Chancing upon Rajasthani Food at The Square- Novotel Varun Beach

Track pants, Southpark T-shirt, tired face and converse chappals is not quite my idea of dressing while entering a stunning looking Five star hotel’s entrance. But hey, it was a vacation and the hotel didn’t seem to have the best dressed people in town so I consoled myself saying “It’s the food that matters”. Also, camera bag always gets you attention. Of the positive kind. 
Novotel Varun beach, launched in December 2010, overlooks the famous RK beach in the heart of Vizag. One look at the hotel and all your senses are calmed. I had read a few reviews about Zaffran restaurant in Novotel and was determined to try it.

We headed to the restaurant at about 6:45 PM expecting a night of exquisite awadhi (let’s just bracket it North Indian) food. After lounging around in the lobby for some time, we were told it was the last day of a Rajasthani Food Festival at The Square (another restaurant at Novotel) and our eyes instantly lit up. The staff was extremely nice in showing us around the place, to give us a feel of what the buffet would be like. There were bandhni duppattas on the ceiling, waiters in traditional attire which was followed by a folk troupe singing some clichéd classic Rajasthani folk songs. The experience was quite different from what one would expect in a coastal corner of Andhra Pradesh.
The buffet spread was to die for. The vegetarian section was definitely more impressive than it’s non-vegeterian counterparts. There was the staple Daal baati churma, khasta kachori, kadhi, Kaju matar ki sabzi, Gatte ke pulao, Mutton biryani and some assorted rotis.

I noticed they toned down the spices considerably (one of the biggest highlight of Rajasthani cuisine) which I assumed was for the number of foreigner guests that were eating this buffet. Making them weep was probably not the idea here.

Kachori, Gatte ke pulao, Kaju ki sabzi, jawaari roti and Imli chutney

Gatte ke pulao was my personal favourite, a nice variation to the usual gatte ki sabzi one would expect as mandatory in a Rajasthani buffet. It was extremely flavourful, had caramelised onions and just made me abandon everything else on the menu. Also worth mentioning was Kaju ki sabzi with whole cashewnuts, peas in a simple gravy that went perfectly with the pulao and definitely the solution to any kind of exhaustion this world can offer.
Mutton biryani, chicken tikka, chicken curry and roti
The folk troupe in action

The song and dance routine went on and so did we, reaching the glamorous finale, the dessert section. I felt like a child lost in a candy store. My eyes lit up at everything that was on offer. Soft, rich, coated with a generous amount of sugar syrup, the Malpua reminded me of the ones my grandmother makes, minus the small bits of coconut. Maybe the coconut is just a very Bengali touch to Malpuas. I drizzled mine with a spoonful of Rabdi and watched the magic of flavours unfold on my palate. The drill didnt end there, there was Kheer samosa, shrikhand, Badam ka halwa, daal ka halwa, gond ke laddu, jalebi, vanilla and chocolate ice cream. It was a dessert lover’s dream destination. Daal ka halwa was floating rich in ghee, had a nice grainy texture, just like how it is supposed to be. Very very close to the moong dal ka halwa that one of my Mum’s Rajasthani friend used to make.

Kheer samosa, shrikhand, malpua with Rabdi, Daal ka halwa and jalebi 

There was also some sensational chaanch (buttermilk) with a hint of ginger garlic and saunth, this chanch’s taste was so unique that I ended up gulping down three glasses.

We came out very impressed and raved about the spread tilll the end of next day. We were indeed lucky to have reached the city on a day this festival was ending. Price: 800 INR per person for this experience and memory of a lifetime!

Oh, and we went back again. The next day. A review of that coming in the next post.


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