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Stepping into Alibaba is like stepping into a different world. Not due to the décor – inspired by the Arabian Nights story – but because of the food. This place has Arabian and Persian food, alien to many of us; there is also Navayathi food, which is completely Indian, and yet, unfamiliar to most of us.
Heard of a community known as Navayath? Chances are you haven’t. But a mention of Bhatkal should ring a bell. Situated in northern Karnataka, in the old days, Bhatkal was a port of call for Arab traders from Yemen, Iran and Iraq, who left their mark on the place. Today, the Bhatkali Muslims’ cuisine is as rich and varied as the language they speak – a mix of Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Marathi, Hindi and Konkani, called Navayathi. Which is why Bangaloreans should consider themselves lucky that three young Navayathis set up a restaurant to showcase this marvellous food.
69, 1st Floor, MM Road, Frazer Town
Meal for one: Rs 200 to 250
Due to its name and theme, Alibaba’s main attraction are starters like Hummus, Tabouleh, Baba Ghanoush and the bread Khubus, all of which are familiar to patrons of Lebanese food. However, not so well known fare like the Persian Boorani –spinach with garlic and fried onion in yogurt and Khoresht Gheimeh – boneless mutton with lentil and onions in a sauce, are also gaining popularity with regulars. The variety of kababs is enticing too; there’s even a jumbo platter that offers a good choice.
Arabic and Persian food is non spicy, the zing comes from dried lemon and a mix of herbs. But Bhatkali food, with its Indian influence, has spicy notes since red chilli masala or paste is commonly used. If you think you know the Konkan region, try Bhatkali dishes like Kadang Fry – fried sweet potato coated with chilli or Shewso Fry – deep fried prawns marinated in chilli masala, or Gawa Shayyo – wheat vermicelli cooked with chicken or mutton. And definitely try Gawa Poli – the beautifully flaky, occasionally crusty yet soft Bhatkali wheat roti.
The desserts here are something you will not find in any restaurant. There are classics like the Arabian Umm e Ali and the Persian Halwa. But try the unusual Shaufa Pana Pudding, a Bhatkali custard made from dill leaves.
Alibaba is also a café and has some good snack options.
Located on a street surrounded by offices and residences, this restaurant merges so much into the background that it’s almost not noticeable. But people ebb and flow into its narrow confines in regular waves during meal times, speaking for its popularity. A considerable number of patrons are youngsters from software industries. And according to the management, it gets large orders from software giants for dishes like Haleem, a meat and wheat stew. At the restaurant, Haleem is available only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
29/1, 30th Cross, 4th T Block,
Meal for one: Rs 100 to 125
Haleem is synonymous with Hyderabadi cuisine, which is what Dakhani Degh is all about. Dakhani is derived from the Deccan plateau and Degh is an abbreviation of degchi – the copper vessel used for cooking. Apparently, the aim of Dakhani Degh is to standardise Hyderabadi cuisine so that the same taste and flavour can be offered to people wherever they may be.
Not surprisingly, the dum biryani – mutton and chicken, is this restaurant’s largest selling item. The biryani comes with small side dishes of Raita and Mirch ka Salan. While the masala in the biryani is just right in its flavours – with the meat practically melting in your mouth, the rice could do with a tad more zest. The Salan, however, is beautifully tangy and makes for a great combination. One thing must be said about the biryani it is absolutely light, with not even a hint of oil.
For those who look beyond biryani, there’s a range of salans (curries), veg and non veg, to go with an assortment of rotis. And a wide choice in kababs. The Dakhani Sheekh Kabab made of minced chicken is particularly good, as is the Gosht Bharra Kabab – marinated mutton chops that have been tandoor roasted. If you are a complete kabab freak, there is a nice Tandoori Platter.
Desserts are limited to two – the Hyderabadi classics of Khubani ka Meetha and Double ka Meetha. But guaranteed to please even the most exacting, these can only be described as mouthfuls of pure pleasure.
Reasonably priced, Dakhani Degh gives you good value for money.
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