“Experience a modern interpretation of Indian Cuisine.” Punjab Grill
We are fans of Indian cuisine, back in the UK we were regulars at our local curry house, in fact there was nothing better than a good old Indian takeaway and a bottle of plonk on a Saturday night. I was a bombay aloo, onion bajee, veggie korma with pilau rice and plain naan kind of girl, the other half liked his meat with heat and avoided the bread and creamy dishes. Here in the UAE, the Indian restaurants we tend to visit are a tad more upscale and none more so than the new and very fabulous Punjab Grill located within the Venetian Village at the Ritz Carlton Grand Canal, Abu Dhabi.
Punjab Grill is next level to any Indian restaurant I have ever experienced in terms of flavours, aromas, presentation, restaurant interior, location and exceptional service from manager Jocelyn Furtado and his team. Eating at this fine dining restaurant is a culinary journey, where traditional and authentic food from the Punjab region of Northern India has been reworked with Western influences and a gourmet twist, quite simply it’s fancy Indian food and it’s outstanding.
I missed the grand opening back in December as I was in the UK, so myself and the other half were invited to this upscale waterfront venue last weekend to experience for ourselves a range of dishes from the extensive menu. Chef de Cuisine Sandeep Anand Ail devised a special tasting menu to suit our dietary requirements, vegetarian for me and anything and everything for the other half. Course after course of sample sized dishes kept arriving at our table, each one bursting with incredible flavours and beautifully presented, like art on a plate.
After an enormous basket of poppadoms of all shapes, sizes, textures and flavours accompanied with three dips, homemade mixed veggie pickle, coriander with yogurt and masala hummus we tucked into our first dishes of the night both of which looked far too good to eat. A flavoursome watermelon slider, a sweet chilled slice of seedless watermelon paired with a tangy savoury beansprout chaat topped with watermelon foam and crispy baby spinach fritters for me and a Tawa scallop for the other half, seared scallop with red pepper chutney, saffron cauliflower fritters, spinach and lentil khichdi.
Next up from the small plates options was a Beetroot and Laban kebab, a crumb-fried spiced beetroot kebab with figs and pine nuts with peanut sauce and fried yoghurt dumpling with sweet mango centre served with citrus fruits and rocket as the vegetarian option and more seafood for the other half, saffron flavoured jumbo shrimps ’Zaffrani Jhinga’ cooked in the tandoor also served with citrus fruits and rocket.
The third course was from the Tandoor, a pungent Paneer Multani, Indian cottage cheese with spiced tomato chutney that had been smoked in the tandoor. The other half had Malai Tikka, chicken breast with creamed cheese and aromatic, delicate spices also smoked in the tandoor
At this stage we were quite full as you can imagine and we hadn’t even got to the main or dessert courses. We took a short break to digest our food, saviour the view across Khor Al Maqta waterfront from our well-positioned terrace table and enjoy our drinks, mine a lovely light Pinot Noir, the other half a chilli based cocktail and palate cleansing cool mint sorbets.
After a quick tour of the restaurant by Jocelyn (moving around also aiding digestion) we were served Zaffrani Gucchi with stuffed Himalayan morels, baked and served with saffron sauce and Chaamp Tajdaar, Tandoori lamb chops, tender meat marinated with house-special blend of spices, a creamy Butter Chicken, smoked chicken morsels simmered in their unique tomato cream sauce flavoured with green cardamom and dry fenugreek leaves and Malai Kofta, cottage cheese and minced vegetable dumplings simmered in a mild cream and cardamom sauce. I have to be honest, I am not the biggest fan of paneer but the dumplings were tastier than the earlier Multani.
These main dishes were accompanied by a house special black lentil stew, Dal Makhani that had been simmered for fourteen hours and finished with tomatoes and cream, Kurkuri Bhindi aka Punjab Grill crunchy healthy okra fries were fused with fresh mint, coriander and raw mango powder and an assorted tandoori bread basket with Garlic naan, Butter Naan, Laccha Paratha, Missi Roti (chickpea flour bread with onion, fresh herbs and spices) served alongside green pea pulao and cumin flavoured long grained basmati pilaf with green peas.
I am a massive dessert fan (think we all know that) but even I was struggling to find room until the most fantastic looking dishes arrived, a real treat as I’ve always previously found Indian desserts a little underwhelming. Malai Pista Kulfi is homemade frozen milk ice cream served in a honey-snap basket (much like a brandy snap) topped with salted caramel sauce, toasted pistachio and frozen berries, a taste and texture sensation that was beyond delicious!
The second dessert was Jalebi Churros, the traditional Indian mithai (sweet) deep-fried like Spanish churros and dunked in saffron syrup, assembled at our table by our attentive waiter Saurabh. Each churro was covered in chocolate sauce then condensed milk and sprinkled with toasted pistachio, almond flakes, desiccated coconut, finished with a dusting of dry rose petals, very sweet even for my sweet tooth!
Punjab Grill is a globally renowned Indian concept, created by Jiggs Kalra often referred to as the ‘Tsar of Indian Cuisine’ and the restaurant is widely touted as the crown jewel in the North Indian fine dining scene. The menu is inspired by traditional Pathani, Punjabi and Haryanvi cuisine combined with elements of modern western influences and ingredients. This is Punjab Grill’s first foray into the Middle East dining scene, a slice of Punjab cuisine brought to the capital by Food Quest in association with Lite Bite Foods. Globally the company has eight other restaurants in various locations throughout India and one venue in Singapore, further expansion is planned in locations such as Bangkok, Jeddah and Dubai.
As well as the exquisite cuisine, I was impressed with the chic interior of the restaurant which can be entered via two red-carpet lined entrances and can host up to one hundred and forty guests. The palatial dining room has several large leather banquettes, is elegantly decorated in rich cream and gold, adorned with large glass chandeliers, there’s even a private dining room for hosting a more intimate gathering. The bar with its quirky fluffy fur bar stools and adjacent small lounge area are ideal for pre-dinner drinks and the large outdoor terrace is perfect for a warm evening. There is a separate well-stocked modern wine cellar adjacent to the bar offering a selection of fine wines.
Punjab Grill at Venetian Village is a superb setting whether it’s for an intimate date night, dinner with friends or somewhere special to take visitors to indulge them with great hospitality, stunning views and of course wow their taste buds with top notch food.
Location: Venetian Village located within the Ritz Carlton complex
Telephone: 02 449 9839
I was invited guest at this restaurant. All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2016. All rights reserved.