I had gone here last month during the Bengali food festival with a group of around 30 people, my first trip here. - The authenticity of the food, coupled with the unlimited Hilsa at around a little over 600/- had just blown us away in awe. So when I heard last week there was a Punjabi food festival going on here I jumped at the opportunity and immediately started planning a visit.- Finally, went there yesterday on Saturday night.
I had called and reserved in advance for table at 7:30PM and so we were quickly ushered in to our tables by our waiter but I could see the whole restaurant filled to the last table and possibly a waiting list waiting outside. (so might be a good idea to call and reserve before going).
In the food festival buffet here, like last time this time also it was spread out like a normal 5 star buffet. There was (starting in order of preference of what I think are signature dishes to the cuisine and must be tried) - Makki di Roti, Sarson da Saag and Dal Makhani. There were a lot many other dishes, soups, starters, desserts, 2 fruity drinks etc etc ...but I chose to critically evaluate these first. Will come to the others later below.
All of the 3 dishes above, and in general all dishes across the buffet were dripping with the strong flavour and aroma of the traditional really tasty pure ghee or white butter... - that was even actually also kept on the side as one of the dishes in a bowl next to the saag!
Makki di roti was decent in size, slightly yellowish and crisp and tasty.
Sarson Da Saag too was good. Good consistency. Slightly bitter and very homely.
Dal Makhani was melt in your mouth and really tasty with a smooth consistency. Although a feedback that came from another Punjabi friend who had gone that same night was that the Makhani and Saag could have been more creamy. Nonetheless, I had found the taste really awesome!!!
Apart from these signature Punjabi dishes, I really also liked the Aloo Gobi Adraki and the Baingan Bharta. Maybe the above 2 dishes are not really something specific to Punjabi food category as signature dishes but these two were awesome at this buffet, and I would strongly recommend going to this buffet even if just to try these 2 dishes only also. - Having had aloo gobi at many many places with time I have seen all types of aloo gobi from the type with a lot of gravy, to the gobi not being cooked properly, to the preparation becoming too dry, or too spicy or sometimes even too hard... but on this occasion the Aloo Gobi was actually perfect. Perfect aloo gobi is rare. To the extent, that we thoroughly enjoyed having it with the harmonious smell and flavour of the ghee spread luxuriously on the Makki di Roti. And that too without feeling thirsty or dry.
The Makki Di roti although crisp maybe could have been a bit crisper I think. It might have been the addition of the large quantity of the pure ghee that made it less crack'ling by the time the rotis came to the table.
There was Khumb Te Palak which was similar to Aloo Palak except Mushrooms were there instead of Potato. - I found the taste of this had a really nice homely feel.
Coming to the Non Veg section of the buffet. There was Kukkad(Chicken) Mastana which I think was the substitution for the traditional Chicken Butter Masala, which is a signature dish of the cuisine and was conspicuous by it's absence in the buffet. This dish even though having the same buttery taste and feel was slightly on the masaledar side with a stronger punjabi tadka. Had a very Ludhianwi feel. Although, the typical Chicken butter masala so signature of punjabi cuisine was not there the obvious attempt to replace it with a slightly more spicy version in the form of Kukkad(Chicken) Mastana I think was deviating sacrilegiously from Punjabi tradition...
Mutton dishes which I guess are anyways not Punjabi dishes were really not that great. And the Jhinga(Prawns) butter masala was again a bit too bland and appeared to lack the traditional punjabi tadka taste so to say... but again, I guess prawns too are not something that Punjab is famous for.
There was a Sarsonwalli Macchi though that was really nice. The sarson actually had that typical punjabi flavour in the way it was used with the fish. Badiya tha! Strongly recommend!!
Overall other than the one Chicken Butter Masala dish's absence... I thoroughly enjoyed the mostly Vegetarian food I ate including the awesome dessert section where there was an option of combining the Rabri with Jalebi which is an all time favourite! The whole dessert section itself was actually really nice, and I would recommend people with a sweet teeth going out and doing an initial round of the dessert section to prevent overeating in the main course.
In the desserts there was also Kheer, Malpua, Moong Dal Halwa, Pinni, and many more the names of which I can't even remember.
Oh, and apart from the heavyweight main course I described above there was Kukkad da Shorba and a vegetarian Shorba as soups at the beginning, 2 fruity juices, a decent range of salads and some Veg and NonVeg kebab starters and Tandoori Kukkad di Chaat and Aloo Tikki Da Chaat. - The general trappings or accompaniments of any big hotel buffet plus customizations for the food festival essentially. The chaats, and in particular the Aloo Tikki di Chaat, where one had options to add from a myriad number of ingredients was awesome and something I strongly recommend.
The place had a very bright 5 star'ish feel and was not really customized for the "Punjabi" food festival. There was a lot that could have been done in terms of decorating the place to ensuring the waiters abandoned their traditional suit and trousers uniform.
Although it was full, the place never felt crowded and the light western music though it didn't really feel Punjabi at all, did ensure you could talk to your group only in peace without anybody overhearing or without hearing some other group's conversation. Mostly family crowds were there but you did see the few groups of friends there too.
The service was decent. The waiting staff courteous and helpful throughout. The makki di rotis and the naans kept flowing literally at our table without us ever noticing or having to call the staff. Same with the bottled water and the automatic replacement of the previous empty food plates each time we went to the buffet to get some more food.
Bill was really prompt and noticeably fast. And that I would like to say was a major plus point in my view.
There were some things that I feel could have been done better I feel and didn't fall into either of the above brackets.
(i)The ambience, decor and general environment could have been made more Punjabi in line with the food festival. - It sounded really weird for a few seconds when suddenly carnatic instrumental played on the music system in place of the light western that was playing. Thankfully the staff changed that within minutes once that one song was over.
(ii) There was Hyderabadi Biriani and curd rice available in both the Veg and Non Veg sections. Even though they had it written as "Local Delicacy" in brackets after the name on the name tag in front of the dish, I feel they should have been kept in a separate section of the buffet altogether. Me and one of my friends, a Delhi based Haryanvi Jat, found it a major putoff when we saw these two dishes intersperse in what was a Punjabi buffet,
(iii) The roti, hot kebabs, and ice cream counter basically the counter where the chefs were cooking live inside the restaurant seating area was not very obvious as it located different from the buffet and somewhat obscured. - Here it might be nice to have bigger placard'ing to clearly calling out the availability since someone may miss.
(iv) Same with the somewhat obscured Paan service on the way out. Needed to have something to clearly identify that it was there as it was not very easy to identify and almost missed by me.
(v) There could have been more Kukkad dishes instead of mutton and prawns. Really missed my typical traditional butter masala and tikka.
Although there were some areas of improvements that I could out above for ambience and food, I would recommend going to this food fest for dinner before it closes tonight... just for the food! Even more so if you crave Vegetarian punjabi food.
And do reserve a table in the afternoon or evening itself before you go because the place was full to the last table.
Cost : 600 per head.
I really liked the vegetarian food and considered it value-for-money. I had a Haryanvi Jat friend from Delhi who also independently said the same. However, a third friend who had gone on the same night did say that the Punjabi'yat of the food was in question with the creaminess of the dal makhani not resolved and the chicken butter masala absent. So authentic Amritsari creaminess might be something that is slightly limited here, but Ludhianwi type good masala induced taste is something you will find instead.