Asha Bhosle is arguably one of the greatest living legends of India. Internationally acclaimed for her evergreen melodious voice, she has been awarded the iconic status of “Most Recorded Artiste in the World” in music history by none other than the Guinness Book of World Records itself. Asha’s impressively long list of accolades includes the BBC Lifetime Achievement Award (presented by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair) and the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the Dubai Film Festival in 2014.
Despite being a larger than life music sensation with fans spreading across a few generations, Asha Bhosle takes time off her busy schedule to perfect her skills in the kitchen. She has a profound love for cooking and entertaining her elite group of friends from the film fraternity, and with a special collection of unique recipes created by herself, the global chain of Asha’s restaurants was born.
Today, this invitingly warm, contemporary Indian restaurant has 10 chains across 5 countries worldwide, and two of these are in Dubai. One is located at the Mall of the Emirates, and I visited the one at Pyramids at Wafi.
From 1st August right through to 31st October 2016, Asha’s is offering a special menu dedicated to Kebabs and Biryanis. These creations are uniquely Asha’s, and do not claim to belong to any particular region of India. Rather, they are a conglomerate mix of the best condiments from all corners of the Indian subcontinent.
We had a full-course meal from this limited edition Kebab and Biryani Menu, and this is what we started off with:
Kofta Kham Khatai: These bottle gourd and potato hash patties have a crisp, golden outer crust that has been tossed in a very flavorful tamarind, ginger and fennel chutney. I love tamarind, and who doesn’t love a soft, mushy potato filling? An absolute winner for me.
Bhatti Ka Chaap: This starter came with all the drama of steamy smoke as soon as it was uncovered at the table. These generously large bites of boneless chicken are unbelievably moist and succulently soft. Marinated with a very special mix flavorful yet not too spicy masalas, the chicken was basted in yogurt and finished off in the traditional Tandoor oven to give them a slightly charred, smoky finish. This starter was my favorite chicken dish from the entire afternoon.
Jheenga Jalpari: These are essentially very wholesome patties made of minced king prawns, mashed potato and cheese. Breaded and deep-fried a crisp golden brown, they are garnished with prawn tails for aesthetic appeal. Being a fan of chili heat, I loved having this with the chili-dipped wedge of lemon.
Bharwa Murg: Translating to ‘stuffed chicken’, this is a beautifully aromatic serving of chicken breast that has been marinated in saffron. You can taste and smell the saffron with every bite, but the real treat is in the stuffing. The stuffing has a chicken mince base and has the heady hit of ginger, accentuated with ground almonds.
And this was just the appetizers round! We washed it all down with big gulps of Asha’s refreshing mocktails. We tried their Watermelon & Ginger Mash (a refreshingly light watermelon-based mocktail with a faint hint of ginger, and a muddle of mint) and the Tropical Storm (a bright and cheerful shake-up of mandarin, mango, banana and passionfruit which I found a little too sweet for my liking, as it also had a generous heap of brown sugar). However, my favorite drink was the very Eastern-inspired Maotai, a very light and flavorful sip featuring lemongrass, coriander leaves, coconut water and a hint of heat from Thai bird’s eye chilies.
I really enjoyed the appetizer round. Each and every item seemed to be well thought out and totally unique in its own way. Although not all of them would fit into the traditional mold of the ‘kebab’ category, I think Asha’s did a great job with these.
Being a ‘Kebab and Biryni’ festival, ofcourse we had to have biryani for our mains. We chose to try the Prawn Biryani. It came in a covered dome-shaped serving tray which revealed a very colourful green and orange pilaf with a pile of prawns propped up in the middle.
I was not very impressed with the presentation, least of all the white baking dish it was served in. It looked like something I would pull out of the oven at home, and I was expecting a little more finesse given this is Asha’s we are dining at.
Back to the biryani itself, the prawns were deliciously plump, moist and deliciously seasoned. The rice takes on a pale green hue thanks to the coriander-based masala it has been sauteed in. It also has a strong hit of coconut. The orange bits of rice are just added for garnish. I asked our host if this biryani was South Indian in origin, as we rarely use coconut in biryanis of the North. They tell me it has no specific origin and is a creation of Asha’s based on tastes she has put together from all around India.
The biryani is light, coconut-y, and has a light hint of prawn flavour which I loved. However, if you are ordering this with traditional biryani in mind, you might be a tad bit disappointed.
The quantity of this dish is huge. It can easily feed 4 hungry adults. I was dining with my friend Abarna and my 5 year-old daughter, so needless to say we had a good deal of leftovers (especially considering the elaborate lineup of appetizers we had prior to this hitting the table!).
Ending our meal on a sweet note, we were recommended Asha’s Mango Kulfi. The kulfi takes on a beautifully bright saffron hue, and is bursting with the sweetness you would associate with a naturally ripe, fresh mango. We absolutely loved this kulfi, and it went beautifully well with the berry compote that was served on the side.
My daughter digged into a serving of Asha’s Ras Malai. Like the biryani, this classic Indian dessert could have been spruced up with its presentation. However, judging by the speed at which it disappeared from my daughter’s plate, I can vouch they were very delicious!
Overall, we had a lovely afternoon at Asha’s. The warm, tastefully decorated ambiance with reruns of Asha’s best loved musical hits is the perfect setting for catching up with friends and family. The staff are courteous and seem to be well-trained on the menu offerings, and from their Kebab & Biryani Festival, I have to say I enjoyed the selection of kebabs best. The ‘biryani’ was interesting, albeit unconventional. I will definitely be back for more, and perhaps I’ll go for the meatier Lamb Biryani next time.
Asha’s Kebab & Biryani Festival started on 1st August, and this special edition menu will be available till 31st October 2016.
To end, I have to sign off with one of my all-time favorite Asha Bhosle songs, sung live by the legend herself 🙂
Asha’s has two branches in Dubai. I visited the one at The Pyramids, Wafi and the other branch is at Mall of the Emirates. Asha’s at Wafi also has a set business lunch for AED 75 per person.