How often do you order from a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) like a McDonald’s or a KFC? Going by the general observation, at least twice a week on an average. Living in a fast pace metro city, resorting to fast food that can be availed on the go in a matter of minutes is understandable. Quick delivery, fairly reasonable pricing and on-the-go-friendly packaging make these QSRs popular. And they are here to stay.
In the food landscape today, major QSR players serve pizzas, burgers and fries. But there’s only so much of burgers and pizzas one can have. As much as we enjoy them, when we’re hungry for some real food we want to have something Indian, something that brings us closer to home. After all desi khaana, desi khaana hota hai and no foreign cuisine gives the level of satisfaction like our traditional food.
Now, you already know all of this. But what you may know is that here is a restaurant that delivers Indian food as quickly as your quick service burger joint. You just imagined a picture of a Tibb’s frankie or a Bademiyan roll, didn’t you? I wouldn’t blame you, I did the same when I was told about this place only to be pleasantly surprised later. It’s called Umraan – Indian Melange Kitchen, a quaint little restaurant located in Pali Hill area of Bandra that will please your tongue, tummy and pockets, all at the same time!
The ambience of Umraan is as unique as its menu, unlike any typical QSR. Deep brown interiors with little circular wooden tables and bench like sofa seating give it a warm and comfortable character.
The first item to pleasure my taste buds was the Paneer Pataka – a spicy cottage cheese appetiser marinated in the flavours of mustard oil, degi mirchi and the garam masalas. While the uninitiated would call it paneer tikka but this dish had a very distinctive taste without the usual layer of fat on top. The malai paneer just melted in my mouth. Up next was Videsi Paneer – a malai paneer appetiser, flavoured with American barbeque rub made with Indian spices to give cottage cheese a very smoky taste. It had a beautiful balance of spicy, sweet and smoky savour. This was followed by Desi Tikki – aloo tikki with chopped vegetables for a crunchy experience. The tikki bore the tri-colour, thanks to carrots, capsicum and a bit of cheese in the middle. Unlike the traditional aloo tikki, this one is not deep fried and hence is relatively light on the stomach. Our next bite was that of Gobi Surprise – masaledaar cauliflower croquettes stuffed with smouldering cheese, goodbye jalapeno cheese poppers! After that wonderful surprise, we gorged on some Coco-Ti – coconut tikki made with freshly hand-grated coconut. Next, we were served Paneer Kundagur – cottage cheese cooked in rustic South Indian spices from the Kundagur region of Andhra Pradesh. The speciality of this spice mix that flavoured this dish is that every spice is slow roasted individually and then mixed to retain their individual flavours. It had a unique flavour.
Another distinctive dish on Umraan’s menu that caught our attention was the Twisted RC – a unique kind of hummus made with rajma that has a strong garlic taste. It was served with thin chips of bagel bread. It demands to be tried!
The menu comprises of wraps in which you essentially choose one of the above-mentioned appetisers as filling in one of the three bases, viz. Nachni, Herbed and Lacha. We opted for Videsi Paneer and Desi Tikki in Herbed base. I enjoyed the paneer more than the tikki. Both the wraps were accentuated with mint flavoured yoghurt dressing under the sheet. Our warps were accompanied by Imli Mojito and Fruit Lemonade, both of which were quite refreshing.
Before we dug into the Paneer Bhuna biryani, we took a hearty bite of Lachha Paratha with Hariyali Chole and Dal Tadka, food for the soul. The dal was absolutely home like; very basic yet delicious and satisfying. The chole, however, intrigued my taste buds. It was clearly not the typical kind of chole you get everywhere. The gravy for this one is made with spinach and saag, spiced with green chillies. I loved the Paneer Bhuna biryani; it was simply delicious with the spice quotient balanced well. Now this is one biryani I wouldn’t mind gorging on everyday without the fear of acid-reflux.
We finished our meal with Berry Ras Malai – ras malai cooked and flavoured with mixed berries. Definitely worth a try.
The stuff served at Umraan is something you won’t get at other places, it’s not your typical fair. The flavours are carefully crafted and the dishes have been made in the most healthy manner possible. This was very evident from the fact I felt happily stuffed like I would when I overeat home cooked food. I didn’t feel sick like those times when I would overeat at a regular north Indian restaurant serving fat-rich food.
For me, Umraan is a modern Indian kitchen that makes one point pretty clear – healthy food doesn’t mean compromise on the taste.
The only tip I would like to give the patrons visiting Umraan is that try not to associate any of their dishes with the regular fair. This way you will be able to relish the subtleties that make every dish on their menu stand out.