It is very difficult to review a place as legendary as Dum Pukht, the reason, of course, being that so much has already been said and written about this iconic North Indian restaurant at ITC Maurya that one has to first deal with the baggage of pre-formed perceptions. Whoever I spoke to prior to my visit had recommended something or the other on the menu as a ‘must-have’. To add to that, I had my own memories of some of the great dishes I had tasted on my earlier visits to the place.
Anyone who goes to Dum Pukht with expectations of a grand, luxury setting tastes a bit of a dampener first. It’s only after a few minutes that the stark simplicity of the décor grows on you. For some reason, the setting always reminds me of the kind of feel one gets at clubs like the Delhi Gymkhana — regal and minimalist to the core. The food, however, is an entirely different thing altogether. Chef Gulam Qureshi, who’s as unpretentious a person as the food he’s acclaimed for, makes sure that everything that comes to your table is as close to perfection in flavour as is possible.
I started my meal experience with the famous Dudiya Kebabs, shallow fried roundels of cottage cheese stuffed with mashed potatoes, and on the chef’s recommendation, followed it with the Dum Pukht Kakori Kebabs, the best I’ve ever tasted. The minced chicken kebab or Seekh Gilafi which followed did not quite match up to its predecessors, though it was the last thing on my mind since by then, I was anxiously looking forward to my favourite Mirch Ka Salan for the main course — it turned out every bit as good as I remembered it to be.
Next on my table was Dum Pukht’s legendary Biryani, served in the traditional earthen pot and standing true to the great reputation it carries with it. Accompanying it were Dumpukht Koh-E- Avadh, qorma of lamb shanks, dum cooked with a tinge of cardamom and finished with saffron and Warqi Parantha, delicately flavoured with ajwain.
I had no space or inclination for dessert for the simple reason that I wanted to retain the lovely flavour that the Biryani left in my mouth. Still, I couldn’t help ordering the Shahi Tukra, and ended up ditching the bread and relishing the saffron flavoured rabri. The fine wine which accompanied each course and the soothing live music only added to the charm of the experience. Dum Pukht grows on your senses. If you haven’t tried it yet, you are missing something in life.
Dum Pukht, ITC Maurya, Diplomatic Enclave, SP Marg; 26112233; Meal for two: Rs 4,500 (plus taxes)