I have dined at Ananta, The Oberoi a countless number of times before, and the enticing, ever-changing menu here never fails to impress. Staying true to the culinary traditions of India, Ananta has always been one to keep true to its Indian roots, and the whole premise of their offerings has been to uncover forgotten gems from the different states of India.
Ananta’s traditional stance has definitely paid off, and the restaurant has received a number of accolades including being awarded 3 Black Hats under the What’s On 2016 edition of the ‘The Black Hat Restaurant Guide’, and bagging the prestigious BBC Good Food Award for ‘Best Indian Fine-Dining Restaurant in the Middle East 2014’.
Awadhi Cuisine, which originates from the princely Indian province of Lucknow, is rarely seen offered on UAE menus. Executive Head Chef Dirham Haque explores the tantalizing flavours of Awadhi cuisine and its rich cultural linkup with Mughlai, Punjabi and North Indian cooking, and does a great job at recreating a feast you would only expect to be served at a Nawabi table.
Taking the premise of Awadhi cuisine, Chef Dirham has created a delicious lineup of Indian Muslim dishes for Ramadan.
“The uniqueness of Indian Muslim cuisine lies in its fascinating mix of traditions, geography, culture and community influences that have partaken to lend their own intrinsic stamp. The myriad blend of spices, aromatic infusions, base ingredients and staples juxtapose with earthy relish in the vast array. This Ramadan Ananta brings to you the unique and unexplored Indian Iftar.” – an introduction on the Ananta Iftar menu.
Ananta offers a set Iftar menu for AED 180 per head. You can choose to have the vegetarian or the non-veg version, and ofcourse I opted for the latter.
To start off the meal, we were served a large platter of interesting little nibbles. I use ‘little’ as a mere paraphrase; the quantities here are very generous, and we could have easily sufficed with one platter between two.
Any memorable Iftar from the Indian subcontinent has to have…
- A crispy deep-fried treat. At Ananta, we were served these mini Punjabi Samosas, packed with the traditional spiced potato filling.
- A serving off fresh fruits. At Ananta, the mixed fruits feature a refreshing toss-up of chopped melons and berries.
- Something ‘chatpata’ (a synoym for something that is salty, sweet and spicy all at once). Loved the mini Dahi Bhalla on this platter.
- Something meaty. Chef Dirham has used Haleem, a slow-cooked concoction of lamb, lentils and wheat that is a Ramadan favorite, and used it as a filling for these deliciously crisp, savory tarts.
- And ofcourse there’s dates. On the Ananta platter, the dates come garnished in 24 carat gold, and served with dried prunes.
For drinks, the platter includes a shot of Mango Lassi, and the Indian Subcontinent’s favorite rose-flavored cordial for Ramadan, Rooh Hafza.
You can be forgiven for thinking the above was the appetizers round. That was just a precursor for breaking the fast!
I was just telling my host that I loved the Haleem Tarts as Haleem happens to be my absolutely favorite meaty comfort food, and I especially enjoy it in Ramadan. And before I knew it, I had a whole bowl full of Shahi Haleem served with Tandoori Roti on my table!
Here is a look at my beautifully garnished platter of appetizers:
On the far right is Ananta’s Karara Khumb, a jacket potato stuffed with mushrooms, Indian green herbs, homemade cheese and rock-fried to crisp, flavorful perfection, I loved the heat of freshly ground pepper that ran through this appetizer. It resembles a French-style baked potato, yet the flavor combination manages to be undoubtedly Indian.
In the middle of the platter sits a Shamshi Jhinga, a jumbo prawn that has been given the royal treatment with a marination of hung yogurt, and then stuffed with colorful peppers and pomegranate and pan-fried to perfection.
My favorite from the trio was the Lotus Galette Chaat a traditional duo of lotus galettes and chaat masala, which adopts a hint of mustard from the tempered tomatoes.
While having my appetizers round, I sipped on Ananta’s Guava Chataka, a thick yet refreshing chaat masala-laden guava concoction.
At Ananta, I love how they manage to keep to tradition yet come up with totally brand new additions on the menu. Each of the dishes were unique in their own right, and although I was rather stuffed with the first two courses, I was eagerly looking forward to the main-course.
How stunning is the Iftar Thali at Ananta?!
The thali includes a Jhinge ka salan. Inspired from kitchens of Khawaja Abid Siddiqi, this is a beautifully aromatic curry featuring prawns simmered in a thick nutty gravy. Spiced with turmeric and yellow chilies, this curry takes on a bright chirpy hue of saffron.
How can an Indian Iftar be complete without a serving of Shahi Nehari? This thick, moreishly meaty lamb shank has been simmering in its own stock all night, and is flavored with a tantalizing mix of turmeric, caramelized onions, and a traditional blend of hara masala.
The Nihari was accompanied with a serving of Taftan, a traditional Awadhi flatbread that has a very soft, spongy texture, ideal for soaking up all that divinely delicious gravy.
The Burrani Murgh on my main-course platte reminded me of Butter Chicen, but it had a Nawabi facelift with the addition of smoked onion and the characteristic freshness of green coriander.
A beautifully thick, mouthwatering Dal Makhni also sat on the main-course platter. This thick, creamy lentil broth has been simmering all night over charcoal, and is tempered with butter, tomatoes and garlic.
I had generous spoonfuls of all the curries with the beautifully aromatic Foresters Berry Pulao. This pilaf is cooked in the traditional ‘dum’ style of cooking and features Basmati rice flavored with Indian spices, and garnished with summer berries.
At Ananta, the desserts are artistically presented on an artist’s palate. The Iftar selection included a Shahi Fruit Cup (fresh seasonal fruits layered with reduced milk and fresh summer fruits, a favorite at Royal dinners), Safed Doodhi Ka Halwa (shredded summer gourd cooked in thickened milk, sugar and nuts), and a sticky, sweet and beautifully soft Gulab Jamun (a milk powder dumpling soaked in a rose-flavored sugar syrup).
At Ananta, diners have the privilege of embarking on a gastronomic adventure and rediscovering the royal dining traditions of a colourful Indian past. It is heartening to see that despite it being Ramadan, Chef Dirham keeps to the core of Ananta’s offerings and does not let the menu get faded away in an attempt to localize the flavors with too many international remixes. If you are looking for a truly Indian Iftar experience, no one does it quite as perfectly as Ananta at The Oberoi.
The Iftar set menu is priced at AED 180 per person, and you can choose to have a vegetarian or non-veg version of the thali. Call Ananta The Oberoi on either 04 4441407 or 04 444144 to reserve a table today.