I am yet to recover (below left) from talking to Sanjeev Kapoor – the Chef extraordinaire, the Entrepreneur, the TV Host, the Author and an absolutely down to earth and one of the most humble celebrities that I have come across. My last post talks all about the candid, one-to-one interview that I had with him when the award-winning restaurant, OPTIONS By Sanjeev Kapoor, opened it’s second restaurant very recently in The Mövenpick Hotel Deira. I had also promised my readers that 2 couples will win Romantic Dinner Invites from this newly opened restaurant in this post.
Two things that visibly excite me about this newly opened restaurant – a LIVE cooking kitchen in the middle of the restaurant and Akshada Parab, the Executive Chef (above right). Chef Akshada is one of the very few lady Executive Chefs managing the kitchens of Indian fine-dining restaurants in the world (and definitely Dubai’s first!). The feminine touch might bring back a whole lot of nostalgia related to Mummy’s cooking, as one waits in anticipation for the food, though I haven’t had the experience of having such a young Mummy! All this amidst a lot of aroma drifting out of the central cooking area accompanied by the background score of sizzling and tadka!
I keep showing examples to the Z-Sisters all the time of girls achieving and succeeding in different professions – women astronauts, pilots, doctors etc. I’ve witnessed many Mummy-is-coughing-and-can’t-answer situations (for example, when the F1 Grand Prix was on in Abu Dhabi, they had asked me why there were no lady F1 drivers?). So, Chef Akshada… thank you for saving Mummy this time. As a woman you make me feel really proud!
For a few days it had seemed like a preparation for a big fat Indian wedding – attending the soft launch of the restaurant a few days back; visiting it even the day before the opening and felt the nervous excitement of the staff as they were preparing themselves for the opening; and ultimately the final reception culminating in the grand opening itself! (More pictures of Soft Launch and Official Launch on my Facebook Page).
OPTIONS by Sanjeev Kapoor, DWTC has just won the Masala Award for the Best Asian Restaurant. Quite naturally, the expectation from this OPTIONS is also very high. Mr Md. Sayed Hussain, the Chairman (above left) believes – ‘When you are dining in the Deira restaurant you shouldn’t feel that anything is less than the one in DWTC. The decor, the service, the food – everything should be at par. In-fact, the diners should feel that yes, they are indeed eating in the same award-winning restaurant as OPTIONS in DWTC (yes, the one where I had attended RannaGhar, the Bengali Food Festival).’
The opening saw Chef Akshada as well as Chef Raturi (Executive Chef of OPTIONS in DWTC, 2nd pic from top in the above image) jointly cook up a storm, or should I say Kebabs, Mutton Rogan Josh and some brilliant Kulchas and Naans (that must have given you the trailer for the Lunch Menu). I didn’t have the luck to sit through the meal as I had better luck awaiting me in terms of being summoned to interview Sanjeev Kapoor.
My previous experience with OPTIONS
Each month a special food festival is celebrated at OPTIONS. I had previously visited the restaurant for RannaGhar, the Bengali Food Festival. Dubai doesn’t have many places where you can get to taste a Bengali meal. My experience was very good. Though there were a few hits and misses – the Kasha Mangsho/Bengali Mutton Curry wasn’t authentic, the fish was too fried in case of Shorshe Bata Maach/Mustard Fish but even for a traditionalista, the Deemer Chop/Egg Chops (Deemer Devil in Bengali), Shukto/Bitter Vegetable Preparation (the most difficult vegetable dish to imitate in my book!), Daab Chingri/Coconut Prawn, Murgir Jhol/Chicken Curry scored high marks. And the Rasgullas were very good – really soft and not too sweet, presented in a very novel way! However, many of my friends who had gone towards the end of the festival didn’t have a good experience to recall. I had also mentioned how this restaurant in Kolkata should inspire the OPTIONS team to take Rannaghar to the next level!
Food tasting and the Soft Launch
Each one of us who had attended the soft launch of the restaurant were given score sheets and were told that the restaurant was going to open up to the public only when each dish had got a score of 10 out of 10!
We felt that the Starters had been extraordinarily good while the Main course still needed a bit of sprucing to match up to the Starters.
In the Starters… The vegetarian Starters kick-started our food tasting. Spinach Dumpling – cooked with Garam Masala and served after unwrapping them from a foil covered pot, were the most delectable (Scored 10); Badam Bahar, another extraordinary rendition of crushed nuts cooked in spices and made into rolls (Scored 10); Vegetable Sheekh Kebabs were a bit disappointing though, falling flat on the taste (Scored 5); Both the Chicken and the Mutton Sheekh Kebabs were soft, juicy and succulent (was told that they had been marinated with special herbs, spices and yoghurt. Scored 10); Tandoori Prawns were mildly spicy, grilled to perfection (Scored 10); Tandoori Salmon was the winner all the way (Scored 10)!
In the Main Course… The Daal Makhni was fabulous – creamy, buttery and rich in taste and aroma (Scored 10); Shaam Savera – this is one of Sanjeev Kapoor’s most popular signature dish consists of Palak Paneer/Spinach and Cottage cheese koftas (Cottage cheese balls embedded in spinach roundels) cooked in a rich creamy tomato gravy… absolutely delish (Scored 10); Butter Chicken failed to impress us. The gravy was too sweet and tasted almost similar to Shaam Savera (Scored 5). Butter Chicken is perhaps one of the most popular dishes in Indian cuisine and is most often requested, specially by non-Indian diners. So, this definitely needed some make-over.
All the above was accompanied by the Bread Basket consisting of various kinds of Naans – stuffed and plain… I would have wanted them to be a bit more soft and fluffy (Scored 7). Worth admitting here, is that the Kulchas stuffed with Green Peas that were served on the day of the opening were out of the world. So I am assuming that the restaurant had worked on their score sheet. On the day of the official launch, we were served Mutton Rogan Josh which would have definitely scored another 10!
How could I forget the sweet sign-off – the Desserts? Unfortunately, not much choice was left excepting Gulab Jamuns. Perfectly sweet for my Bengali sweet tooth, however too sweet for a few of my fellow diners – so we settled on an average score of 8!
A LIVE cooking kitchen in an Indian restaurant is quite a challenge with a whole lot of smoke from the sizzling, specially the Tadka that is associated with the Indian cooking style. I had anticipated a lot of smoke and eye irritation. But this didn’t seem to pose any problem – there must be a strong exhaust system taking care of this. In fact, I felt that the entire experience was pretty much like a 4-D experience – we could see the food, smell the food, taste the food and hear the sizzle while it was being cooked!
The Fashion Lounge
Adjacent to the Restaurant is The Fashion Lounge – equipped with a huge projection screen and fully stacked bar… a bit of lounging and chit-chat with your friends before you go inside the chandelier-lit restaurant for a formal dinner. I think the location of the new restaurant is going to be it’s USP – there are many diners in Deira but there are not too many fine-dining options. I am also wondering how does both the OPTIONS restaurants plan to re-invent themselves every now and then while maintaining their unique identity, specially in a city like Dubai where a new restaurant opens up every minute and the general trend is to visit a new restaurant every time? Different promotions and innovations are still probably the best bait while making sure that certain exclusivity is maintained in designing the menu, I was told. Is that sufficient to appease the seemingly fleeting loyalty of Dubai diners?
OPTIONS by Sanjeev Kapoor, Deira
Fine-Dining Indian restaurant; Fully licensed; Free Valet Parking
The Romantic Dinner Giveaway
2 couples can win invites to the newly opened restaurant. Friends on referral who join the contest must mention you (referrals could get you an extra point though!). The contest closes next Sunday, 20th January, 2103. Chandi Kaliya, Shaam Savera, Murgh Makhani/Butter Chicken, Methi Chaman, Kaache Gosht ki Biriyani… are just some of the signature dishes that you can taste in this newly opened restaurant, cooked in a LIVE cooking section in the middle of the restaurant. Specially crafted by the MasterChef, Sanjeev Kapoor himself!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: The opinions stated here are my own and are independent of the dinner giveaway from the Restaurant. I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. Please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.