Neel, Mumbai

The brief was simple. The need and urge for good Indian food was strong. The friend was  advised in advance, the ball in their court. The choice of court was blue. Blue as in Neel (or Indigo to be exact). Neel as in Mumbai. A restaurant on the racecourse. There seemed to be another. I would eventually sample that too, but on this occasion, a crisp winter evening (it was 20c after all!) and the first night in Mumbai, it was to Neel our chariot rode.

Part of the Mumbai restaurant empire that is Indigo, Neel is a fairly new to the restaurant scene, offering North Indian food, from  Awadh, Kashmir and Hyderabad, regions that are culinary heavyweights, and the enormous menu at Neel seemed to draw it all in. I had no difficulty in choosing – the friend was a regular and hence known to the manager, who was very straightforward in outlining the dishes we should try. So be it!

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Stuffed mushrooms
Galouti Kebab
Lamb kebab

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We started with Jaituni Khumb Tikka, or green olive rubbed tandoori mushrooms. Not much to look at, but boy, oh boy, what a way to start the meal. Tangy, spicy, a multitude of flavours erupting in your mouth.

The Galouti Kebab (minced goat) were nothing like a galouti kebab, unfortunately. They were more a dry shammi kebab. The difference between the two being that the former is a rich and meltingly smooth goat kebab, soft, moist and almost pate-like, a thing of beauty and sophistication. The other is a minced goat kebab as well, but here the meat is cooked first, with spices and gram lentils, then ground, mixed with egg and fried. What we had was closer to the second, but a dry version of it.

The rather unsavoury looking thing that we got as a complementary course was Habibi Champ (lamb cutlet kebab). Now this, was one of the most delicate and finest morsels of food I’ve ever had the chance to bite down on. Being the restaurants signature dish, this egg topped lamb kebab is legendary. It is marinated with no less than 150 spices! The beauty is that no one, except for a master chef in Lucknow knows what the blend is. He makes the spice blend and sends it to the restaurant to be used with the lamb. Magical perfection!

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Biryani
Slow cooked apricots
Petit fours

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Next followed the Biryani, with an edible saffron parda (‘curtain’). Personally I didn’t  quite care for the biryani, the flavours being quite muddled and a bit heavy.

For desserts, we were advised to have the signature Parde mein Khumani and Rabri ice cream (slow cooked apricots and reduced milk ice cream). Now this was a revelation. Incredibly rich, but not very sweet – apricots slowly cooked with mawa/casein to a halwa like consistency – melting in your mouth and the rabri ice cream (milk that has been slow cooked for hours till the creamy casein starts to separate)  is to sell your soul for.

Petit fours came in the form of dried mango strips covered in spiced salt, tamarind sweets, paan masala and tamarind-mango spiced drops. Perfect ending!

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Overall experience: 7
Food: 8
Recommend you go: 8

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