The Andhra food at Zambar might have gonea little light on the chilli owing to popular taste, but RAHUL VERMA comes back with good memories
There is something about people who are passionate about food. I find their company exhilarating — not just because they can talk about food, but because they like to share their experiences and expertise as well. Arun Kumar is one such man.
I met him at a friend’s house several months ago, where he had prepared the most exquisite crabs cooked in the Kerala style.
The next time we met, he had rustled up a whole Parsi menu, and I particularly remember the salli boti, meat served with juliennes of fried potatoes.
On the third occasion, he had cooked all kinds of superb dishes with raw mangoes. That’s why, when I heard that he was taking care of the food at two outlets of Zambar, I was excited.
Delicious Andhra chutneys
I had visited Zambar, a pan-Asian South Indian restaurant, when it first opened up in Gurgaon.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, Arun invited me to try out Andhra coastal food at the outlet in Ambience Mall in Vasant Kunj. I went, I ate, and I was conquered. I am, in any case, very fond of Andhra food.
We had a neighbour from the state who used to prepare the most delicious of Andhra chutneys. Time was when I liked nothing more than a thali at Andhra Bhawan.
At Zambar, too, there were various kinds of thalis on offer, as part of a festival called “The Andhra Delight”. The festival is over, but quite a few of the delicacies that were a part of it will be found on the regular menu.
The vegetable thali was for Rs. 450 plus taxes, the non-vegetarian thali for Rs.525 plus taxes and the coastal thali for Rs. 625 plus taxes.
I was given a mix of the thalis and had a delicious time. The rasam was just the way I like it — hot enough to clear your sinuses.
The sambhar was thick and fragrant. Usually, Andhra sambar is a bit sweet, but they had toned it down at Zambar. In fact, I felt some of the dishes should have been hotter; Andhra food, after all, can give the best dragons a run for their money when it comes to fire-spewing nostrils. But I think the chefs have bowed to popular demand and gone easy on the spices.
Still, even with a lower content of red chillies, the food was delicious.
I particularly liked the kodi kurra, Andhra chicken curry, which is eaten with medhu vadas. The vada was just right — soft inside and crunchy outside — and went really well with the chicken.
The pappu tomato, a tangy dal, was nice as well, and I loved the pesarattu (a moong dal dosa), which was simply superb, as was the prawn cooked in a thick sauce.
The restaurant stresses that Andhra food is more than just chillies and is based on a wide variety of spices. I believe that, but must admit that I missed the chillies a bit.
All in all, though, it was a meal that one remembers. Andhra food is hot, even when it’s not hot.