Restaurant review: Navratna @ Taj Samudra | Sunday Observer

Restaurant review: Navratna @ Taj Samudra

Indian cuisine has dazzled us for decades. With India being our next door neighbour we have been strongly influenced by their cooking and other areas of culture, including fashion. The food of India is deep and diverse: basically, a mystique kingdom of exotic flavours that reflects the multi- ethnic regions of this country.

We made our way to the magnificent Taj Samudra on a Thursday afternoon to explore the famous Thali served at Navratna. The moment you walk into Navratna, you’re transported into total Indian heritage. On the right is an amazing wall painting of an Indian Maharaja, riding a caparisoned elephant with regal decorum. His entourage follows him with respect. It is believed to be inspired from an actual painting in India. On this same side is a wooden partition displaying intricate carvings. This is where an oriental orchestra plays every night. This cushioned chairs and other furniture accentuate the splendour of an Indian royal court. As we are browsing the cocktail menu, a serving staff brings a steaming cup of rasam and places it on the table. In Indian cuisine rasam is common to many regions; it is something akin to having a glass of brandy before a meal in Europe. The rasam is spicy and hot. Thali has dominated many Indian regions, each depicting its own interpretation of rice and curry. The Thali should not be confused with the item of gold jewelry also known as Thali, which is used at Tamil weddings as a symbol of love and commitment!

The Thali is served on a round silver plate on a banana leaf. The plate contains basmati white rice, black dhal, mixed vegetable, mutton roghan josh, butter chicken, tandoori chicken and curd. A tiny silver bowl has a portion of gulabjamun, a dessert bated in sweet sugar syrup. As we know yellow dhal is common in Sri Lankan food preparation and eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yet, the Indian black dhal is different, its colour and texture similar to cowpea. The dhal is ground to a thick paste: similar to a demi glaze in consistency. Mutton is a hallmark of Indian cuisine.

In India, beef is not consumed as the cow and bull are venerated. In Hinduism the cow is elevated as Nandi and is a religious symbol, thus making beef taboo on any menu.The butter chicken was nice with the right mix of masala, again a refreshing contrast from chicken curry or the fried chicken one encounters in biriyani. The tandoori chicken was good, but the portion could have been a bit larger.

Cooking in the tandoor oven is another distinct feature of Indian cooking, as it requires much skill. The thali is a satisfying meal. The gulabjamun was exploding with flavour, but it would be nice to have a choice of sweets to choose from, such as, jelebi or the famous yellow ghee laddu. There is much rivalry for Indian cuisine in Colombo today with many venues. Navratna offers refined Indian food.