Then the Great Kebab Factory happened to me. Ofcourse I loved the kebabs, but the GKF introduced me to a whole range of curries - niharis, roganjoshes, yakhnis, achari meats and do pyaazas - and I was a convert for life.
Ofcourse that I read up on all the different dishes was mighty helpful but I also started enjoying the nuances of the myriad dishes. And then when I moved to Delhi, I also began eating a lot more of these curries. And each time I tried it at a different place, the more I liked what I ate. One of the nicest awadhi meals I'd had was at Dum Affairs and the best nihari till date was at Sid's house followed closely by that at Old Delhi.
So when we were invited to try the meals at Sadia Durrani's house to sample what she made for catering clients under the name Nawabi Zaayka. She had a feast spread out for us. So on a hot hot hot and super sultry afternoon, some of us from the Blogger's Table headed to sample her food.
Laid out in beautiful old world crockery, we went around the table to see what we'd have liked to help ourselves. I started with the Shammi Kebab and the Nihari. The Shammi was huge, I could barely eat half of it. But the meat was lovely, well-spiced and quite melt in the mouth. But two things stood out, one that it was deep-fried and two that it was stuffed. The fact that it was stuffed made it really quite different and I have to say I liked the kebab a lot.
I spooned some Nihari into a bowl. Not quite sure what to expect I took a tiny piece of meat with a generous helping of curry, A squeeze of lemon and it became really quite nice. But in my head I compared it to what Sid had made and realised that his flavours lingered far longer than hers.
Achaari chicken and gosht do pyaaza were plonked in my plate next with a bit of sheermal, which had been ordered from outside (and was excellent). I had spooned in some of the mutton korma as well on my plate. The gosht do pyaaza had a lot of interesting spices that played well with the mutton and the achaari chicken had all the nice paanch phoran spices to make it very tasty. But the korma was a let down. Heavy-handed with the spices, it broke me into a sweat (ofcourse it didn't help that it was so sultry) but the fact that I needed to drink a whole lot of aerated drink made me realise that there was something quite not alright.
Kormas are supposed to be delicately flavoured with the brown onion paste shining through, this was my least favourite of the dishes. Very tepidly I took the awadhi chicken. And what a surprise. I really really liked it. The nut paste shone through and the flavours were all delicately balanced. This was by far my favourite dish in the meal.
A bite of the sheermal and I spooned in some of the biryani and the laal maas. The laal maas was very nice. And even though it was spicy (it was supposed to be) it stayed true to its flavours. The biryani though was a whole other story.
The rice was way to mushy and the chicken seemed to carry barely any flavours. And it was way to hot! Hot as it mirchi as in fiery. Enough for me to drop my plate. I know there are different kinds of biryanis and awadhi, my favourite kind, is supposed to be delicate and beautifully spiced. This wasn't.
Such a pity.
For dessert we were served kheer in terracotta bowls which was totally kickass. And made up for the things I didn't like. The kheer was cold, not-too-sweet and smelled like the wet earth. It was like eating a spoonful of rain.
A quick photo session and we called it a day. A few days later, we talked to each other, and sort of figured out that we felt nearly the same way.
I'd give Nawabi Zaayka a 3.5 on 5 and perhaps ask Sadia to go easy on her red chilli collection. Other than that I'd say this is a lovely place to order from when you have people over.