Baisakhi Celebration in Patiala and Options By Sanjeev Kapoor | Celebrating Festivals in Dubai – Episode 3

Baisakhi celebration for this foodie was an absolute double bonanza – visiting the two restaurants – the newly opened Patiala as well as the much visited Options by Sanjeev Kapoor in DWTC. As Baisakhi celebrates the harvest, the cute little paddy field grown inside the Options restaurant (above) bowled me over. I wasn’t visiting any of them for the first time – so the visits were like home-coming – a warm welcome accompanied by even warmer food! This is the third of a series of posts on last month’s festive restaurant hopping – we were celebrating some festival or the other from some part of the world {The series… Nowruz Buffet At Ezi Dzi | Celebrating Festivals in Dubai – Episode 1, Songkran Splash At Westin and A Dinner At Sukhothai | Celebrating Festivals in Dubai – Episode 2}. If you are joining this series from this episode, then a small note – the not-so-good pictures are all shot in my smart phone, in dimly lit but beautiful surroundings. My Nikon’s gone through a lot of rough use during my recent Thailand Academy trip, to the small fishing island in South Thailand called Koh Klang. My Instagram images…

The earlier posts capturing my Thai experience…
Ruen Mai Restaurant In Krabi | A Tantalising First Experience Of Thai Food {In Thailand, That is!
Koh Klang in Krabi, Thailand | A Photo Essay of An Island Life
Baan Ma-Yhing Restaurant In The Fishermen’s Village | Recipe of Thai Red Curry As We Cook ‘fresh catch’ Baramundi!

Coming back to my Baisakhi celebrations in Dubai, my first stop was Patiala, the newly opened North Indian fine dining restaurant. Chef Sanjay Bahl (above), who is at the helm of the Patiala kitchen, is warm, affectionate, experienced and extremely passionate about the food that he serves. I have previously had the opportunity to chat with him {an earlier post… Chef Sanjay Bahl | Flavours And Flavours And Flavours of Patiala!} and I have come to the conclusion that the Galouti Kababs or Galawati Kababs he serves, are one of the best that I’ve tasted in recent years. Incidentally, the kitchen boasts of Chef Arif with an enviable ancestral heritage – his forefathers had been the creators of the famous Galauti Kababs. The Chef insists on good taste, pure flavours and a great dining experience, accompanied, obviously by the perfect wines served by the glass (only a few restaurants in Dubai do this). Our Baisakhi dinner was, however, not about Galawatis. The Chef had created a special Baisakhi menu consisting of some traditional Punjabi dishes that were specially cooked in the Punjabi homes during Baisakhi.

The Starters consisted of Achari Paneer Tikka – Paneer or Cottage Cheese marinated in pickle and cooked in Tandoor (Tandoor is a cylindrical clay oven used in cooking and baking. Traditionally, the heat for a Tandoor is generated by a charcoal or wood fire, burning within the tandoor itself, thus exposing the food to live-fire, radiant heat cooking, and hot-air, convection cooking, and smoking by the fat and food juices that drip on to the charcoal. Read more on Tandoor); Tandoori Choozey – Spring Chicken marinated in yogurt and spice, also cooked in a Tandoor. The Main Course offered an interesting meat preparation called Meat Beliram – a *spicy* – a Lamb Curry cooked in the traditional Punjabi style. The dish apparently got its name from the creator of the dish – Beliram! Beliram was the royal cook of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who ruled the Patiala kingdom, during the early half of the 19th century. Beliram was considered an Ustaad or a Master Chef in his times. Next was Mogewala Kukkad – a Chicken curry with minced chicken and traditional spices. The dish has it’s origins in rural Punjab and is a very popular village dish. Here, the boneless chicken or minced chicken is slow cooked and simmered in spices, specially a fenugreek flavored rich tomato gravy. The Baisakhi menu had a lot of tasty vegetarian options… Amritsari Dal – mixed lentils that had been tempered in Garlic, Cumin and Kashmiri Chilies; Punjabi Kadi Pakoda – a spiced yogurt and gram flour curry served with deep-fried gram flour dumplings that have been tempered with fenugreek seeds and red chilli; Aloo Wadiyan – dried spiced lentil dumplings and potatoes cooked with onion and tomato masala (this tasted just like the home made Boris or the lentil balls and the Bengali Borir jhol that my mum cooks at home) and the very special Guchhi Pulao – Morels cooked with Basmati rice. Guchhi is the Kashmiri black morel mushroom, famed for its flavour, rarity and exoticism. Most of the dishes that we tasted – the Meat Beliram, the Mogewala Kukkad, Punjabi Kadi Pakoda, Aloo Wadiyan and Gucchi Pulao, are not in the regular Patiala menu and were specifically added as Baisakhi specials. I felt that I was having an elaborate meal cooked at a Punjabi home – each dish delicately created and very flavourful and didn’t come dripping with the oiliness that we’ve come to accept in most North Indian dishes. For once this carnivorous foodie was overawed with the vegetarian offerings.

I requested for tiny samples of desserts so that we didn’t miss out on our *sweet* experience. Gajrela or the Gajar ka Halwa, as it is popularly known as, is a traditional Punjabi winter dessert where the carrot is slow cooked in milk {reminds me of the Gajorer Payesh or the Carrot Pudding that my Aunty made for Diwali. Cooked in the Bengali style, the Gajorer Payesh turned out to be very different from Gajar Ka Halwa, though the technique of cooking seemed to be similar, up to a point}. The next dessert was the Kheer. Again, this Rice Pudding which had been cooked with Rice slow cooked in milk and nuts has a Bengali variant – the Payesh. But the North Indian Kheer tastes very different from the Bengali Payesh {my post on Payesh… Notun Gurer Payesh/Traditional Bengali Rice Pudding | Remembering My Dida}. But the dessert that seemed to intrigue me and seemed unique – something that I hadn’t tasted before was the Rose Petal Halwa – this was a Halwa where dried rose petals were cooked in milk, Cardamon and Pistachios. Rose petals always takes me on my Persian food fantasy!

The sign off was with a beautiful Masala Chai. Chef Sanjay Bahl specifically suggested that we try this special version of Masala Chai, the speciality being that the Chai had been sweetened by Gur or Jaggery. The first thing that the Chai reminded me was – India! This was exactly the kind of teas that are served in the platforms of Indian railway stations and inside the trains. I wasn’t sure whether the Chef would take this nicely, had I told him that. But trust me, this was a compliment.

Debbie, my fellow Fooderati blogger, had accompanied me to Thailand. Post Thailand trip, we tried visiting restaurants together, till our respective daily routines crept into our lives and separated us! Debbie and I went for our Baisakhi dinner at Patiala together {her post on Patiala} – this was a much needed break in our *Thailand* inspired lives as we were writing on Thailand, eating Thai food, cooking Thai food and talking only about Thailand. Till Baisakhi came in. Baisakhi is usually celebrated on 13th April, and occasionally on 14th April and around this time even Poila Baisakh or the Bengali New Year is celebrated. This Bengali foodie was ushering in her Bengali Poila Baisakh by celebrating the Thai festival Sangkran and the Punjabi festival of Baisakhi. Festivity is all in the mind and has to render itself into some kind of a celebration, isn’t it? {More on Baisakhi}

PatialaNorth Indian Cuisine, Fully licensed; The non-vegetarian tasting platter cost us Dhs 200/person
Tel No: +971 4 451 9151; Email:; Location: Level 3, Souq Al Bahar
For more info: Official Website, Facebook Page, Twitter


This was my first visit to Options By Sanjeev Kapoor after they had won the BBC Good Food ME Awards 2012 for the best Indian restaurant. My gut feeling is that, the diners’ profile must have had a huge upheaval after winning this award, though it had been an award-winning restaurant even before that (Masala Awards for the Best Asian restaurant). Considering that a huge *celebrity* name is attached to the restaurant, the expectations from the Options’ kitchen is always very high. My attachment to Options is for a multiple of reasons. In the absence of a single Bengali restaurant in Dubai, Options does pamper the Bengali foodie for at least a few days every year, when it holds Rannaghar, the Bengali food festival during the Durga Pujo – the biggest annual festival for the Bengalis that take place during autumn. Though Options specialises in North Indian cuisine, Chef Raturi (above right in second last row) manages to churn up a traditional Bengali menu {My experience of Rannaghar}. Also, it was during the launch of it’s Deira branch, that I got to meet the Master Chef, Sanjeev Kapoor. Not only did I get to meet him, I did in fact had the opportunity to talk to him – you will find me hideously dumbstruck above as I pose for a picture {My post… Sanjeev Kapoor | Talking To The Chef Extraordinaire}! Also, when my blog turned one, Options generously gave away a romantic dinner for two to a lucky reader. Well, these are hardly any food related reasons to like Options – apart from the Kasha Mangsho or the Mutton cooked in the Bengali style and the Bengali Luchi and the fabulous Roshogollas or Rasgullas (the famous Bengali sweet) they fed me during Rannaghar!

My Baisakhi lunch at Options was super hurried just like my most lunches are, with Mommy duties calling for picking up the Z-Sisters from school. I was invited by Samah, a newbie on the blogosphere. My food order was strictly Baisakhi specials on the menu but when the food arrived our table, a few restaurant specialities seemed to have crawled along. The Saag Shorba or the creamy Spinach soup was deliciously comforting till Samah told me that most of the times she preferred having the Saag Shorba without the cream. A fitness freak and the most petite person I’ve ever come across, I heard her but didn’t quite get her. I mean, why order a Shorba if there’s no cream? You might as well order a clear lentil soup! The Shorba was followed by the Dahi Papri Chat – a plate of crisp Papris (papris are like fried dough wafers made from white flour) topped with boiled potato, sprouts, more sweet than sour tamarind chutney, chilled yogurt and Sev. I like a bit of an overdose of sprinkling of Cumin powder, Chaat Masala, dry roasted red Chilli powder. Papri Chaat is a very popular subcontinental street food and ranks second in my list of lip smacking Indian street snacks. Phuchkas, the Bengali version of Pani Puris top my list {interestingly, a very old post on Phuchka is the most visited post on my blog… Dilipda’s Phuchkas in Vivekananda Park | ‘World Famous’ In Kolkata}. After this and a round of Chicken Reshmi Kababs (I don’t seem to remember ordering this, but one should never deny what’s being offered), we were served the most famous rural Punjabi home cooked Khana of all – Makki di Roti and Sarson Da Saag. Honestly, they filled up my senses. Makki di Roti literally means bread of corn and is always baked on a Tava (is a large, flat pan made from metal) and gathering from my Punjabi friends, they are a bit cumbersome to make. The Makki di Roti’s most popular accompaniment is Sarson Da Saag – prepared from green Mustard leaves. Traditionally, both of these dishes are had with dollops of Butter. Non-traditionally, sans it! We also ordered a Mahi Daal which was more like a home cooked, light lentil and bean based Daal rather than the creamy Dal Makhani that we are familiar with. The non-vegetarian comfort came in the form of delicious Lahori Murgh, a typical kadai Chicken preparation hailing from the North West frontier, where kadai is a wok type of a vessel used to cook the dish. This was a rich preparation, with the Chicken cooked in a thick tomato gravy with a lot of spices. However, the Dum ka Gosth reigned over the Lahori Murgh. In the former, the Goat meat dumplings were tenderly cooked in the Dum technique – a technique that is my personal favourite. Meat is cooked on a very low flame, in sealed containers so that the meat gets cooked in it’s own juices. I left Options with the taste of Makki di Roti, Sarson da Saag and the Dum Ka Gosht still lingering on. Alas, there was no room for desserts.

Options By Sanjeev KapoorAward winning Indian restaurant; Fully licensed
Opening Hours: 12pm – 11:45pm daily
Location: Ground Floor, Convention Tower, DWTC; Also in The Mövenpick Hotel Deira
Tel: +971 4 3293293/4 (DWTC); Tel: +971 4 4446466 (Deira)
For more info: Website, Facebook Page, Twitter


As I sign off, I thought that I should share the above thought from one of the inner pages in the Options Menu. I’ve been keeping the concluding paragraph of the posts same – as this is a series of posts following the same thought – celebrating festivals in Dubai. Although born into a Hindu family, my brother and I grew up in Kolkata, celebrating all festivals from all religion. So Eid would mean that we would flock to the homes of our Muslim friends and pestering their Mums whom we would address as Mashi/Aunt to refill our bowls of Shimuyer Payesh or Semayia/Sevaiya Pudding and ransack their kitchens for home-made Biriyanis and Laccha Parathas, a type of Indian flat bread, triangular in shape with multiple layers lapped with Ghee/Indian clarified butter. Or Christmas would mean attending midnight mass at St Paul’s Cathedral with my Christian friends and rip open my small gifts of fruit cakes that my Christian Mashis/Aunties would have prepared for me. I’ve reminisced all this nostalgia in an earlier post – Living By The Water With Sunset As Prop – Kolkata & the Ganges. It talks about the multicultural upbringing of my childhood that has shaped my own philosophies in life. That brings me to my question – What about you? Have you embraced any other festival from any other country or religion, apart from your own?

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: The opinions stated here are my own and are absolutely independent. I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals but please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here. It does take lot of effort to capture a food experience in text and pictures. While it’s meant for you to enjoy them, I request you not to use them!


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