Review: The Cuisine of Navaithas at ITC Gardenia Cubbon Pavillion

ITC Gardenia brings back the rare culinary jewels from Bangalore's legendary past
Introduces ‘The cuisine of Navaithas’ under the aegis of Kitchens of India

Indian cuisine reflects a 5,000-year history of various groups and cultures interacting with the subcontinent, leading to diversity of flavours and regional cuisines. We live in 21st century and are highly influenced by the western food habits, we do consume different Indian cuisine but the authenticity is always lacking. As we have embraced the modern food, somewhere we have forgotten the treasures of India, the rare culinary jewels from our legendary past.

With this thought, the award winning restaurant in ITC Gardenia – Cubbon Pavillion has introduced ‘The Cuisine of Navaithas’ as part of their ‘Kitchens of India’ theme. This cuisine is an irresistible blend of Mughal and Nawab traditions. Since the times of Tipu Sultan, Navaitha Muslims have formed an integral part of Bangalore’s living fabric.

Originally brought to fill the barracks of the British army in the war against Tipu Sultan, the Navaitha Muslims are the Urdu speaking community from Gingee. Nestled in the heart of Bangalore, they chose to stay back in Shivaji Nagar, bringing with them their unique cuisine. The interesting blend of Mughalai and Nawabi flavours is the speciality of this cuisine, characterised by the use of Grills and Tandoors, savoured by select few spices and an abundance of garlic.

I was honoured to be invited by ITC to celebrate the rare culinary jewels of Navaithas. On reaching the venue, I could nose some amazing aroma from the wide buffet spread on the offer. When you get a welcome as this, you certainly how amazing the rest of the evening would turn out.

I started off with a glass of white wine and Aloo Methi Tikki accompanied by Gurda Kapura. I being a complete non-vegetarian jumped on the fried mutton liver (gurda kapura) and this couldn’t have been a better start. Not many people I know who loves relishing that dark beautiful fried livers, but people who love them would find these perfect to liven their taste buds.

Next up on the table was something that some people swear by and would never turn it down no matter what the situation was. Yes, I am talking about the ‘Paya Khamiri’. Yet again, this couldn’t have been any better. The broth had flavours loaded to blow one’s mind, and the meat was just cooked to perfection. The meat was so soft; it came off the bone quite easily and melted in the mouth like a sugar pop. Commendable job by Chef Srinevasu for keeping it simple and striking the right notes.

Next up on the table was Tamatar Machli. This really didn’t suit my taste and I could only take a bite of it. It had an unusual tanginess and the fish dries up once in the mouth, making it unfavourable. This could be a given a miss.

After this, I decided to pick the items from the wide range of buffets myself rather being served on the table.

I picked up Sukha Chicken, Khatta Baingan, Soya Lauki and Methi Gosht along with some Kulchas.

I have tasted different varieties chicken dish all my life but this was something very different. As the name suggests, it is a dry chicken but the beautiful spices wrapped along the body and cooked to perfection. Once again, the chicken was very soft, coming off the bone very easily but what really reflects is the technique of cooking by Chef is the spices was infused in the chicken, taking the taste level a notch higher.

Khatta Baingan is something we all would have tasted at home. This really reminded me of my mother’s cooking and I could connect to the taste. It was nothing extraordinary yet really powerful. Nothing can go wrong with a dish that reminds you of your mothers cooking.

Another very homely dish – Soya Lauki. At first, I was reluctant to try it but our host for the evening Ms. Nisha requested me to try it saying I wouldn’t be disappointed and honestly speaking I wasn’t. This was a cracking dish and I would have missed out on this if it wasn’t for Nisha. I always believe in simplicity and this dish made my believe even stronger. Again nothing extraordinary but chef certainly knows how to use the simplicity to produce something brilliant.

And just when I thought what could be better than three back to back smashing dishes, I tried the Methi Gosht with Kulcha. It was so damn good, every bite speaking a story of the Mughals. The authenticity of spices can be easily derived from the aroma and taste of this brilliant dish.

Next I stepped up to fetch the Murg timatar ke biriyani. I was almost full by now and thought to just have a spoonful full of biryani to taste. I spoon in mouth and I was blown away. Trust me when I say, this is so far the best biriyani I have come across in Bangalore in past 4+ years. Ever since I have come to Bangalore, was longing for that perfect biriyani that ticks all the boxes and satisfies all my taste buds. And my long wait ended with this. This has to be that rare culinary jewel from the cuisine of Navaithas. I couldn’t hold myself but actually eat a bowlful of biriyani. Hats off to Chef for producing this extraordinary biriyani.

And as I always say, no matter how full you are there is always a small place in your stomach for desserts.

I have never seen such an eye pleasing spread of desserts which never seemed to end. To name a few, I had Seviyan, Chawal ka Kheer, Methi Boondi Ki Kheer, Kadoo ka halwa, shahi tukda among other assorted Indian and western desserts. Needless to say, every single one of them was top notch.

Before leaving, I caught up with the man behind this concept – Chef K.M. Srinevasu and spoke on length about the cuisine of Navaithas and many more thiings. Here is what he said “The Urdu speaking Muslims of Gingee, a small town in Tamil Nadu are referred to as the Navaitha. They reached there as a part of the Mughul campaign in the south of India. The cuisine is a confluence of Hyderabadi Nawabi and Mughal styles, excelling in grills with their judicious use of spices. Gingee where they settled around the fort, was a melting pot, it had British, French and Maratha heritage along with local rulers at various points in its history... each leaving behind its own indelible impressions on the inhabitants”.

He further added, “The cuisine of Bangalore's Muslims is unique and distinct from the local cuisine and the fact that local Muslims speak a dialect of Urdu instead of the local language got us thinking that it history behind it. Curiosity got better of us and we started tasting and exploring the cuisine of the Navaithas. Once we got the ball rolling, we realised that a lot of Chefs/ cooks working with us at ITC have had some exposure to the cuisine... It was a matter of culling it out. Tasting ... testing and re-tasting would have taken us around two months. The best part is that ingredients are local because the Navaithas used everything available locally and that was the reason the cuisine also survived its arduous journey”.

This was one evening I would remember for a long long time. People say that music and sports brings everyone together, I say good food does it better.

Verdict: 4/5

Must Try:  Paya Khamiri, Sukha Chicken, Soya Lauki and Murg timatar ke biriyani along with all the desserts.

Where: Cubbon Pavillion, ITC Gardenia.


Dreamer, Blogger, Writer, Foodie, Movie buff, Public Relations. Contributor for The New Indian Express and recently started a news publishing website 'Unkrate'.

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