ginger ale, coconut water and cola), Banana Banshee and my personal favorite, Zambar Cool (a Khus based drink) – a cool and refreshing after a hard day at work. The Rasam was well made too.
In the starters, Potato Chettinad Roast was tangy, spicy and excellent. Equally good was the Madras Onion Dal Vada, the taste of which was further enhanced by the mint, garlic, and onion chutney it was served with. The Tamil Mutton Roast was avoidable as the meat was a bit dry, though I’m sure seafood lovers will enjoy the Prawn Vepudu.
Our main courses were Chettinad Chicken Curry, Veg Stew, Viruthu Nagar Mutton Kozahambu and Madurai Chicken Biryani all of which tasted good. The Valleappam (crisp and lacy borders with a spongy, thick centre) was a trifle under-cooked. I was awed by the super-soft, rich and multi layered Malabaar Parantha and the excellent Brinjal Gingelly that I felt deserved a second serving.
Dessert saw us stuffing our faces with Moong Dal Payasam, Ellai Panniaram (a mixture of banana, jaggery and coconut wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed) and ogling the Coconut and Jaggery Pudding. Called Watalappam, a dessert from Sri Lanka, it was presented beautifully and tasted wonderful – a must try when you’re at Zambar next.
Zambar is trying to carve a niche for itself in the fine dining segment, and offers the ubiquitous dosa only between 4pm – 7pm to induce guests to try the other dishes it has to offer from the states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. For some body who would like to try a prix fixe, Zambar also offers a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian thaali (sea food and chicken). Zambar’s Executive Chef, R Chenthil Kumar, who is a Tamilian, tries to make the food as authentic as possible, but confesses to keeping spice levels low to suit the north Indian palate.
Zambar is a great concept offering lovely food in an excellent ambiance though I wish it would just a little more attention to service levels as expected in a restaurants of its class.
Meal for Two: Rs2000 (without alcohol)
Credit Card: Yes
Address: 3rd Floor, Ambience Mall, next to Funcity / Haldiram, Gurgaon
Phone: 0124-4665639 / 9311520729
– Pawan Soni