A Touch Of Love & A Dash Of History at Taftoon, BKC | New Opening
As an Indian, when you walk into an Indian restaurant, you expect the usual butter chicken, garlic naan and palak paneer. But Taftoon is not just any Indian restaurant. Most of the dishes on the menu are unheard of. Presenting North Indian food in a modern setting, we already can’t wait to go back to Taftoon!
A Taftoon is a persian word that originates from Taftan, a kind of saffron bread that was commonly eaten by the traders and travellers along The Grand Trunk Road – charted as one of history’s oldest routes. Starting from Kabul and going across Pakistan and India to end in Chittagong in Bangladesh, Chef Milan has personally tracked this journey to base it on Taftoon’s menu.
To introduce us to the restaurant, we were served with a traditional Kasmiri Kahwah with white honey. The drink that was served to us in the clay cups set the tone for the rest of our evening.
For the appetisers we ate the Taftoon Pe Harissa, the vegetarian one came with mushrooms, while the non vegetarian one came with chicken. The taftoon, or bread, that the harissa was served on top of, held a flavour of its own. Soya Ka Chaap, was a vegetarian appetiser we had – subtle in flavour, but still somehow complex, and a definite standout.
Chef Milan introduced us to the Laal Naan, a forgotten naan recipe from Amritsar. Multiple layers make up this gently red coloured naan that is crisp, and laced with rogan, or flavoured chilli oil and sesame seeds.
Since every dish on the menu was attached with an origin story from ancient times, we were surprised to see a Chocolate Pudding in the dessert section of the menu! Turns out, it was introduced to us by the British Raj, who brought the recipe with them.This egg-based, sinful chocolate dessert is a century-old, Colonial Club favourite. Chef Milan told us how he was so surprised to see the humble chocolate pudding being made on the streets of North India, with techniques he learnt in catering school!
Their menu is basically a history textbook. If this is how they taught history in school, then we would all be quite the experts by now!
Looking To the Past – A Bold Move
Each dish on the menu comes with an exact description on the origins of it. Chef Milan said that hundred-or-so-pages-long menu is not even the tip of the iceberg from his research. Everything that is on the menu, has been tracked by Chef personally.
One of the appetisers, the Lipta Jheenga, originates from Punjab. Due to a lack in seafood, the locals started farming their own prawns in some localities. From here originated the Lipta Jheenga, fresh prawns wrapped in aromatic chicken ham.
Another standout seafood item, was the Bhapa Macch, a Bengali pujo recipe. It is a Bhetki fish, an authentic import all the way from Bengal. The fish was intensively marinated in yogurt and mustard, wrapped in a banana leaf, and steamed, served with a side of rice.
For dessert, we indulged in Shufta, a decadent Kashimir recipe, where Chef brought together a dry-fruit compote in lemon-scented Kashmiri honey, with mango ice cream and a poppy-crusted, chewy badam shortbread.
There are a number of things we would go back to Taftoon for. Their vast and detailed menu presented us with so many stories to choose from, we have to make multiple trips back with empty stomachs.
From the royal kitchens of the Lucknowi Nawabs, the Galauti Kababs were truly exceptional. We have so much appreciation for whoever can make good Galauti Kababs. These soft kebabs got gently scooped out by our spoons. They melted in our mouths so fast, we had to keep digging in.
We must go back for the oven baked breads, because the variety of breads across the The Grand trunk Road is so extensive. From the Taftoons, flavoured with saffron and a hint of black cardamom, to the Baquerkhanis, poppy-crusted, leavened bread baked in the oven, typically found in local bakeries across Kashmir.
Dining Here Is An Experience, Not Just A Meal
Listening to Chef Milan recollect all his stories was a treat.
Chef Milan presented us with a dessert and a story called Chena Plate. The idea of the dish brought together assorted, milk-based sweets, such as rossogulla, sandesh, kheer kadam, and malai sandwich. Chef attached the imager of this dish to the experience of going into a typical Bengali sweet shop, and sampling the mithais across the counter in a chena plate.
Good food often has a backstory and a memory attached to it. Each of Taftoon’s dishes digs into a past that most of us are not familiar with and stories that have disappeared through the times. Eating here was an introduction to food traditions that have been looked over and a chance to introspect on our Indian culture and identity. Go challenge yourself with familiar yet new flavours, and learn about the time gone by though your tastebuds.
Written with editorial inputs from Ruchika Agarwal.