I love restaurants that tell me a story with their food. Restaurants that transport you to a different place or time, with food that enriches and enlightens. Which is what happened when I dined at Not Really Indian – shortened to NRI – the newest addition to the ever increasing list of restaurants opening in BKC.
I learnt about the lineage of dishes such as South African Bunny Chow, and a Caribbean Goat Curry. I tasted dishes such as the Mamak Lamb Chops, for an authentic taste of which I’d have to travel to Malaysia.
This is the entire concept of twice Michelin starred chef Atul Kocchar’s new flagship restaurant – Indian food that has traveled out of the country. This is the food that migrating Indians took abroad with them, and started hybridizing with ingredients and cooking techniques of their new home. Thus, the food is Indian but Not Really Indian!
The mood of the restaurant is sober, simple, and classy – with Indian elements such as milk can lights thrown around for good measure. What a pleasant change from the loud, garish, kitsch that is a mandate in Indian inspired restaurants! Also the walls are painted, and don’t come ‘exposed’ as my co-diner pointed out.
We start off dinner with their signature cocktails – a potent, spicy Passionfruit Chutney Martini that both stings and soothes, and Hannah that tastes like a gin based, boozy, bubblegum. Repeat orders of both drinks, please!
Our only vegetarian dish of the night was the light Dalim Shakarkandhi Chaat (Rs. 225) – where roasted sweet potato cubes came drizzled with tangy yogurt, chutney, and pellets of pomegranate – providing a burst of flavours in each bite. Another runaway favorite were the Pork Curlies (Rs. 425), a spiral pork sausage coated with finger licking barbeque sauce – which some on our table found a tad bit too sweet.
A crowd favourite, and one of the most ordered dishes at NRI is the South African Bunny Chow – a dish that was created filling a scooped out bread loaf with curry, because Indians were not allowed in restaurants back then or allowed to use cutlery. A fine example of jugaad at it’s best! The Mutton Bunny Chow (Rs. 525) was a spicy, tender mutton curry dunked in the bread casing, with a plantain chip on top – just like the original. My favourite part was eating the leftover curry soaked bread once we were done devouring the meat.
The Mamak Lamb Chops (Rs. 1350) was an ode to the Mamak cuisine of Malaysian Muslims, and would have been delicious had my lamb chops been more tender. I struggled cutting through them, and sadly that’s not how I enjoy my meat. The Benaras Special Karara Kekda (Rs 750), is the only dish from Chef Kochhar’s Michelin starred Benaras that makes an appearance on the menu – a batter fried crab with a passion fruit sauce on the side. Other notable mentions we tried was the Sri Lankan Potli Murg (Rs 475) – a chicken gravy served with Lankan string hoppers, and a strictly average Handi Biryani (Rs. 475). The star of the night – NRI Special Raan (Rs 1500) – made a late entry, but I am glad we tried this succulent, shredded lamb dish. The priciest dish on the menu, but a portion size that deserves a large group.
We ended our meal with the comforting Bread Butter Pudding (Rs. 175) and dense chocolate and Ajwain Orange (Rs 225) dessert. Make your choice from the Mithaiwaala dessert cart that the server wheels out to your table.
NRI is a homecoming of sorts for both Chef Kochhar and the food on the menu – returning back to the roots. The concept is different, the food is delicious, though the pricing may be on the higher side for a ‘casual, fun dining restaurant’. Expect hearty food, that packs a punch with flavour and you won’t be disappointed. For the prettier plated fare we’ll have to fly down to Benares in London.
(The author was invited to dine at the restaurant. The views are unbiased and entirely her own.)