On Sunday, I had The World's Classiest Butter Chicken
This was courtesy my brother in law Ajay Sharma, who serendipitously discovered it on Facebook and was intrigued by its price. For the site says, in the most apologetic manner, that it costs Rs. 6000 per portion and very sorry but that's what it costs.
They don't offer much of an explanation other than that they use fine ingredients including Evian mineral water (which tastes terrible on its own, if you ask me) and Hunt's tomato paste (which I have never heard about).
There were a few who, very rightly, ranted on the Facebook page, that they must be out of their mind to price, at Rs. 6000, something like a butter chicken, excellent specimens of which are available for Rs. 200 or less a portion.
As if in anticipation of these kind of responses, the site actually suggests two places which serve excellent butter chicken (Moti Mahal and Mughal Mahal) where the stuff is way cheaper. It's just that OUR butter chicken is Rs. 6000 per portion, they say. They don't say "period" after that sentence but you can just sense it.
Ajay, of course, gastronome that he is, promptly became their fan on Facebook and wrote them an appreciative comment. And lo, they decided to gift him a sample of their Butter Chicken - one portion flown in from Hyderabad (where it is made, and where it is sold) for his exclusive enjoyment.
I rushed to sample the stuff as soon as I heard about it, partly because of the fact that I was getting it free and partly because I was very hungry, the missus having decided basically to starve me, over the last few weeks, with egg whites, celery, iceberg lettuce and other things currently banned under the Geneva convention.
At Ajay's house, I ran into the founders of Anaarkali themselves. A youngish couple, one Mr. I. B. Saxena and Ms. Padma Prasad, they had personally carried their culinary masterpiece with them. I was touched.
They were extremely reticent and seemed embarassed at all the gushing appreciation about their business spirit that Ajay and I were heaping on them. Eventually, we got them to talk a bit about themselves and found out that they cooked it themselves. Personally. No cooks, lackeys, assistant vice-presidents, nothing! Moreover, they're pretty successful businesspeople in everyday life, worth many doubloons and in no n eed for the moolah they must be earning from this venture, if indeed they earn any. Amazing!
Anyway I'll cut a long story short and say that the butter chicken was awesome. Superb. Excellent. Definitely the best butter chicken in the world!
Ok, I'm probably not the world's leading authority on butter chicken, my earlier experience of it having been the "Lalit" butter chicken of Goregaon West. Lalit, a fine restaurant in my opinion, interprets "butter chicken" as "butter 50%, chicken 50%". This makes it yummy but unidimensional.
Anarkali's version, on the other hand, is a lot more sophisticated. It has many nuances of flavour, with ingredients like saffron and olives finding their way into the plot.
Comparing "Anaarkali" to "Lalit" is not fair. It's a bit like comparing Laurence Olivier to Akshay Kumar. But like all bourgeois, I could not but ask myself the inevitable commercial question "Is it worth Rupees Six thousand"?
The answer, dear reader, is a resounding "yes"!
Provided, of course, that it is somebody else's Rupees Six Thousand.
No, I'm being mean there. I would pay 6000 for this butter chicken. It would have to be an occassion, though. The chairmanship of the Federal Reserve, perhaps. Or appointment to the casting department of some prominent bollywood production house.
Something befitting the Classiest Butter Chicken in the world.
(tune in tomorrow for the 'other gastronomic adventures' because i'm falling asleep)