Monday, August 15, 2011

Gaylord - Wondering if dead or alive?

Is Gaylords the old time part Continental part Punjabi still functional or has it been consigned to the dust bin of history? We wanted to eat old time Punjabi food, the food we got at restaurants when growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in what was then known as Bombay. The stuff sold at `Kwality’. Dishes like Black Daal, Tandoori Chicken, Butter Chicken and Channa Masala are just not available today at Punjabi restaurants. This food is now the domain of the Shetty/Udipi style restaurants and the Mughlai/Muslim style restaurants. Punjabi restaurants are now few and far between. So we thought what better place to eat at than Gaylord, the grand old lady of North Indian cuisine in Mumbai which has been around for over 50 years. I must add that Delhi still has lots of traditional Punjabi restaurants, in fact there is an entire cluster at Pandara Road which are well worth a visit, but, of course, for the best possible Punjabi food head straight to Amritsar.

We went to Gaylord on a Friday night. I am happy to report that the restaurant was buzzing, quite full. The people were generally older than what you see at most other restaurants. The staff was certainly older than anywhere else, in fact they were crusty old hands who knew exactly what they were doing. The decor is old style, heavy painted furniture, heavy carpeting and probably floral wallpaper.

Before us was a Table Tent promoting a selection of Kebabs, one side vegetarian the other side non. We chose a Kakori. Yes, I know that this was not old time food but what the hell, we were tempted, and, who doesn’t like a good kebab? From the main menu, we ordered a Dal Ghosh and Murgh Kofta Curry which, the Queen of Kutch fondly remembered eating and loving. We also ordered the obligatory Aloo Paratha and Lachha Paratha.

The Kakori was a disappointment. It was indeed very soft and very very finely minced, however it was lacking in spice. The few Kakoris I have eaten have Cardamom and green chilli as a dominant spice. Here, this was quite muted. Pity, as both spices are easy to add and all cooks are familiar with them. To make matters worse, the kebab was served with a Cocktail Naan instead of the traditional sweet Sheermal Naan which would have had just the right sweetness to lift this dish.

The Dal Ghosh was quite unlike what I expected. I thought this would be a yellow daal [probably Channa or Masoor or both] with mutton, but what we got was a lurid red Moong daal. Nice, not outstanding. The meat though was very tender.

Murgh Kofta Curry turned out to be another red curry. Once again quite unlike what we thought the dish would be. We expected a pale gravy, probably slightly sweet. The Koftas themselves were rather `rustic’ to use a euphemism. Large, really large, rather dense and very grainy. They should have been finely minced, smaller and probably stuffed with a cashew and raisin. Really, nothing to write home about. Nondescript.

Having written all this, an alert reader would have realised that we did not eat what we had set out to do, that is, old style Punjabi food. Why? Is it that we have grown tired of it, is it that we are easily led astray by newfangled dishes listed on menus, is it that we ate old style Punjabi food so long ago and so rarely, when it was a treat to eat out, that the food never really became embossed on our minds? I think it’s probably all three reasons with the last having the most weightage. Will there be a next time for us, I am sure there will be. I am sure that we will once again set out in this quest to eat old style Punjabi food in a Punjabi owned restaurant in Mumbai.

I must also mention that the old adage, `pay peanuts and get monkeys’ holds good. The entire meal at Gaylord cost us as much as a single dish at the ITC Dum Pukth. But, unlike the food at Gaylord, a plate of Kakori Kebabs at Dum Pukth is truly exceptional. What we ate was frankly rubbish in comparison. So why waste money on mediocrity? Better perhaps, to go out less often and eat only top class food. Lesson learnt.

Oh yes, Gaylord is still very vibrant and obviously very popular, but it does not work for me.

The Kakori Kebab with cocktail Naan!

Daal Ghosh

Murg Kofta Curry

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