By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
The Nation Weekend
LOCATED towards the Ploenchit end of Sukhumvit in an area that boasts several Indian street food stalls and restaurants, Punjab Grill restaurant stands out in the crowd thanks to its elegant and fine-dining ambience. Here diners are transported back to the genteel days of British India with contemporary renditions of Punjabi cuisine.
Stepping into the restaurant from the lobby of Radisson Suites Bangkok Sukhumvit, guests are greeted by warm lighting that plays well with the red brickwork and carmine carpet.
A chef prepares chargrilled meats in the tandoori oven set in the glassenclosed kitchen.
A long black marble bar separates the lounge area from the elevated dining section. Live music adds to the ambience but doesn’t deter conversation. The 70-seat restaurant also allows guests to see the chefs at work in the glass-enclosed kitchen, particularly when they’re preparing naan breads and roasted meats in any of three copper-clad tandoori ovens.
For more intimate occasions, a 12-seat private dining room is available and a semi-private alcove can accommodate 20 persons.
This is the first Bangkok franchise of Punjab Grill, which has more than 20 outlets across India with the flagship restaurant in New Delhi. Outside India, it has branches in Abu Dhabi and Singapore and Bangkok is the latest to have joined the ranks.
“We take signature dishes from the flagship restaurant but adapt them to suit the region. The tastes may be slightly different. We bill our dishes in terms of cooking and presentation as contemporary Indian cuisine but the tastes are totally authentic,” says chef Bharath S Bhat who has worked at some of the top Indian restaurants including Indego at Grosvenor House Dubai, Amal at the Armani Hotel Dubai, and Simply India at the St Regis Mauritius Resort.
Dishes are available both a la carte and in a tasting menu with vegetarian or non-vegetarian options. Before starting the meal, guests will be offered with a very thin towel rolled into the shape of a rose and scented with rose water to refresh their hands.
I opt for the a la carte menu and the complimentary amuse bouche of the day is Northern India’s popular street food Papai Chaat served in a very tiny cup. Crisp-fried dough wafers are mixed with yoghurt mousse, tamarind sauce, and coriander chutney. A complimentary basket of crispy Indian breads is also brought to the table to go with tomato-raisin chutney, mint-coriander chutney and cheese-garlic dip.
Most street vendors in India use a food cart to sell various different types of street cuisine. Playing with that everyday ambience is the Indian streetside snack Avocado Bhel (Bt205) served on a miniature thela – a word meaning food cart in Hindi. Crisped rice mixed with onion, tomato and spices form the bed with avocado guacamole tossed with spiced chutney, sweet yoghurt espuma and crispy shredded potato on the top.
Vegetarians will love the Tandoori Portobello (Bt450) – halves of portobello mushrooms stuffed with cured olives and pickled sun-dried tomatoes grilled for a smoky taste.
Non-vegetarians can opt for Tandoori Jheenga (Bt855) – char-
grilled tiger prawns scented with carom seed and Chaamp Taajdar (also Bt855), braised and char-grilled New Zealand lamb chops.
“Northern Indian cuisine like that served in the Punjab involves meats and seasonal vegetables marinated in spices and slow cooked in a tandoor oven. Here at the Bangkok branch, we also cook local tiger prawns, scallops from the US and Norwegian salmon tandoori style. Before cooking, the ingredients are marinated for several hours in mace, fennel, cinnamon, and cumin,” says chef Bhat.
The main spices used in these dishes, all of them imported from India, include yellow chilli powder, kasuri methi, kashmiri mirchi, home ground garam masala, cardamom, mace powder, royal cumin and carom.
My main dish is Raan-E Sikandari (Bt1,450) – baby leg of lamb slowly braised in its gravy for about six hours at a low temperature then roasted in the tandoor with cinnamon and cardamom. Before serving, the chef will pour dark rum over the lamb and slightly burn it to get a smoky flavour.
Biryani - basmati rice slowly cooked with fragrance of green cardamom, mace and rose water in a brass pot wrapped with baked bread to retain its heat – is also served. Biryani can be cooked with your choice of meats – prawn (Bt855), mutton (Bt600) and chicken (Bt500) or with vegetables (Bt365) for vegetarians.
Tandoori-grilled naan breads are aromatic and much too good to ignore, especially the Peshwari Naan (Bt95) topped with olives and garlic paste, and Mushroom Kulche (Bt100) stuffed with spiced mushrooms and scented with truffle oil.
The naan pairs perfectly with Butter Chicken (Bt405) – morsels of soft texture chicken poached in creamy and buttery tomato and Dal Makhani (Bt320), slowly cooked black lentils in tomato and flavoured with cream and butter.
And while the courses are filling, do try and save a little bit of room for dessert, especially the Chocolate Sphere (Bt260). This white chocolate sphere is filled with pista kulfi, which is similar to ice cream but denser, creamier and packed with crunchy pistachios, scented with aromatic cardamom powder and saffron as thoroughly doused in dark chocolate sauce.
The selection of mocktails includes the aptly named Rejuvenate - a mixture of pomegranate, vanilla, mint and lime. Twisted Colada - a concoction of pineapple, coconut cream, saffron, blue curacao topped with colourful seeds the Indians use as mouth fresheners – is creamier but equally as good. Both are priced at Bt175 a pop.
>> Punjab Grill at Radisson Suites Bangkok Sukhumvit on Soi Sukhumvit 13 is open daily for dinner only from 6 to 11.30pm.
>> Call (02) 645 4952 or visit www.PunjabGrillBangkok.com.