Masala Bay at Taj Lands End needs no introduction. The true to Indian roots cuisine served there has always stood out in terms of taste and quality; add to that the reputed Taj hospitality, and it has all the necessary makings for a fine classy meal.
While this is enough for most, Taj Lands End always strives for more. And it is with the ‘more’ in mind that Masala Bay had a Rampuri Food Festival in the First week of July in collaboration with Chef Mujeeb Ur Rehman. While I have tried plenty of Awadhi food, Rampuri cuisine was quite an unfamiliar premise for me and thus I was eager to sample some of it despite the D-day falling on the penultimate day of the Festival.
Snippet: Rampur is generally associated with the Rampuri chaku which was a staple in Bollywood movies, in the villain’s hand of course. The feeble click of the knife as it opened used to set off anxiety and alarms bells in the audience.
The ambiance was traditional with an abundance of marigold all around. The lights at Masala Bay were a touch more muted than what I prefer. (I like to see the food and its colours very clearly). Our table offered glimpses of the kitchen through glass walls, I enjoyed that while we waited. And waited quite a bit we did – an aberration from the usually prompt service of the restaurant.
About Rampuri cuisine – well, Rampur is about 250 kms from New Delhi and is an erstwhile Nawabi state. While the cuisine goes back to Nawabi times, it is only recently that the flavours have found their rightful place beyond the region of origin. Rampuri cuisine is heavily influenced by the Mughlai, Afghani, Lucknowi, Kashmiri and Awadhi cuisines.
After a considerable wait, I was offered a Thande Khus Ka Sharbat (much too sweet for me despite the green chilli in it) and soon the kebabs made an appearance. Flawless is the only word I can think of – my friend and I tried the Nawabi Murg Tikka and Sambhali Seekh Kebab, both had a lot of coarsely ground spices and I loved the strong flavours of unrefined khada masala, dalchini and some wonderful chilli – all of which made a rustic and tasty medley in the mouth with each bite; the succulent kebabs were perfect in every way possible.
Snippet: Sambhal is a village where a large number of people are champions at producing the best of sheekh kebabs and are much sought after during weddings.
Our mains comprised of Ittr Ka Dal (dal which had milk, cream, ghee and some sweet essence), Taar Korma (a mild, fragrant, slow cooked mutton), Murgh Begam Bahar (chicken cooked with cashew nuts, fenugreek and yoghurt), accompanied by Nawabi Kulcha, Sheermal, Rampuri Naan. I liked the Yakhni Gosht Pulao which had clear notes of saffron and had been cooked dum-style. That it was not swimming in oil gives it a clear thumbs-up!
The dessert platter had Sheer Khurma(the usual vermicelli, milk and nuts), Chukandar e Afroz (had beetroot and sunflower seeds – my pick among the desserts) and Gur ke Yaquiti (chickpea flour pudding with jaggery).
About the Chef – Lucknow’s Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s forefathers were khansamas in Nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s family sometime in the 17th century. “My grandfather was a khansama till the age of 70, but my father became an electronics engineer. He even made me pursue an MBA, but my heart lay in cooking. My grandfather trained me in the art of Nawabi cuisine,” says the Chef, who now curates food festivals across the world.
The brief journey with Rampuri cuisine proved to be one with hints of the unfamiliar with an abundance of the familiar, I look forward to a more in-depth exploration.
As for Masala Bay at Taj Lands End, a meal there is always a pleasure, and a food festival inevitably takes the pleasure a notch higher. We at Mumbai Food Freak wish Chef Rahman and Masala Bay the very best in all future endeavours.
Address: Masala Bay
Taj Lands End,
Bandstand Fort, BJ Road,
Vidyavihar Society, Bandra West,
Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050
Telephone : +91 22 6668 1234 & +91 22 66681346
Disclaimer: This review was done on an invitation from the restaurant. Due judgement and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review, but readers need to consider this review keeping this fact in mind.