With Atrangi, Chef Ritu Dalmia arrives in Dubai
Dubai’s Indian food scene has boomed, with two Indian restaurants now listed in the Michelin Guide. At Dalmia’s newest Indian restaurant located in Jumeirah overlooking Burj Al Arab, regional Indian cuisine takes center stage. The list stretches from the Konkan belt to Meghalaya in the northeast, representing the country’s diverse communities, with Bohri samosas competing with Parsi sali boti. In addition to the a la carte menu, they also offer a five- or seven-course tasting menu, with no set courses. Instead, Saurabh Bhan, the director, will try to measure the food you grew up eating (whether cooked by your grandmother or otherwise) to work with the kitchen and customize a menu that aims to be equal parts nostalgic and innovative – all on spot.
Over the past years, Dalmia has not only brought her knowledge of Indian food to the world. In India, it is best known for Diva in Delhi which showcases home-cooked Italian cuisine in an elegant setting. In the years that followed, she acquired her knowledge of Italian cuisine and showcased its diverse regions across a range of restaurants in Mumbai, Delhi and now Goa.
Inside Atrangi by Ritu Dalmia
At Atrangi, the sparse interiors, with photos of sari-clad fathers doing everything from harmonizing songs to driving, suggest that the restaurant is taking family recipes and elevating them, introducing you to flavors you might find at home. The chairs reflect the iconography of Chandigarh designed by Pierre Jeanneret, while the space itself is divided into three distinct rooms, which is simple but uses Indian materials, such as Kadapa stone and rattan.
The first dish to arrive at the table was an amuse bouche. The aloo bonda with tomato sauce was a satisfying chewy bite that gave way to lingering sweetness. The menu is divided into small plates, large plates and sides, and each section offers a selection of dishes from different parts of the country. Although every dish comes with a twist. Our first dish, the Chole Bhatur, is served like pani puri, with mini bhatures stuffed with Punjabi staples that taste as good as they do on the streets of Delhi. Likewise admiring the Golioti ducks and Kashmiri parga was impressive.
Throughout our meal, the proteins were cooked to perfection by Chef Aniket Chatterjee, who runs the kitchen. The Kashmiri lamb chops were moist on the inside, perhaps because they had been dipped in milk before being fried in rice flour and ghee to get a crispy crust. For mains, we sampled the restaurant’s offering of Malay kofta (very sweet, given the dates used in the dumplings and pistachios as the base for the curry), kosha mangshu (raised by grilling the lamb and the spices used) and lemon chicken. (A great one-dish order, since the light and spicy gravy can be mopped up with the accompanying spicy mirchi paratha). There were quite a few misses among the dishes we sampled – the palak dal was too rich and the khati dal could have been a little more sour.
As for cocktails, the menu is inspired by India’s natural bounty and is divided into four sections – Fruity, Floral, Spicy and Smoke. We sampled a drink from three of the four sections and had little to complain about. Made with tequila, the Tropical Spritz features passion fruit and watermelon with a hint of smoke. Likewise, the “spiced” Amrod No. 1 is a twist on the Moscow Mule, but thanks to guava juice and the use of chili peppers, coriander root and mint, it comes together as a subtly spiced herbal drink. Finally, our Old Fashioned Ghee had a lingering taste of clarified butter, and was a great whiskey cocktail for those who wanted to sip something stronger.
However, the highlight of our meal was the wagyu gadoh (a pulao-like dish in Meghalaya), where beef fat seemed to coat every grain of rice. The thin slices of meat on top were melt-in-the-mouth and complemented by pomegranate seeds from time to time. Likewise, their slow-cooked dal makhani is sure to satisfy any local or traveler’s cravings.
Over the past decade, restaurants and home chefs have worked to separate Indian food from the North Indian/South Indian food dichotomy. The restaurant at Atrangi by Ritu Dalmia serves a range of regional dishes. The menu may not be too overwhelming, but the wide variety of options are all well-crafted to give diners an insight into the country’s diverse cuisines and regions. Desserts are also popular across the country, with dishes such as Goa’s seradura and Bengali chena payas. We sampled the grilled phirni with roasted figs which was very sweet, with the sugary crust overpowering the rice pudding. The most successful was the caramelized coffee custard, in which the bitter broth is cut through the sweet custard.
Atrangi by Ritu Dalmia, 207 Jumeirah Al Qasr Hotel, Al Sufouh First, Dubai. atrangidubai.com. Open for lunch and dinner. A meal for two with alcohol costs around AED 800-1,000 (INR 18,000-22,000).