Punjab Grill’s new menu, a combination of their winter and chakna menus, is an eye-opener to the variety of dishes in Punjabi cuisine. Most of us know only about butter chicken and makke ki roti and sarson ka saag, but Punjabi food is not about these alone. At a recent lunch hosted by Punjab Grill, I had the opportunity to sample some new-to-me dishes and enjoy some old favorites.
The afternoon began with a refreshing liki de tiki, a lemonade mildly spiced with that big green chilly you see, and ginger and cumin, perfect to beat the summer heat. The kanji, made of carrot and beetroot juice with a dash of mustard, was served as a palate cleanser, and is supposed to aid digestion, and served before a meal in many Punjabi households. There was also a quartet of chakna – masala nuts, spiced chana, pakore and matthra – that go well with evening drinks.
Among the array of starters I was served, the veg kurkure wasn’t really Punjabi, but I liked the wonton rolls stuffed with mushroom, olives and tomatoes, rolled in crunchy sev and served in a shot glass with a sweet chilly dip. The fish starters quite amazed me; I didn’t expect Punjabis to have any fish dishes. The salmon tikka was a treat, the smokiness imparted by the grill enhancing the delicate fish, and I gorged on the Amritsari machchi, fried sole fish served with chips. The virgin ganne ka margarita served alongside was really cool, a novel twist to the good ol’ sugarcane juice, and the hint of mint and black salt sprinkled on the rim of the glass just added to the taste.
Punjabis love their meat, and the proof was in the variety of meat served to me. The chicken keema with fryums was nice, and it the combination of crunchy fries with spicy chicken was a nice one. I loved the presentation of the mutton boti, in an iron box contraption, and the meat was succulent, cooked liberally with spices and ghee.
After all these starters, I was so full that I had just a spoonful of the main courses on offer. The dal makhni and butter chicken were so creamy, and smelled heavenly. It was heartening to see the seasonal vegetables used in the mutton hot pot- turnip, radish, apricot- emphasising the point that meat dishes need not be solely meat orgies. The sarson da saag and makke di roti was quintessential Punjab, served with butter and a dry fruit jaggery on the side.
There was barely any space in my stomach for dessert, but the mele di chuski was not at all heavy, popsicles infused with fresh fruit flavors like orange and raw mango, and vodka, if you want some kick. The gud ki chawal was not up my alley, as it was too heavy, and I don’t particularly like sweet rice, but the anjeer kulfi, with figs, pistachios and almonds, was nice.
You can’t count calories when you eat Punjabi food; every dish is liberally cooked with ghee and butter and all things health freaks run from, but in terms of flavor, the cuisine has few parallels. Of course, I’d love to see some healthy Punjabi food options where the ghee is toned down but the flavor not lost, but until then, there is Punjab Grill.
SJR Primus (Near Forum Mall)
7th Block, Koramangala
Note: I was invited to the restaurant for a sponsored meal. Opinions are honest and wholly my own, and not influenced by anyone else.