Bukhara is a lesson in the art of consistency, with a concise menu that hasn’t changed since it opened 35 years ago. Set within New Delhi ITC Maurya Hotel, the cavernous and rustically decorated restaurant is arguably India’s most famous and has hosted dignitaries including Bill Clinton and Vladimir Putin, although not at the same time. Maurya general manager Ranvir Bhandari jokes that the tandoor and charcoal grill-focused menu has become something of a sacred cow: they dare not tinker with iconic dishes such as the dal Bukhara, black lentils, tomatoes, ginger and garlic simmered overnight on a slow charcoal fire, then finished with cream and served with a decadent dollop of unsalted butter.
The preparation is one of Bukhara’s few ‘wet’ dishes, with most meats coming unadorned with sauces or gravies to show off the chefs’ supreme skill in recreating the carefully marinated dishes of the North-West Frontier, a province the British demarcated in 1900, comprising parts of Afghanistan and north-west pre-independence India. But it’s not just the food that makes this restaurant so special. The atmosphere is warm, informal and fun despite Bukhara’s lofty culinary status, aided by an open kitchen and – as tradition dictates – an absence of knives and forks.
With such glowing review, my expectations were at an all time high.
Bukhara has a very limited menu with dishes grouped either as non-vegetarian or vegetarian:
|It is Heavy!|
Diners can only use their hands when eating at Bukhara so a small bowl of water with lemon for cleansing is prepared before the start of every meal.
Then, eating can begin, kamayan style:
|Complimentary Raw Onions and Roti|
Best dipped in curry sauce.
Bukhara's specialty: A harmonious combination of black lentils, tomatoes, ginger, and garlic simmered overnight on slow charcoal fire and finished with cream, served with a dollop of unsalted butter.
|Our Tandoori Selection|
I wish I could say that our experience at Bukhara was mind-blowing but it was NOT. I don't think Bukhara was deserving of its title as the best restaurant in India for all our tandoori dishes were very dry and the flavors underwhelmed. It was so uninspiring that we had trouble finishing all the dishes:
Scoop potatoes stuffed with potato hash, raisin and cashew nuts mixed with green chillies, green coriander, skewered and roasted over charcoal fire.
Jumbo prawns marinated in an "ajwain"flavoured mixture of yoghurt, red chillies, turmeric, and flavoured with garam masala skewered and roasted over charcoal fire. Served with lemon wedges.
|Murgh Malai Kabab|
Creamy kabab of boneless chicken blended with cream cheese, lemon juice, and green coriander, grilled in moderate tandoor.
Whole leg of spring lamb marinated in a mixture of malt vinegar, cinnamon and black cumin braised in the marinade. Skewered and finished in the tandoor.
Take a little scoop of each, mix together, and eat to freshen the breath!
Eating at the "number one restaurant in India" of course didn't come cheap. A curious thing was the number of taxes levied on us which we didn't bother to understand.
For those who would want to have a Bukhara experience, don't forget to make reservations in advance because it's hard to get a table.
Bukhara is located at ITC Maurya Hotel, Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg, 110021, New Delhi. For more information, call (91) (11) 26112233 or click here.