An Indian feast

Saturday, 9 June 2012 01:26 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Text and pix by Cheranka Mendis

Only a few things stand the test of time and the Alhambra Mughal food at Ramada (former Holiday Inn) is one of them.

Serving authentic Mughal delicacies for over 30 years, Alhambra Restaurant at the hotel was set up in 1974 and is known as one of the pioneering Indian restaurants in the country.

The Rumali Roti, the paper thin roti that is now famous islandwide in most of the Indian restaurants originated from the hotel as well, Mughal Chef of Ramada Santosh Chaniyal tells us.

And on their part, Alhambra has played its part well over the years and remains as one the most popular Indian hotspots in the country. Still in high demand with a loyal following, the restaurant maintains the high standard it established years ago and serves a super mutton curry among others.

The restaurant, open from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily and offers options of both a la carte and a buffet menu as well as an executive lunch. The special Mughal buffet on Fridays is known to be a feast and that is where we stopped by yesterday to have our afternoon bite; and what a feast it was! Amidst good conversation and a lot of laughter, we were presented with some of the most popular dishes at Alhambra. As Chef Chaniyal entertained us with stories of how the recipes of Mughal food was passed down from generation to generation and how he mastered the art while working at Mughal Sheraton in Agra, where the traditional recipes were the only option, with no changes whatsoever, he explained that every dish presented at the restaurant follows a meticulous routine of keeping to the traditional recipes.

“What we serve here is the real deal. We have not tried to adjust the flavours to suite the Sri Lankan taste buds and we do not compromise on quality. We put in the best ingredients and present the best dishes to our patrons.” Chaniyal makes us taste ‘palak paneer’ made with home made cottage cheese. “We make the cottage cheese here at the hotel. From three litres of milk only a 100g cottage cheese potion can be made. And this is one of our success factors.”

From the 52 dishes featured (inclusive of dessert), we tasted six of their most popular ones. And tasting them, it was no wonder that they were so popular. The reds of the tandoori chicken and the mutton were a welcome sight and we could hardly wait to start!

The ‘Salli ka gosht,’ boneless lamb cooked in rich onion gravy blended with yoghurt and garnished with potatoes was easily the best dish served. That with the ‘Dum Gosht Ki biriyani,’ biriyani prepared with tender pieces of mutton marinated with authentic spices and basmati rice was among the tastiest dishes at the restaurant. That with the ‘palak paneer ‘and cumin seed flavoured batter fried prawns called  ‘Ajwani Jhinga’ is a super meal right there.

Trying out the Rumali rotti and the ‘pudina paratha,’ a whole wheat bread with mint we were not surprised at why Alhambra is known as the best. It was thin as expected and had a slight fragrance of herbs, which only accented its appeal.

The masala sheikh kebab (minced mutton blended with onions, coriander, herbs and spices) was also a favourite even though the chicken tikka masala was a bit on the dry side. All in all however the meal was a tasty and filling one. And these are but a few of the dishes in the extensive menu.

The desserts too are made to the traditional recipes. Watalappan, gulab jamun, gajar ka halwa (carrot pudding) and kashmir kulfi (Indian ice cream served with fresh fruits and nuts) are some of the most popular in the menu.

Furthermore, Alhambra also serves sawans on a daily basis and upon reservation can be made to order as well. The buffet menus change every week to add variety to the meals.

The restaurant is highly recommended to anyone who loves North Indian cuisine as well as to those who prefer a quiet hideout like atmosphere to dine in on a busy day.