How about a Kashmiri Wazwan?

Wazwan, the regal repast of ‘Heaven on Earth’ is available at Taftoon Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai right now.
The stylish interiors of taftoon bar & kitchen. , which is playing host to dishes from the kashmiri wazwan.
The stylish interiors of Taftoon Bar & Kitchen., which is playing host to dishes from the Kashmiri Wazwan.

The indulgent Kashmiri Wazwan is a labour of love. A celebratory feast that is fastidiously prepared by the Master Chef or Ustaad (Waza) to herald the beginning of the life of a wedded couple. A cuisine that is reverent in its meat (Wan) preparations, elevates its local produce and draws from its sublime weather.

It requires temerity to take on the challenge of offering the pick of the majestic Kashmiri Wazwan to Mumbai gourmands, and Taftoon Bar & Kitchen does just that. The Daawat-E-Kashmir festival at Taftoon Bar & Kitchen in the heart of BKC is audacious enough to offer the decadent feast from ‘Heaven on Earth’.

Pankaj gupta, founder of taftoon.
Pankaj Gupta, founder of Taftoon.

“Kashmir is a treasure trove of flavours and cooking techniques waiting to be experienced. At the centre of its culinary pride is the Kashmiri Wazwan. Our expert Kashmiri Wazas are ready to take you on a sensorial journey as they cook and plate these authentic delicacies for you. Our extensive menu is full of references to Kashmir and the ingredients that go into each dish. Taftoon is ready to take you on an exciting journey to Kashmir,” says Pankaj Gupta, founder of Taftoon.

Décor

To transport you from the tastefully lit, uncluttered monochromatic interiors, the bright entrance ushers you to a table laden with spices and dried fruit that are abundantly used in Kashmiri cuisine.

The Community Chef’s Table is cosily distanced from the main restaurant, yet provides an overview as you warm up to the redolent meal. Casilda spiffily mixes a lavender, orange-laced gin infused with charred rosemary as you seek to unwind.

Taftoon's oven from where those lovely kashmiri breads emerge.
Taftoon’s oven from where those lovely Kashmiri breads emerge.

Taftoon open kitchen’s oven is replicated in the true tradition of Kashmir. Apple wood shavings are used for authentic smokey hues when the prep calls for it.

First things first!

Noon Chai. The Kashmiri pink tea/Shir Chai is made with green tea leaves in semi-reduced milk. Not for the faint hearted habituated to the dip bag English tea. The robust flavour takes over the olfactory and is best teamed with an all-almond shortbread. Initiation done, the cuppa grows on you. You will reminisce its characteristic glossy deep colour and body even in garma garam Mumbai far from the snowy climes that have inspired the necessity.

Monji haakh, a spinach preparation, at taftoon.
Monji Haakh, a spinach preparation, at Taftoon.

A must try is the signature tea, Kahwa which transports you to the picturesque land of fragrant saffron, fennel and cardamom. As with all dishes Kashmiri you come to expect a generous topping of slivered almonds. The perfect sip to cleanse the palate from the starters through the repast.

Wazwan starters

From Tabak Maaz, a classic meat delicacy made with lamb ribs, to Nadru Ke Kebab, flavour-packed lotus stem patties teamed with a spiky radish dip, you are in for a treat.

The classic Tabak Maaz spotlights the undiluted gamey flavour of lamb. Cooked in milk, which acts as a tenderiser, the ribs (the part of the lamb used in this dish) are crisped to perfection.

Veggie delights

For a cuisine known to tip largely towards meats like sheep and beef, Taftoon has a selection that is determined to please the veggie palate. There’s shallow-fried lotus stem Nadru Le Kebab teamed with a spiky radish sauce, Gogji Rajma, a red kidney bean and shalgam curry made with a variant of rajma from Jammu, and the Chok Wangun or Khatte Baigan to win over your tastebuds. This is any vegan’s delight and would happily satiate the carnivore too! Kanti or chatpata versions of mushroom stir fry, spinach and paneer are other options. What is recommended is the vast selection of breads which are worth making a meal of in themselves. Poppy-studded Baquerkhani, sesame-topped Girda, the Zafrani Zaftoon, the lavasa with the chutneys are simply to go for!

The famed chok wangun (or khatte baigan); and (right) mutton rogan josh.
The famed Chok Wangun (or Khatte Baigan); and (right) Mutton Rogan Josh.

Lamb signatures

While handpicking its menu as a contemporised offering, the essence of the grandeur of the Wazwan feast has been retained. No copper plating perhaps as you keep your sight on signature dishes like the Rogan Josh and focus on the essentially omnipresent badi elaichi (black cardamom) and star anise. In the mains you cannot miss out on the Mutton Rogan Josh — a delicate and aromatic mutton preparation cooked with Kashmiri Mawal petals.

The Wazwan’s core is determined by its Gushtaba and the Kashmiri master has got this one right. The portion used here is the thigh, hand pounded for hours to create a stretchy texture that is shaped in balls and boiled and washed before being stewed in a cardamom-flavoured yoghurt and lamb stock. For those who prefer chicken there’s Rista, where the pounded, poached chicken balls are stewed in Kashmiri red chilli and chicken stock.

Gushtaba (left); and gogji rajma at taftoon's wazwan feast.
Rishta (left); and Gogji Rajma at Taftoon’s Wazwan feast.

Teamed with Guchhi Pulao, flavourful rice strewn with morel mushrooms, dry fruits and a hint of spices, the combination is a perfect pairing. The fragrant rice is delicious as a standalone dish as well!

Sweet note

Chount Halwa, a redolent dessert of apples cooked in pure ghee laced with subtle saffron and toasted almonds and Shufta, apricots stewed in lemon honey, pistachios and fried sultanas (with a crusty almond and poppy-crusted bread) is just what you need to keep place for, before you slip into a state of blissful inertia. If you effortlessly drift to the land of chinars, its placid lake reflecting the morning rays and shikaras, you have Taftoon and its founder Pankaj Gupta to thank for it.

The Kashmir Food Festival is on till April 15, 2022

Taftoon Bar & Restaurant, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra East Naman Centre, opp. Dena Bank, G Block BKC, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400051

For further details and reservations: 022-49735748, +91-7777076563.

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