Qatar: Visit to the world softest kebab restaurant
For an expatriate, two things exacerbate homesickness: language and food. Interestingly, those are also the couple of things that hold the power to alleviate that yearning for home.
I have a weakness for Seekh Kebabs (seekh is skewer in Hindi) and particularly of the type made in Kakori. Kakori is a town 14 km north of Lucknow, the northern state Uttar Pradesh’s capital and my home.
The speciality of the Kakori Kebabs is that once you put a piece of the kebab in your mouth, you needn’t chew; the authentic Kakori Kebab is supposed to melt in your mouth on its own.
The closest I got to seekh kebabs in Arabian cuisine was kofta, taking into account the skewer and the fact that it is done on an open flame. And that is where the similarity begins and ends. Some Indian restaurants do feature seekh kebabs on their menus, but again, apologies for seekh kebabs. And Kakori Kebabs? Those are a rarity even in India.
Imagine my excitement when I learned that a joint called Kakori House had come to Doha with the tagline ‘Serves the world’s softest kebab’! Knowing that chatter about the eatery was growing, I decided to attack the restaurant on a weekday to beat the weekend rush, family in tow.
Kakori House is situated on the first floor of Quality Hypermarket in Al Hilal. This is only the second Kakori House, the first one being in Mumbai. We reached the restaurant to find ourselves eighth on the waiting list and it was just getting to dinner time! The place was teeming with patrons and the waiters, ma’eetre d’ and the manager were sweating it out.
Dum Pukht cuisine food cooked over a low flame in dough-sealed earthen vats and using the purest of pure ingredients is the restaurant’s USP, even as it specialises in Awadhi cusine (food as was prepared and eaten by the Nawabs of Awadh present day Lucknow).
Besides its seekh kebabs, Zardozi embroidery and Dushheri mangoes, Kakori town holds historical importance too. On August 9, 1925, Indian revolutionaries led by Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan looted the British government’s treasury from a train going from Sahranpur to Lucknow. The incident is called the Kakori train robbery. It has been faithfully recreated in the form of a metal mural on a section of the restaurant wall, while another section boasts of the awards that the Mumbai unit has bagged over the years.
The restaurant itself is not extravagant but has utilised the space available to it with taste. Family seating is available too. The lighting is just right not too bright and not too dimly lit. From the main dining area, one can see the chef and cooks hurrying about their work through a glass panel that separates it from the kitchen.
Meanwhile, the furniture is comfortable and attention has been paid to give enough elbow space. The backs of the chairs bear a little cut-out design to them. Look more carefully and the letters K & H appear Kakori House.
Usually at Mughlai/Awadhi cuisine speciality restaurants, vegetarians are given short shrift. Not so at Kakori House, as it features some 25 dishes for them to choose from.
But I digress. The kebabs. In a word: delectable! I have never tasted better Kakori Kebabs. At QR65 a plate (with three pieces) one would say that the price is towards the steep side but after just one morsel you forget the price and concentrate on the Kebab.
Even the Galawati Kebabs (QR55 a plate of four pieces) rival the Kakori ones in richness, taste and texture.
The brainchild of Chef Ishtiyaque Qureshi, the director of Kakori House, has been functioning for a couple of months now and has even begun delivering food at your doorstep, provided your order is over QR150. A formal launch of the restaurant is scheduled soon, with the onset of good weather conditions.
Sporting a ponytail and a handsome, perfectly waxed moustache, Qureshi said,”This is a labour of love. I have personally seen to everything in this restaurant, down to the smallest detail.” Picking up the knife from the table cutlery he said,”Knives in restaurants are often for show and you can cut little with them. With this knife you will be able to cut meat, bread and more.”
With a wave of his hand he asked for a fingerbowl to be brought in. Proffering a large golden bowl for inspection, he said,”At most eateries, you will find little steel crucibles in which you can’t dip in more than the first phalange of each finger. We know that when you eat gravy, or when you eat biryani or pulao with your hand, you need to wash more than the tips of your fingers.” The bowls are set to be introduced with the formal launch of the restaurant.
“Come and taste our ware. It will change your perception about Indian food,” was Qureshi’s message to Qatar Tribune readers.