“How do you select a restaurant to review?” is a question I am often asked. Tapping your nose and mysteriously muttering the word, “sources” is an annoying response, but happens to be the truth. Obviously one can't scour the hallis and gallis in search of greasy spoons recommended by all and sundry. You could land up on the wrong side of the tracks in Fraser Town at ‘Relax Joint’ — I swear it exists. At first I thought it might be an innovative name for a chiropodist or a massage parlour, but no, it's a café serving timepass (sic) items and snacks. In locating an eatery, an element of discernment is called for and the trick is to know whose advice to follow.
Credit for this week's choice of Lazeez Restaurant in Koramangala goes to a friend, an avid foodie, who first suggested it. Lazeez serves rich Mughlai food done with a definite Calcutta spin, ipp my Bongoli phrends bill phorgibb me. They excel at that quintessential Bong staple: the kathi roll, which is basically a layered, greasy paratha topped with beaten egg, stuffed with a spicy mutton filling and a sprinkling of vinegary onions, chopped green chilli and a pinch of chaat masala for that extra mazaa. One can choose from egg, mutton, chicken or paneer cooked with the chef's unique blend of chatpatta.
We had the mutton rolls, Mutton Pasanda, Chicken Qalia, biryani and the palak paneer with rotis and did a takeaway for the Raan and Murgh Musallam. The Pasanda was rich and tasty but the meat could have been trimmed more carefully since the bits of gristle interfered with one's enjoyment of the dish. The Qalia was nothing to write home (let alone to the Chronicle) about: kind of a generic chicken curry, while the palak paneer was perfectly acceptable. The biryani is fair to middling but if you like full-bodied flavour, ask for the ‘handi se neeche’. Then you get the good stuff, which is scraped from the tasty bottom portion (of the handi, I mean). Make sure the food is eaten piping hot since the chef uses ghee and refined oil with such a wild abandon that if you sit around chatting the dishes resemble the Alaskan coastline after the Exxon Valdez ran aground.
A day's notice is required for the Raan and Murgh Musallam which is well worth the effort and planning. Impeccably marinated with yoghurt, white pepper, chilli, ajwain, rock salt and kebabchini(allspice), the raan, or tender leg of mutton, is roasted to a deep brown succulence till the meat just falls off the bone. Pop it in your oven for ten minutes before serving if you're a perfectionist, or if you happen to be entertaining guests who take their food seriously. Murgh Musallam is a whole chicken marinated with ginger, garlic, roasted garam masala, sandal powder, rose water and saffron and then slow cooked (dum cooked, actually) to a rich, savoury perfection. For good measure, Ustaad Manzar Ali, who is monarch of the kitchen at Lazeez, follows a recipe for Musallam which calls for the cavity to be stuffed with cashewnuts and boiled eggs. What can I say; definitely a dietician's nightmare.
Actually, the first time we sampled the Raan, it induced total silence from the man known as the Mouth of the South, Marthand Mahindra, and for those who know Marty, that is like, awesome. Other items on the menu worth sampling are the Shammi Kebabs: toothsome morsels of finely ground mutton, best had on their own with onions and a squeeze of lime. Lazeez offers exceptional value for money and if you're not counting calories and enjoy rich, spicy food, it is well worth a visit.
Lazeez, 479, KHB Colony, 5th Block, Koramangala
Meal for 2: Rs 750; No alcohol