Punjab Grill is often regarded as the best restaurant offering Indian cuisine in Abu Dhabi. Our first encounter with the venue had actually come a few months earlier, with the opening of the Venetian Village. At the event free samples were offered by each of the villages six restaurants and it was Punjab Grill’s small biryani’s – served in their traditional clay pots with breaded lids – that won us over. So good in fact, that we were itching to return.
It wasn’t until out first ‘proper’ visit this week that we realised why the restaurant is held in such high esteem. It’s not only the beautiful interiors or the superb service but of course… the food. The concept takes classic dishes and re-interprets them with a modern twist into something far richer, while still retaining the old ideals and traditions.
Food is the pride of Punjab Grill and as a way of enticing customers, a business lunch will launch on the 1st October 2016. Costing just 95 AED (inclusive of taxes) this is an absolute steal for a three course gourmet meal. We can attest to both the quality and the portion size and believe that you will struggle to find a more competitive deal elsewhere in the capital.
Business lunches are a great idea because they provide an opportunity for diners to sample menu highlights at a significantly reduced price. The hope is that this will encourage them to return and based upon our time at the Punjab Grill, this is a technique that is likely to work in their favour. Not forgetting the spectacular location overlooking the waters of Khor Al Maqta.
You know you’ve arrived at Punjab Grill as each of the two main entrances are flanked via red carpets and though not quite a Hollywood film premier, we challenge any diner not to be impressed by what they discover inside. The interiors are elegant and refined, with the main dining area adopting a cream and gold colour scheme to startling effect. Plus the twinkling chandeliers must to be seen to be believed! At the rear lies a slightly different space, utilising splashes of turquoise upon a sleek bar and stools made of shaggy fur, a relatively small bar area is the perfect spot for a pre or post dinner drink (or both).
Settling down to eat in the comfortable dining area the experience seems lavish. Diners are encouraged to feel as though they’re more than just guests, perhaps old friends who have returned home following a long journey. The gold embossed menu is emblazoned with a lions head and the feeling on your fingers as you turn the obviously high quality paper, adds a significant touch of class.
Punjab Grill’s new business lunch consists of three courses and each course allows diners to select from three signature dishes. While perusing the condensed menu, we ordered a selection of drinks and mocktails, not included in the price of the lunch. ‘The Pearl’ combines ginger ale with cinnamon syrup and apple juice but it was the ‘Anneka’ that was the clear winner. A refreshing blend of pomegranate juice, mint leaves, lime and vanilla syrup that reminded us of a non-alcoholic twisted mojito.
As is standard with high-end Indian cuisine, we’re presented with an amuse-bouche of onion pakora (bhaji) topped with chaat masala, yoghurt and sev. The puffed up pani puri (a typical street food item sold at roadsides throughout the Indian subcontinent and known to the masses as chaat) held a distinct secret. As the interior was filled with a sorbet that not only worked as a palette cleanser but set the tone for the meal. A recreation of North india’s culinary jewels with a distinctive modern flair.
Aside from the amuse-bouche we’re provided a basket of ‘papas’ that came in a variety of shapes, sizes and textures. Alongside a selection of chutneys and pickles representing the colours of the Indian flag, with fenugreek (green), labneh combined with with burnt garlic (white) and a fruity pickle (orange).
Soon enough the appetisers began to arrive from a selection of lentil soup, vegetable samosa and water melon slider. It was the slider that looked most impressive, covered in a watermelon foam, a layer of passion fruit jelly and topped with mint, sprouts and a small amount of tamarind foam.
Meanwhile, the colourful samosa chaat comprised Punjabi samosa topped with yoghurt, mint and tamarind chutneys, chickpeas and bejewelled pomegranate seeds. Looking like summer on a plate the dish is reflective of the fresh seasonal ingredients synonymous with Indian cuisine.
Not being the biggest fan of watermelon and opting to dine outside of our usual comfort zone. We settled on the ‘dal ka shorba’ a lentil soup with a distinct palak crisp and slices of fresh ginger. The bowl arrived empty with the exception of the fried spinach crisp, before the lentil soup was poured on top. The heat of the soup reacts with the spinach and softens it, meaning that the textures change as you eat. Smooth and warming this dahl comes highly recommended and that’s from someone who rarely orders soup in a restaurant.
Main courses are again selected from a choice of three. The ‘chicken tikka trio’ seemed to be the most popular with the assembled bloggers and again used the colouration of the Indian flag over it’s three pieces of poultry. The spiced chicken murgh malai, a mint and coriander mix and finally a cream cheese marination.
The ‘spice crusted macchi,’ bakes Nile perch in porcini korma and is finished with a green apple foam. The fish appeared well cooked with a slight char and was plated with asparagus and tomatoes. Unable to comment on the chicken or fish – though our fellow diners were more than impressed – we opted for the ‘Punjab Grill.’
A dish from which the name of the restaurant derives must be good right? The tender mutton simmered with spices and root vegetables was right up our street and it’s no wonder that this is the restaurants signature dish. Served with a selection of pudina paratha, garlic naan, safed chawal and jeera rice, it was in fact the dal makhani that had us hooked. A perfectly sweet and creamy combination of lentils and copious amounts of butter that has us elbow deep when dipping the bread and despite its relegation to a side dish, this was our favourite item on the menu.
Following the spice of the main courses and a need to insatiate the mild heat, guests were provided with a palette cleanser. This ‘dew drop’ is Punjabi Grills interpretation of the raindrop cake that has been doing the rounds on social media recently.
You have to admire the intricacies of such a dish, in which a sphere of coconut water, honey and black pepper is laid on a bed of ice, ready to be consumed in one hit. Beautifully presented to look like a drop of fresh morning dew, the shape is held via the use of agar-agar (a gelling agent commonly used in Indian cooking) and the texture was surprising. Though it was the initial hit of black pepper, followed by waves of honey and a final discreet aftertaste of ginger that was suitably impressive.
Lucky enough to try both of the desserts offered in the business lunch. A delightfully creamy ‘Rasmalai’ was both thicker and sweeter than previous versions we have tried and adorned with rose petals and almond pieces was our favourite of the two. The ‘Gulab Jamun’ was a sickly mixture of sweet sugar syrup atop a warm milky ball that is very typical of Indian desserts.
The business lunch at Punjab Grill is well worth seeking out and offers Indian fine dining at its best. With an expanding empire of more than twelve worldwide outlets (including Thailand, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and of course India) the ethos of Punjab Grill has never been truer: “Glory from the past, promise for a better future.”
The business lunch at Punjab Grill is available Sunday to Thursday from 12:30pm – 4pm. The price is 95 AED for three courses, including taxes but does not include beverages.
We were invited to dine at Punjab Grill. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.