The Shiraz Nostalgia
Amongst all the golden memories of my college days in Kolkata, the one thing that consistently churns up is Shiraz Golden Restaurant in Circus Avenue, Park Circus (left). All our random parties or any special party during any festival, for example Holi, Diwali or even Durga Puja was necessarily powered by Mutton Biriyani, Chicken Chaap and Firni (an Indian Dessert made with milk and powdered rice) from Shiraz. Each one of us would be handed over one packet of Mutton Biriyani and one piece from the Chicken Chaap to start with… and would end up with forever licking the spoons that scooped out the mildly aromatic Firni (a dessert) set in an earthen small pot! The same menu was repeated at every occasion when friends would meet and Mums would refuse to host mini impromptu parties.
Even today when we go to Kolkata, the same menu from the same Shiraz is waiting either for us at some of our friends’ houses or at our Kolkata home when we are hosting a get-together for friends and family who visit us! In-fact, on this summer holiday when we were in Kolkata, I took the Z-Sisters back to Shiraz while searching for some Ramadan special Haleem and the legendary Firni – an experience that has been described in my post Firni or Ferni, Ramadan or Ramzan, Mallick Bazar or Karama – It’s The Same Festive Sentiment! Crossing the crowded street with plying trams and many cars zipping past us along with the Z-Sisters – well, was a small journey by itself!
This was the first time in many years of our stay in Dubai that I was outside Dubai during Ramadan. Sitting there in Kolkata, I had to admit that I was missing Dubai for more than just the Iftar (the special meal with which the Ramadan fast is broken) Buffets. Here around the Park Circus area in Kolkata, things were different. Most of the restaurants were closed for the Iftar. There were no Iftar Buffets and you had to wait till the Roza (breaking of the fast) was done. As Iftar set in everybody set out to break their Roza. An amazing experience ensued. People formed groups – on the roads, in corners, behind stalls and prayed on the street and started picking on dates and nuts and other savouries from the same plate (below). Though I didn’t feel like prying into their privacies I have to admit that I almost struggled to keep my camera to myself.
The old Shiraz had moved across the road while a swanky new Daawat-e-Shiraz (left) in collaboration with Tulip Inn had come up in the place where the old Shiraz used to stand. Naturally an emotional heist. But face facts – how many times could we, the girls visit the old Shiraz? It was always the boys in the group who had to go and get the food from Shiraz while the girls would wait in the cars – crammed up in an old Ambassador car borrowed from a friend’s generous dad. The ambiance of the old restaurant with the thronging crowd, termed a bit snootily by most of the so called upwardly mobile educated society as the public or the junta, was not at all welcoming to most girls and womenfolk visiting the old Shiraz. But the new Daawat-e-Shiraz is not only a face-lifted version of the old Shiraz but is also an upgrade in the dining experience, while serving the same good old Shiraz food. And the old restaurant which has moved across the road still serves the same menu and also an uplift so that a family can walk in and have a good Shiraz meal at good old prices in case you don’t want to spend out a 4-star restaurant bill that you might have to incur in Daawat-e-Shiraz.
Most of the Bengalis that I have met, associate Biryani, specially the Mughlai cooking with the Lucknowy or the Awadhi style of cooking. Hence, as much as we love the various kinds of Biriyani – the Hyderabadi, the Sindhi and the Pakistani Biryanis, our taste-buds still search for Shiraz’s Biryani (below). Though there is no dearth of Indian restaurants in Dubai, till now there was definitely a dearth of Indian restaurants which could satiate the Mughlai food nostalgia for those who grew up in Kolkata.
Well until now. Till Shiraz Golden Restaurant came to the shores of Dubai, all the way from Kolkata. Till then some dishes occurred only in my dreams. For example – the Kolkata Kathi Rolls. Or the Mughlai Parathas.
Interestingly, each and every special spice mix is brought all the way from the Kolkata Shiraz!
The Little But Grand History of Shiraz
The cooking style of Shiraz roots back to the princely Indian state of Awadh (Oudh) in the times of Nawab Mohammed Wajid Ali Shah Bahadur (1822 AD-1887 AD). Today this is modern day Lucknow. In 1857 AD after the Awadh kingdom was annexed by the British, the Nawab was exiled to Calcutta (today’s Kolkata). His passion for gourmet food traveled from Lucknow to Calcutta and was nurtured and garnished and fuelled by his special Bawarchis or the Chefs of the Nawab.
Awadhi cuisine has traveled far and wide. But it is believed that only a handful of chefs with royal khansama/lineage know the secret ingredients. Shiraz Golden Restaurant is one of the few Awadhi Restaurant that carries that legacy forward and they also embellished the Dum Pukht* style of cooking with aromatic ingredients, dried fruits, and aphrodisiacs that delighted the insatiable Nawab. Today, Shiraz with its rich history continues with the legacy of its Master Chef Shamsuddin, a direct descendent from the close courtery of Bawarchis from the kitchens of the Nawab. [Information Courtesy – Shiraz’s own write-up]
*Dum Pukht: The Awadhi cuisine originally introduced Dum Pukht to the world. Now it is also commonly used in other cuisines like Mughlai, Punjabi and Hyderabadi. Dum’ means to ‘breathe in’ and ‘Pukht’ to ‘cook’. Dum Pukht cooking uses a round, heavy – bottomed pot, a handi, in which food is tightly sealed and cooked over a slow fire (below). Less spices are used than in traditional Indian cooking, with fresh spices and herbs for flavouring. In some cases, cooking dough is spread over the container, like a lid, to seal the foods. [Information Courtesy – Wikipedia]
Shiraz Golden Restaurant, Dubai
Cuisine Type: Awadhi (Indian); Vegetarian & Non-vegetarian
Tel No: +971 4 3589818, +971 4 3589322
Location: Al Abbas Building, Bank Street, Bur Dubai;
The Location: Shiraz is conveniently located in Bank Street and hence can cater not only to this populated residential area but to a lot of offices, particularly Banks located on Bank Street. And this ‘Home Delivery’ option extends beyond the area, just like most restaurants in Dubai promises.
The Decor: This is a far cry from the Shiraz ambiance that pervades throughout the original Shiraz in Park Circus, Kolkata. Here, the decor echoes the cuisine it promises to serve. Framed pictures of courtesans and musicians in sepia donning the wall reminds one of Shiraz’s Awadhi heritage while a huge image of the famous Howrah Bridge (above) in the backdrop reflects the Kolkata connection.
Another thing that is different in Shiraz in Dubai as compared to it’s Kolkata counterpart, is the clean and open kitchen area (below) where you can see the cooks making the Parathas and grilling the Kebabs. Had we have ever bothered how the food used to be cooked in the original Shiraz kitchen in Kolkata? That is what aging does to people I guess – you start thinking too much once you start learning and understanding too much. Who the heck cared how food was cooked when we were young? But now as I’m growing old this is all that I perhaps care. As usual I must have intimidated the cooks behind the transparent glasses as I clicked them cooking and stirring and cleaning. Making our Chaaps (further down) and making the Rumali Rotis!
The Food: The menu card promises a khazana/treasure trove of Awadhi cuisine. We started with the delicious Mocktail – Mango Caprioska – a concoction of Mango, Pineapple and Mint. And yes, it was amazingly rejuvenating and cooling. The other Mocktails sounded equally alluring but couldn’t taste this time were. These were Cucumber Lemonade (simple but interesting!), Mango Caprioska, Strawberry Bizz and Shiraz Special Fruit Cocktail.
Since no one goes to Shiraz to have just a salad, the restaurant too has not taken much pain to keep anything elaborate than a Raita which is a typical sub-continental condiment made with Dahi/yogurt and used as a sauce or dip. The other option was a plain Garden Salad which is a mixture of cucumber, carrots, onions and green chilli!
The chicken starters boasts of Murgh Tandoori, Murgh Reshmi Kabab, Murgh Tikka kabab, Murgh Bara Kabab, Murgh Qalmi Kabab, Murgh Seekh Kabab, Murgh Kathi Kabab while the mutton/lamb starters boasts of Mutton Reshmi Kabab, Mutton Seekh Kabab, Mutton Raan, Mutton Shami Kabab, Mutton Galawati Kabab, Mutton Kathi Kabab. Unfortunately, the mutton starters are served only on Thursdays and Fridays (a Dubai weekend starts on a Thursday, Friday being a holiday). But why? Why? Why? The Murgh Reshmi Kabab (boneless chicken marinated with green chillies, coriander and onions) that we had ordered came with the sauce which is a trademark of Shiraz.
The main course consisted of Mutton Biriyani and yes, it exuded the exclusive fragrance that only Shiraz’s Biriyani possesses. All their Biryanis (Mutton Biriyani, Murgh Biriyani, Kachi Biriyani) are signature preparations of Shiraz, cooked in typical Dum Pukht style. The mildly aromatic Vegetable Biriyani made with long-grained Basmati Rice was also a delight. The Murgh Chaap ordered as a side-dish was a perfect accompaniment to our Biriyanis.
The Murgh Chaap (above) or the Chicken Chaap occupies an important position in our memories framing Kolkata nostalgia. This is the Chaap and the packet of Mutton Biryani (below) that had been our sole party menu organised with our shoe-string student budget! Can you feel the oil dripping out of the spices that caress the chicken piece? Forget calories and cholesterol – these are once in a while moments that make ever-lasting memories!
Since we were just two people, we couldn’t have ordered any more side dish. Most unfortunately! Because there are enough and more options to choose from – Murgh Kassa, Murgh Qorma, Murgh Roghan Josh, Murgh Chaap, Murgh rezala, Murgh Mosallam, Murgh Bhuna, Murgh Bharta, Murgh Butter Masala, Murgh Tikka Butter Masala, Murgh Kadahi, Mughlai Murgh Butter Masala, Mughlai Murgh Bharta with the last two dishes being cooked in cashew nut sauce, butter, special Masala & saffron; Mutton Stew, Mutton Kassa, Mutton Qorma, Mutton Roghan Josh, Mutton Boti kabab (with gravy), Mutton Rezala, Mutton PAsinda, Mutton Chaap, Mutton Qalia, Mutton Haleem and Fried Bhuna.
Shiraz also serves Mutton Halim on Thursdays and Fridays. Halim or Haleem, a special Ramadan dish made of wheat, barley, meat (usually beef or mutton, but sometimes chicken or minced meat), lentils and spices. This dish is slow cooked for seven to eight hours, which results in a paste-like consistency, blending the flavors of spices, meat, barley and wheat. Because of the difficult in cooking, Halim is a delicacy and it is cooked in large quantities in a huge aluminum cooking pot. In the Park Circus and Mallick Bazar area of Kolkata, there are many alleys and small restaurants where you’ll find long queues for Halim. We too had queued for Halim in front of Kolkata Shiraz this summer and Rahmania, another restaurant across the road. Not only dis we queue for the Halim, we also took containers full of Halim home. From both Shiraz and Rahmania! Halim, cooked in Awadhi style with seventeen aromatic herbs and spices, is a hot favourite during Ramadan in Lucknow. The picture below is a queue that we encountered waiting for Halim infront of Shiraz Kolkata. Don’t forget to read that experience here.
Another legendary food pairing from Shiraz that floods my memories is Laccha Paratha (below) eaten with Mutton Galawati Kabab (picture further down). Lachcha Parathas are Indian Flat breads – crispy with several layers. Galawati Kababs are flat cakes made with Mutton paste marinated with special herbs and spices and shallow fried on hot grill.
Laccha Parathas can take up an entire post – the way the dough is mixed and the layers are rolled out and made into Parathas. For the time being I’ll just have to suffice with two additional pictures of the soft crispy Parathas – the smell of Ghee /Indian clarified butter still lingering on in my fingers as I type on my keyboard, reminiscing and romanticising them.
There is a lot of seafood options – an option that I wasn’t even aware that the original Shiraz in Kolkata ever served. For example – In the Starters you will get Mahi Tandoori (fillet of fish), Mahi Tikka, Jheenga Tandoori (Prawns); in the Main Course you can order Fish Tikka Butter Masala and Jheenga Butter Masala.
For the Vegetarians: There are only two limited options in the Starters – Paneer Sashlik Kabab and Veg Seekh Kabab. However there are more options in the Main course – Sabz Butter Masala, Sabz Jhaalfreezi, Lasooni, Kadahi Paneer, Kashmiri Aloo Dum, Dal Makhni, Palak Paneer, Sabz Navratan, Paneer Butter Masala, Yellow Dry Fry and more.
They have also designed some reasonably priced Vegetarian Combos (all priced at Dhs 18/-) which I think targets the daily lunch requirement in the surrounding offices.
The Mutton Biryani (above) that we had ticked all the right notes pertaining to our Awadhi food craving. Succulent, soft pieces of mutton pieces and big chunks of Aloo/Potatoes – a must for all Bengali Biryani lovers. The only thing that was missing was pieces of hard-boiled eggs that are fried and comes along when you order a plate of Special Mutton Biryani in Kolkata. Anyway our egg-craving was satiated that day by the one that came along with the Chicken Bharta (below) that we had ordered. Chicken Bharta is a dish where shredded chicken pieces are marinated and cooked in cashew nut sauce. Yes, a creamy layer forms in your fingers that needs more than just a handwash and a rinsing to go – but worth every lick!
The Highlight: Though the Biryanis and the other dishes satiated our souls, what swept us away to the Kolkata Memory Lanes were the Kolkata Kathi Rolls (below). Prepared just like the way we Kolkatans like it – succulent pieces of kababs wrapped inside Parathas (Indian flat bread). You get a variety of the typical Kathi Rolls – Egg Roll (Dhs 8/-), Chicken Roll (Dhs 10/-), Mutton Roll (Dhs 12/-), Mutton Tikka Roll (Dhs 14/-), Egg Chicken Roll (Dhs 12/-), Egg Mutton Roll (Dhs 14/-), Vegetable Roll (Dhs 8/-), Paneer Roll (Dhs 10/-), Mixed Vegetable Roll (Dhs 10/-).
The reason I mentioned the prices is because I think that the prices here in Dubai are not very different from their Kolkata counterparts. I think that’s a very interesting aspect if we consider the conversion rates of Dirhams to Indian Rupees is 1:15 . Either the Kathi Rolls in Kolkata are overpriced or they are underpriced in Dubai just to sell the concept.
And hold your breath, they also served some Diet Kathi Rolls if you are interested. What are Diet Kathi Rolls? Well, these rolls are made with Rumali Roti! From when has Rumali Roti made with refined white flour make into the category of diet food? Never mind, I guess these rolls are Diet Rolls only because they are not made with Parathas fried in oil! Again, I stood in-front of the glass window of the open kitchen and stood mesmerized as the cook went on making the Rumali Rotis (below). Does he look a bit irritated? Do I need to care? I don’t know but definitely I have ended up realising that making of Rumali Roti is nothing short of a performing art. My next agenda? Shoot a video of this artist making Rumali Roti. Till then, Mr Cook, you may relax!
Unfortunately couldn’t try the desserts anymore as we were so full. But the ones that are mentioned in the menu card – Firni, Lucknowy Kheer, Shahi Tukda (again only on Thursdays & Fridays), Gajar Halwa and the Gulab Jamuns are going to haunt me till I actually try them the next time we visit Shiraz. A short reminiscence of the Firni set in earthen pots as served in the Kolkata Shiraz (below).
Special Mention: Though Shiraz specialises in Awadhi Cuisine, the Restaurant organises special Bengali Buffet (below) during the Durga Pujo, the biggest annual 5-day festival for the Bengalis, an autumnal affair. I would say this is Shiraz’s ‘community service‘ to the Bengali community and perhaps also to pay it’s tribute to its origin in Kolkata. The Buffet spread had perhaps every traditional Bengali Dish that you can think of excepting those made with Posto (poppy Seeds as they are banned in the UAE). Not the most authentic Bengali food I would say, but in a city flooded with so many international restaurants and Indian restaurants, it’s a pity that there is no authentic Bengali restaurant apart from some Bengali Food festivals organised in some places. Yes, a special moment made more special when you see the prices. Priced very reasonably the Buffet is nothing short of community service!
In any case there’s a lot to debate about what constitutes authentic Bengali food? I’ve made an humble attempt for those who are uninitiated to Bengali Cuisine in one of my most popular posts – Traditional Bengali Food. After our our taste-buds and our Bengali souls completely satiated, we headed home knowing that at-least there’s one place in Dubai where we can head back to when our Awadhi food cravings creep up. This is not a place for a romantic candle-light dinner for sure, but definitely worth many a visit for a good Lucknowy/Awadhi meal in a mid-range budget. And of-course when we start missing our Shiraz days in Kolkata – which is quite often that I would like to admit!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: This review has been done by IshitaUnblogged independently on one of her nostalgic food trips and all opinions are my own. I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. While you enjoy seeing them please don’t use them as some of them have been taken from our personal albums just to make your reading experience more pleasurable. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here. This has also been posted in Yummraj under the category of Guest Blogging, Eating Outside India
My Dubai Diary in this blog:
♦ Things To Do In Dubai – Like A Tourist In My Own City – Showcasing the city I love to call my home!
♦ My First Authentic Emirati Food Experience! – Al Fanar Restaurant, Dubai Festival City
♦ Al Maha Desert Resort & Twitterati Lunch – Al Maha Luxury Eco Resort
♦ An Evening of Wine Tasting at Asado Wine Club – Asado Wine Club, The Palace Hotel, Old Town
♦ The Label Project – Wines Tasted Blindly! – Invite to a Global Wine initiative from Jacob’s Creek
♦ TRIBES Celebrating South African Heritage Day! – TRIBES, the South African Restaurant in MOE
♦ Locavorism in UAE, Friday Market
♦ The Change Initiative Inspiration! – Dubai’s first sustainable store, restaurant & café
♦ Zatar Lamb, Crushed Lemon Potato with Chef Ron Pietruszka – Treat 2012, Burjuman World Food Fest + a Recipe
♦ Back To Dubai, Back to Costa –A nostalgic recount of favourite coffee haunt
♦ Searching for Shiraz – Lucknow to Kolkata to Dubai – Nostalgic search for Kolkata’s famous Shiraz Restaurant ends with Siraz opening in Bur Dubai. Exploring some Awadhi/Lucknowy Khana!
♦ Down To Earth Organic Store In Dubai & Mutton Chick Peas Curry – An event + a Recipe
♦ Mums Who Share @JBR – A charity initiative
♦ Deep Sea Fishing & Fish Barbeque – Persian Gulf off Dubai Coast
♦ The Million Street, in the middle of nowhere – Rub Al-Khali Desert, UAE