The Aloft at Cessna Business Park recently concluded their Rajasthani Food festival last weekend. I was quite fortunate to be able to savour the spread on the last day before the chefs went back home. The two-week festival was aimed at introducing new flavours from India to the hotel's target audience which mainly focuses on the employees of the nearby tech companies.
Being the last day, I was able to calmly savour all the dishes and take my time with the pictures. The meal began with a refreshing aam panna which was accompanied by some Rajasthani knick-knacks that included the famous Bikaneri bhujiya, dhungari pyaaz and chana daal ke papad which went fabulously with the assortment of pickles that were served.
Normally, I'm not a big fan of pickles and tend to be overly critical of the taste. The big plus points of the assortment of pickles that were served was the fact that none of them were overly heavy or aggressive in taste and actually complemented the papad. I rather enjoyed the aam kalonji (mango pickle) and the haldi ki chutney (turmeric chutney). Also as a part of the appetizers, we had some kota kachori with saunth ki chutney.
Until this day, Rajasthani cuisine to me has meant daal-bati-churma. I'm not the biggest fan of this dish. However, there was an interesting twist to the dish that was served with the rose churma. This particular mix was had two contrasting flavours that came out; the saltiness of the daal-bati which was followed by a sweet flavour of the rose churma which was made out of crushed rose petals and rose essence. This gave it an almost chaat-like finish which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The main course was an elaborate thali with more dishes than I can remember. After sampling all the servings, I found a few favourites and focused on those. The laal mass (mutton curry) was the best among the non-vegetarian. The flavours were stronger and had just the right amount of spice to wake up my taste buds. In contrast, the chicken was mild. I'll be candid here and admit that I did not know that non-veg was an integral part of the Rajasthani fare. Another dish that I rather enjoyed was the pitod. This was the second Rajasthani dish, aside from the daal-bati that I was familiar with. The superstar of the meal and the one dish that blew the mind of taste-buds apart was the ker sangri. The ker sangri is a delightful bean and berry mix unique to Rajastan. The flavour was very unique with the sweetness coming from the ker berry and the herbal yet tangy flavour coming from the sangri bean. The very light tinge of spices was enough to add some more punch to the dish without over powering the taste of the natural elements. It's not every day that a vegetarian dish impresses me. And this is a perfect example to every restaurant that vegetarian does not mean either paneer or aalo. there's a whole world of brilliant vegetarian food out there.
I was warned that I would not be able to finish the thali. Taking this as a personal challenge, I did try to, though unsuccessfully to complete what was placed in front of me. I had to eventually throw in the towel. I honestly had no space for desserts, but the glutton in me took two really small helpings of the malpua and ghevar.
If this was the fabulousness of the meal on the last day, I can imagine the fare throughout the festival. I'm rather grateful to the chefs at Aloft for introducing me to a new vegetarian dish that I love and hope that when the festival comes back to town next year, I can come over and order an entire bowl of Ker Sangri.