The Soaltee has brought back its Uttar Dakshin Food Festival—go while you can!
As I step into Kakori, I am greeted by the smell of good things: roasted meat, spices, lingering flavors redolent of good things cooking in summer.
Décor & Vibe:
The Kakori restaurant has a lovely atmosphere that is both high-end and cozy. As when I’ve visited before, I am struck by the décor, which is rich and a little opulent without being ostentatious: golden dappled ceiling, floor of tile and mosaic, carved window room divider, ancient metal jugs set into recesses. The tables have a festive feel, with blue, gold, green and red table runners, glasses glittering and the silverware polished to a high sheen. It’s really nice when a restaurant puts so much attention and care into not only the food, but the environment in which it is served. It makes it special, an event.
How’s the food?
The Uttar Dakshin Food Festival menu has been divided in a special way; each section—Starter, Soup, Main Course, and Dessert—has been further divided into North and South. You can choose to focus on one style of cooking or mix and match to your heart’s content. The variety is amazing, and many of the dishes listed are ones you’ll not easily find in other restaurants in the city, so you should take advantage of it.
We began with a selection of savoury drinks (more on that below) and small crunchy papads and banana chips—the latter straight from Karnataka. They were served with a beautiful selection of pickles and chutneys: prawn, mint, tomato and coconut, so fresh and zingy and delicious to dip into that we had to remind ourselves to save room for the main meal.
The soup—Thakkali Rasam—was delicious; I really enjoy a well made soup and this was light and well seasoned, and included chunks of the drumstick vegetable, that has the texture of woody asparagus but a really enjoyable flavour. I know that may not sound good, but it was!
Onion Thool Pakora was next, and unlike some pakora I’ve had that can be heavy and doughy, this was light and bright: thin slivers of onion lightly coated before being fried, with a fresh taste and a background of spices that provide a delayed kick.
The Appam we had was also delicious: simple, hot and good – the rice flour batter uses natural fermentation and takes two days to be ready; it was great to see such traditional techniques being used here. The presentation was also attractive; like many dishes we tried, it came served on banana leaf, something I was told is traditional in South India, where the size of the leaf can also show the host’s financial status!
We then had a selection of dishes that formed the South Indian Thali set. My favourite was the Koon Ulli Theeyal, mushroom and shallots in coconut—it was bursting with flavour and oh-so-tasty. We also had the Avial and Kai Kari Porial, two vegetable items that are made with fresh coconut. The two meat curries we tried were Kozhi Varutha and Mutton Andhra; both delicious but I was especially impressed by the mutton curry, which was unusually tender. All was served with Tomato Rice, which added an extra burst of goodness.
By the time we got to desert—a North Indian Pantua—we were full to bursting, but if you still have room there are several good sweets to choose from.
Many of the dishes we tried came from the South part of the menu, but really, as I said, there’s no reason you can’t mix it up according to your taste buds.
What would you like to drink with that?
In addition of course to the extensive bar options wheeled tableside in a beautiful drinks cart, with this promotion you can also enjoy a selection of drinks tailored to the special menu. There were three different Indian traditional beverages, of buttermilk, pomegranate and pineapple, and each was an expert blend of fresh ingredients—fruit, spices, herbs and flavours for a variety of taste buds, and that complement the food.
A few words with the chef:
As I learned on my previous visits, Executive Chef Yuba Raj Pokhrel is an Indian food expert – he’s has spent twelve years in India, and during that time he learned not only how to make good food, but also clearly gained an in-depth understanding of the cuisine’s history and background. He doesn’t cut corners; herbs, spices and other ingredients are brought from India as needed, and he takes the time to prepare the food slowly, as it should be. Long marinades and intricate spice infusions are given the time they need to blend and produce authentic tastes. Talking with him is a learning experience—not just of how a certain dish was prepared, but why it is made the way it is, and the history of it. It’s a pleasure to listen to someone who has so much experience and he clearly really knows his stuff.
Last year, this three week promotion was so popular it got extended for a fourth week, but don’t wait—if you love authentic Indian dishes served in agreat atmosphere, head over here. The event runs until at least September 5th, so go while you can!