Taftan, Roomali Roti and Khamiri Roti
If faced with a dish that has a layer of oil floating atop it, would you turn away, cribbing about calories, or gleefully dig in?
Luckily for us, we ignored the oil and calories, and gorged on every dish sent to us by The Charcoal Kitchen (TCK), a three-week-old delivery kitchen in Colaba. The focus, as broadly outlined on their informative menu, is on slow cooking, fresh ingredients, and zero use of MSG, soda, hydrogenated fats, and superfluous amounts of cream, butter and oil.
We have serious objections to the last claim, because every dish had more oil than we usually consume in our daily meals. On the plus side, the food was tasty and not too spicy; we polished off every morsel.
Mutton Chapli Kebab. Pics/Nimesh Dave
Comfortably fullIt always surprises us hardcore non-vegetarians when our favourite dish in a meal is vegetarian. The Varanasi favourite, Baingan Kalonji (Rs 180), wowed us at first bite. Baby brinjals, with the stem, were stuffed with a filling of kalonji (nigella seeds), toasted spices and liberal amounts of onion and garlic. Though the dish didn't look appealing, it had a spicy, creamy, and lasting pickle-y flavour. The other vegetarian dish also held its own against the meat dishes. The Bharwan Mushrooms (Rs 175) were succulent and cheesy and the mushroom had a nice bite to it.
Kachhe Gosht ki Biryani
TCK's menu offers familiar dishes from North India, beyond the butter chicken and paneer tikka. There are also a few non-Indian dishes, from the Kandhari Tikka to the Peshawari Chaap. Another Peshawari delicacy, the Mutton Chapli Kebab (Rs 240), made for a satisfying and non-oily starter. Six juicy, lightly spiced kebabs, packed with minced meat, onions, coriander and garam masala, crumbled at the touch.
The Hyderabadi Kachhe Gosht ki Biryani (Rs 290) is typically made by layering par boiled rice with marinated, raw meat and then cooked dum style. The biryani that came to us was flavourful and fragrant, filled with chunky bits of well-cooked and lightly spiced mutton. TCK's roti options are a bread-lovers delight. They were out of Kashmiri Naan on the day, so we opted for Taftan (Rs 25), Roomali Roti (Rs 40) and Khamiri Roti (Rs 25). They were still warm, surviving the hour-long journey from the kitchen to our plates. The Taftan, Persian leavened bread traditionally baked in a clay oven, tasted like a mix between pao and a naan - mildly sweet, light and slightly flaky. The Roomali was suitably chewy, and the Mughal favourite, Khamiri Roti, was soft and spongy.
Greasy mattersIn some of the dishes, we couldn't ignore the oil overkill. The Murgh Musallam (Rs 220), didn't come to us whole, but broken into big chunky bits. It was an oily mess of half-boiled egg. The gravy is slightly sweet and creamy, much like butter chicken, but the meat was over-cooked. The much-advertised Dal Bukhara (Rs 180), the slow-cooked black dal dish, was not as creamy as we would've liked; certainly not what we expected if it was cooked for 12 hours. Yet, it was, a safe dish, with comforting warm flavours and mellow spices. The richness of the dishes ensured there was no room for dessert.
TCK works because their prices are cheap for the quantities they serve, and the food was comforting and filling, if you're willing to ignore the oil.