The Royal Kitchens of the North food festival at San:Qi, Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai, wasn’t just a showcase of great food, it was also an opportunity for the hotel to introduce their new Indian Sous Chef Anil Kumar Naudiyal to the gourmands of Mumbai.
In a previous assignment, Chef Anil Kumar Naudiyal has cooked Indian food in a 350-cover restaurant in China as well as for a banquet of 5,000 people. Having served as an ambassador of Indian food across China and Southeast Asia for many years, laying out a royal feast is nothing new to him.
Luckily for us, Chef Naudiyal is back in the country, currently roosting at San:Qi, the multi-cuisine restaurant and social hotspot at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai. His last stint was at the Four Seasons Bali.
At San:Qi’s recent Royal Kitchens of the North food festival — featuring flavours from Kashmir to Awadh, from the North West Frontier Province to Punjab — Chef Naudiyal cooked up a storm, with some unusual dishes as well as old familiars given a chef’s twist. Many of the dishes hailed from royal kitchens across North India, while some were the chef’s own regal creations.
Standout starters included the Shahi Jhinga (king prawns — but, of course — stuffed with minced prawns and flavoured with royal spices) and a melt-in-the-mouth Kathal ki Galouti (you could not tell it apart from a mutton galouti, such was the finesse with which it was made). Chef Naudiyal hails from the Himalayas, where they have a penchant for fish, and that’s what inspired him to select seafood preparations such as Nawabi Macchi and Shahi Jhingafrom Mumbai’s freshest available produce for the festival.
The mains included a Murg Mumtaz (minced chicken simmered in a cashew gravy) and the undisputed showstopper — the Handi-e-raan. This whole leg of lamb, marinated overnight and dum-cooked in a fiery tandoor, featured meat that fell off the bone as effortlessly as flower petals. The raan is strictly for sharing — unless you’re Jason Momoa, I guess — and was served with a refreshing egg salad and an aromatic, pine nut-laced pulao.
Chef Naudiyal may come across as shy but his flavours are bold and experimental. I’ve never been served raan with an egg salad — it’s quite a refreshing combination and I hope it makes it to San:Qi’s regular menu.
Vegetarians needn’t raise their eyebrows. The unusual Paneer Kohinoor (spinach dumplings stuffed with spiced cottage cheese in an indulgently rich gravy ) could hold its own against the raan any day.
Another highlight was the Kashmiri Guchhi Pulao, a dish that seems to be enjoying a moment at fine-dining restaurants across India. San:Qi’s version is nothing if not generous, bursting with plump, oversized morels.
If all this wasn’t quite royal enough, there was a Shahi Khoya Naan (naan stuffed with dry fruits and reduced milk). The most unusual item on the festival menu, however, was the Nawabi Besan Anaj Ki Roti (gramflour flatbread with onions and sprouts and cooked in a tandoor). This is purely Chef Naudiyal’s creation.
Sadly, we had no room for dessert, although the pairing of Shahi Kesar Ghevar with Multi-Grain Kalakand seemed tempting as did the beetroot-saffron halwa.
If this is a glimpse of what’s to come once Chef Naudiyal settles in, we’ll definitely be back at San:Qi for many more culinary adventures.