The Legend of Sikandar brings a touch of warmth to the otherwise soulless Garuda Mall. Perched on the fourth floor, Rajesh Rajaram’s latest restaurant is a boon for those craving escape from the swarming mall rats below.
Sikandar aims to recreate the culinary adventures of Alexander the Great. Much research has gone into the menu, which is so extensive that I will eventually have to return, family in tow, for a second meal.
The spacious restaurant is tasteful yet unpretentious, and the Hellenic theme is mercifully understated. Gauzy, mirror-studded blue drapes are interspersed with glass-shard murals that divide the space without sacrificing a sense of openness.
Chef Arif greets me with a smile and some kebabs.
The Tundewali Galouti Kebab has a silken, melt-in-the-mouth texture – and no wonder, for the lamb is minced seven times during preparation. Tunda, apparently, was a one-armed chef who couldn’t shape traditional seek kebabs and simply dropped the minced meat on to the griddle (the menu card is liberally peppered with trivia like this, and makes interesting reading.) You’re supposed to spread the kebab (think pâté) on a tiny ulta tawa paratha (so called because it’s made on an upside-down tawa), sprinkle raw sliced onion on top, roll the whole into a “cigar” and dig in. Although, I’ve tasted these elsewhere, Sikandar’s galouti kebabs are exceptional.
I’m also intrigued by the Machchi Rubaiyat – I can’t decide whether it’s grilled fish or a pickle. It turns out to be both – the grilled fish has been marinated in pickling spices and mustard.
For vegetarians, there’s a pleasantly tangy tandoor-grilled cauliflower and broccoli dish called Gul, Gulsham Ke Phool, and vegetable kebabs with a surprising twist: chopped dried fruits.
The main course features Nalli Ghosht Potli Masala, Sikandar’s signature dish of lamb shanks stewed overnight with a muslin bag of 55 spices and herbs. I try this with Hyderabadi-style sheermal, which is not as rich as the Lucknowi version. I try to identify all 55 spices – and get as far as seven before I give up.
Next comes Kumbh Aloo Bathaza Qorma, in which yoghurt, saffron, and caramelized onions form the prefect backdrop for baby potatoes and button mushrooms. The Dal Sikandari is outstanding, and the Bhindi Singhada – a gingery water chestnut and ladies-finger stir fry – is crisp and flavourful.
As I sample yet another entrée, I’m struck by the fact that each of the gravies tastes different. Sikandar scores full marks for variety.
The following evening at dinner, the restaurant looks cool and classy, almost magical. The biryani is moist and fragrant with spices, not too rich or pungent. We are treated to a preview of haleem, soon to be put on the weekend menu. I’m told that it’s been pounded by hand to achieve the correct texture. This is definitely something I’ll return for.
Sikandar’s desserts are worth a try. Round out your meal with Chef Arif’s impossibly light and delicate Apricot Trifle or the Zauk-e-Shahi (Stuffed gulab jamuns baked in almond rabri.)
Portions are generous, with most entrées and desserts being easily adequate for two. Service is polite and knowledgeable (then again, I was dining with the chef.) Downsides? The Khaas-e-Sikandar turned out to be butter chicken. The cocktails were very ordinary. And you’re not allowed to take Chef Arif home to cook for you.
Average meal for two with starters, drinks and dessert: Rs.800-Rs.1200
Lunch buffet: 175/- plus tax on weekdays and 225/- on weekends.
- Fourth floor, Garuda Mall, Magrath Road, Ashoknagar, Bangalore