Awadhi cuisine consists of both vegetarian and meat dishes that employ the dum style of cooking over slow fire that has become synonymous with Lucknow; which makes cooking this kind of food a highly skilled craft. I am here at the sector 15 market to find out how well the newly opened Awadhi restaurant Kasturi delivers on the authenticity and taste of what is one of the finest cuisines in India.
With large Rajput paintings adorning its walls, pop lattice columns and the soulful strains of Ghulam Ali, Kasturi’s ambience takes me down memory lane. But unlike the Indian restaurants of yesteryears that had all of these, Kasturi is neither dingy nor does it smell of butter-chicken! It is refreshingly well lit, dressed up in a soothing clean white and cream colour palette and has no traces of food odour whatsoever.
Why the name Kasturi? The seasoned Lucknawi Chef Sumit Tandon smiles: “Kasturi means musk, the fragrance found in the musk deer that chases the wonderful smell that is actually inside its own body. We want your pursuit for wonderful food to end here.”
And as if to announce the beginning of this end, I am served the traditional starters of garlic-tomato chutney, mint chutney, pickled onions, and papad, all of which add up to provide the right pep and palate tingling.
My first order is the sunehri bater (Rs 550), especially because ever since quail hunting has been banned, I rarely find it in restaurant menus. The one served here is an organically farmed quail, which has been slow cooked to perfection, retaining the moistness in the dainty bird, and giving me mouthfuls of beautifully spiced exotica. Equally spectacular is the chicken kasturi kabab (Rs 400) which is subtly spiced and coated with egg before grilling, and melts in the mouth.
Impressed so far, I ask the chef about the restaurant’s food philosophy. “We keep the menu true to tradition, while making extra efforts to keep the food light to suit modern lifestyle preferences. I personally source all the masalas from Lucknow to keep the authenticity intact,” he answers convincingly.
I have always believed that good vegetarian kababs are not possible to do, but the ones here make me reconsider my belief. The chuimui kabab (Rs 375) with a great combination of cottage cheese and mushrooms is delicate with a soft and crunchy texture. The veg galauti kabab (Rs 325), with yam as its main ingredient, tastes even better than its meaty counterpart.
For the main course I have chosen the robust Lucknow street food classic, (Rs 550) which has perfectly cooked chunks of meat in rich gravy. The dum ki dal (Rs 325), another Awadhi classic is dry yellow urad dal with an exciting tangy tadka on top. But the most enjoyable is the accompanying khameeri roti (Rs 40), a sour dough roti that is slightly acidic, flaky. The shahad aur nariyal kulfi (Rs 250) with coconut bits and jellied honey makes for a fulfilling finish.
Kasturi sets a high standard for itself and delivers with finesse. The food here is authentic, yet light on the stomach. What I am especially glad about is that now I don’t have to drive all the way to Delhi for hosting family dinners or when treating overseas guests to “Indian food”—I have a fine option right here in the neighbourhood.
Ratings out of 5
Food: 4.5, Ambiance: 4.5, Service: 3.0| Overall: 4.5
Meal for Two: Rs 1000 (Lunch platter); Rs 2000 (Dinner) | Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes| Timing: 12:00 noon – 11:30 pm
Address: SCO 5, 6, 7 Huda Market, Sector 15, Gurgaon | Phone: +91 9953763508, 0124 4214026