As far as the pecking order of dining establishments goes, multi-cuisine restaurants firmly reside at the bottom of the heap—shunned by gastronomes as purveyors of convenience rather than authenticity. The populist argument is well founded and means, unfortunately, that new establishments of that genre often don’t get the benefit of doubt. So, let’s get this out of the way right at the onset: Tamra—the new all-day-dining restaurant at the Shangri La’s Eros Hotel—is precisely such a rarity. The exception that proves the rule.
This writer would proffer, in defence of his deep-rooted prejudice, that Tamra isn’t a multi-cuisine restaurant at all: more like five bonafide restaurants bandied together in one expansive, airy, high-ceilinged space. And that’s not such a stretch either: the Shangri La is undergoing a piecemeal renovation process and all the other erstwhile restaurants—including Oriental Avenue which Tamra replaces—are being rebuilt and rechristened. If you’ve got only one operational dining establishment at a 5-star hotel, then it stands to reason that it needs to be pretty exceptional. Acutely aware of that fact, Shangri La has thrown all its weight—five native chefs from India, Germany, Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan—behind Tamra.
These five protagonists—Chefs Jungha Choi (Japanese), David Leung (Chinese), Nattasak (Thai) Martin Bracker (European) and Ravi Kumar (Indian)— commandeering their own live-theatre kitchens make quite an arresting sight,the moment you walk into Tamra. There’s enough room for all of them to be fair—the 186-seater is spread across the entire expanse of the hotel’s first floor, and the large floor-to-ceiling bay windows look over the Shangri La’s lawns and poolside area depending on where you’re seated. The decor, replete with rolling pins stretching across the ceiling and interwoven in jute partitions down to the floor, is clearly contemporary Indian-themed. Taking from the name—Tamra translated into copper in Sanskrit—there’s an appropriate smattering of copper utensils hanging upside down at the Indian counters for embellishment. The overall effect is one of space and airiness amplified by the sun streaking in through the large windows—presenting an ideal foil to the bustle and mayhem of Central Delhi. This is very much a lunch venue.
Faced with such a surfeit of choice—the restaurant claims that no less than 200 dishes routinely find their place at the lunch and dinner buffets—it can be more than a bit confounding to figure out where to start. And unless your personal preferences dictate otherwise, this writer would unscrupulously advise making a beeline for the Japanese section. The notion of multi-restaurant—rather than multi-cuisine—gets a fillip straight away: Chef Choi doesn’t just curate a truncated menu. On this particular day, this writer began with the classic Miso Soup which set the tone for the remarkably authentic Aburi Nigiri, (“ …fresh salmon from Japan”! according to Chef Choi) and authentic California rolls. There’s a selection of two varieties of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options for both at every buffet. A plate of sashimi, which isn’t on the buffet menu but can be ordered a la carte, is highly recommended—besides salmon, the cuttlefish, and even the sea urchin are exceptionally fresh and cured just right. Rounding off the Japanese selection is a teppanyaki counter with a selection of meats and veggies. If New Zealand lamb chops happen to be on the menu the day you visit then don’t wrap up your culinary sojourn without sampling Chef Choi’s Kohitsuji. Don’t be squeamish either, and ask for medium-rare—you won’t regret it.
The Asian live kitchen, as would be expected from a brand founded and based in Hong Kong, is the most expansive of the lot. There’s a mix of Thai, Chinese, and Malaysian curries and barbecues and the Massman Curry (Malaysian) was again, right on the money—hitting just the right mildly sweet notes. What was pleasantly surprising, for a restaurant of this nature—one that needs to cater to numbers—was that there was no palpable pandering to local preferences or tastes in the Asian cuisine.
Which is not to say that everything was hunky dory: in a pretty inscrutable omission, there was no pork anywhere on the menu: not in the Indian section, nor in the Japanese, and most shockingly, none in the Asian section either. This writer was informed that while pork is served, its not one of the preferred meats served at Tamra. Asian food without pork? Go figure.
It’s not difficult to have a good Continental barbecue as long as the meats are top notch, and Tamra has that covered. The lamb shanks, and prawns—lightly grilled and drizzled with jus—were spot on but the tenderloin in red wine was exceptional.
The Indian food, if it can be done the disservice of being spoken of in one breath, held its own—with the tangy Aambedi Fish Tikka deserving a special mention. But considering that we’re suggesting you try the buffet, the Indian counter ought to be the last on your agenda lest you may end up gorging on desi khana and leave little scope for anything else. But if you must partake then make your way past the main Indian live kitchen to the innovative Ghar ka Khana section. Featuring a selection of vegetables which can be saluted and served up in a mild curry of your choice, this innovative set up does a fine job of serving up Indian food sans the customary richness.
Chances are that you won’t have room left for dessert, but don’t wrap up proceedings without sampling the restaurant’s signature dessert—theTamra Chocolate (Rs.500 a la carte). A dark chocolate with a chocolate mousse-filled sphere, chocolate dacquoise base and sesame orange crisps, with caramel sauce poured at the table, its a pretty heady exit line
You can order a la carte at Tamra, and expect to be served food that validates doing so but you’d miss the eatery’s raison de etre. Assuming you’re not there for a business lunch—which apparently forms a fairly significant amount of the restaurant’s clientele—this is a place for a long leisurely Sunday brunch. Start with the Japanese counter, move on to Continental, and end with the Thai or Indian, or both if you have the gumption. And don’t ignore that attractive ice-cream kiosk till it’s time for dessert: the sorbets are perfect for wiping out traces of that last course, as you head to the next one. At Rs.1,950 (lunch) and Rs.2,100 (dinner), Tamra offers serious value for money. That money would be well spent just for the Japanese spread alone.
Tamra, Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel, 19, Ashoka Road, Connaught Place, New Delhi.