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Tandoor to tawa

P.ANIMAP. ANIMA

P.ANIMA samples the flavours of Amritsar at Ambarsari



Flavours of punjab The interiors at Ambarsari and

A mbarsari salutes everything Punjabi, quintessentially all that is Amritsari in cuisine. The menu is ruled by meat and the familiar Amritsari gems — Lawrence road da tandoori chicken or “maal” road chicken curry.

The place is unpretentious. In the bustling market of Kailash Colony, Ambarsari is a one-room, 34-seater affair. There are no airs of fine-dining; they take pride in their casual dining identity and strive to create a rather dhaba-like ambience, though without great success.

What is on offer, however, doesn't disappoint. Tandoor and tawa dominate the kitchen and it dishes out heart-warming, though a trifle heavy fare. The starters are the stars and the restaurant boasts an interesting array of them. Of course, there are the predictable tandoori chicken and tawa fish, but there is also imagination in dal and anda kabab.

The meal is flagged off with fiery jal jeera. Expectedly, there is Lawrence road da tandoori chicken. The menu warns it is spicy and the chicken sticks to the description. Crispy, light layers hold within succulent flesh with a hint of smoke. The chicken is not waiting to fall apart, but has that tad resistance which makes it engaging. A wholehearted spice affair, it is Ambarsari's highlight. The meat is wrapped in spice, retains the virtue of tandoor treatment, yet has its bristling corners.



A dish from its menu

Fish tikka tandoori too is immaculate. Sole is obedient and feathery to touch, again with that pleasant trace of smoke. The spices are not in a rush to impress, the fish is kept simple — that works.

The vegetable seekh kabab is tame in comparison. The chef has tried to load it well, with cashew nuts lending it texture and cardamom granting flavour. Yet the kabab turns out a tad dry and yearns for character.

Ambarsari fish tikka is bogged down by ordinariness. Especially, since one instantly goes back to the lightly done tandoori fish. If the latter is all subtlety, Ambarsari fish is rather loud in its classic deep red coming as it is out of the frying pan. Sole dipped in besan and deep-fried doesn't flatter.

Anda kabab is commended — a desirable change in kabab territory. Found rather commonly in Amritsar, here it makes a merry kabab. Boiled egg is minced, touched with besan, dotted with spinach and methi and together makes a wholesome affair. There are no dominant flavours here, yet traces of everything.

Dal ke kabab is a mash of various lentils, with peanut and tamarind at its heart. But the kabab comes out too dry for comfort and has been on fire a little longer than required. Chapli kabab aspires to be another Ambarsari speciality and is almost there — tender meat with a robust coat. By the time I come to paneer tikka, frankly, I had had enough kababs. Paneer tikka is as mundane as it gets; surely Ambarsari can't go wrong there, though theirs doesn't lure superlatives.

It is finally the turn of the main course — a relatively simple fare with Ambarsari kulcha, chicken tikka masala, dal Ambarsari and maal road chicken curry. Ambarsari kulcha is bogged down by all those vegetables inside. It never manages to be on its feet and is further dampened by an overwhelming sour tang, probably from pomegranate seeds.

Dal Ambarsari is rich and too creamy with the tomatoes needing severe reining in. Chicken tikka masala, though perfect in its gravy, has sturdy tikka pieces. Maal road chicken curry with its chunky meat is smooth and done well.

The surprise is the paan-kulfi, increasingly dotting dessert menus of late. Though not done in-house, it has the right degree of betel flavour, is pepped by the fragrance of saffron and is an ideal finish.

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