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Business

Lost in translation

- Rey Gamboa -
Now I know what that phrase means.

In last week’s column, I wrote about our Prince of Jaipur experience. It was a Sunday lunch, as usual a great meal to look forward to. The week that followed was another one of those crazy days when the office was in mayhem, so when I found a small window days before my deadline, I decided to write the column well in advance of my Friday deadline. As things turned out, I could only churn out about half of my piece, so I decided to finish it the following day. Well, to make a long story short, the other half got waylaid somewhere in the bowels of my computer, and only the first half got to my publishers. Lost in translation, that piece on the Prince of Jaipur was ‘bitin", and to our readers who couldn’t make it out in its entirety, our sincere apologies. To say that I am technologically challenged is understating the fact that I have so much to learn in the field of computers. Nevertheless, allow me to finish our great Sunday meal.

We whetted our appetite with a first course of Papadum which is very thin and crisp bread that we dipped in a trio of cold condiments – the sweetish mango chutney, a bowl of seasoned yogurt, and another bowl of very hot assorted pickled chilies.

Then the kebabs came, elegantly suspended in metal skewers and served in a silver tray. The lamb chunks, chicken and lapu-lapu morsels were well seasoned and melt-in-the-mouth tender. At the foot of the heavy silver tray was a creamy concoction of prawns in a curried sauce. Actually, with this entre, lunch would have been perfect because we cleaned out the last bit of morsel and sauce. But the main course had yet to be served.

The main attraction certainly deserved its place of prominence in a meal as elegant such as this. We had the Raan Masala, the house’s piece de resistance. It is a whole leg of lamb (or half, if your group is not too large), that has been marinated for about six to eight hours in herbs and spices, then cooked carefully over a slow fire. Having thus simmered the meat in all its accompaniment, it is then roasted with red wine.

The long marination infuses the meat with all the subtle flavors of the herbs, and I guess is the reason for its extra tenderness and succulence. The slow cooking process also gives us a very flavorful sauce to dip our breads in. We had warm Naan bread and the very tasty Roti which was served warm and flaky. Needless to say, they took away the silvery tray where they served the lamb in clean, save for the leg bone.

I was told that the Raan Masala was the house’s most expensive item in the menu. At P2,800 per whole lamb leg (or P1,400 for half a leg), I can’t complain. Since it also happens to be the most ordered selection in the menu, I guess no one complains. They just keep coming back for more of this truly flavorful dish. We have quite a few restaurants in the country specializing in Indian cuisine, but I guess the Prince of Jaipur has earned its own niche by not sacrificing quality for price. Max Talreja says that their restaurant may well be the most expensive Indian restaurant in the world. Amen to that. If you dine out in search of a fine meal, you don’t go to a much-touted fine dining restaurant unprepared for the high price of quality.

Expats from all over, not only in the Middle East but other parts of the world, have found a comfort zone in the place. Even the decor was well thought of. We noted that pink was a dominant color in the restaurant’s interiors. We prodded for more information and found that Jaipur, one of the three main cities of India, was also called the "Pink City." It is home to most of the remarkable palaces in India, and some of India’s royal families live here. Most of the castles have pink walls, actually rose-colored walls. Pink apparently symbolizes royalty here.

Well, they brought this message across in the restaurant’s interiors which are predominantly pink. Its history-laden walls and ceiling are conversation pieces, and the restaurant’s General Manager, Max Talreja, and the executive chef, Mr. Murldhar Khulbay, who has served many of India’s royalties and has served in his country’s five-star hotels, can easily regale you with fabulous stories about their country and their royalty.

I have transgressed even before dessert. Although dessert came after we have had more than our fill, it was still a treat for our palates. I have never had Indian ice cream in my life, so it was a first for me. Their ice cream came in tiny scoops, and I can understand why. The tiny ball of goodness sitting on a bowl was made up of ground pistachios and walnuts in a moderately sweet creamy concoction. You have to take it in tiny spoonfuls to really relish its goodness and make out the distinguishing flavors of the pistachios and walnuts. It was very good.

Over coffee, we had a good chat with Max. This fine gentleman believed enough in the potentials here that he gave up a lucrative fashion business (he ran a formal tailoring line for men in Hong Kong where he resided for 20 years) to set up tent here in 1992. Initially, he ran a chain of Indian restaurants in the Manila International Airport. He must have noted that we have a large, and still growing Indian community in the Philippines, which prompted him to launch an exclusive fine dining Indian restaurant. The effort he put into this restaurant is astonishing, from the authentic details found in the restaurant’s decor to the extensive menu he has prepared for Prince of Jaipur.

He has also launched the Philippine Indian Expat Group, a purely social group where members can inter-act. Like Filipinos, dining is a well-respected part of their culture and heritage, and every social event is centered on food. Max knows this only too well, being a true-blooded Indian (he was born in Mumbai, India). As a respected and acknowledged member of the Indian community here, he is a moving force in the community, and takes extraordinary pride in their culture and heritage, cuisine definitely included.

They also opened a shawarma center at the Shell Select Forbes. His description of their gourmet shawarmas also intrigued us, so a few days later, we dropped in on their shawarma center. It is open till 6 or 7 a.m., so young people converge here after partying all night. Anyway, we sampled their lamb and chicken shawarma, but made the mistake of having it with their super hot sauce. While the lamb chunks and chicken morsels were super tender, the really hot sauce was too much for us. The next time around, we completely eliminated the hot sauce and asked for an extra serving of their garlic sauce. Much better. At P120 for the chicken and P135 for the lamb, it was a pretty good midnight snack for the kids.
B&L line up
Also last week, we gave you a preview of what to expect on Tuesday’s Business & Leisure, the TV show. And then we were unable to air. What happened was we had a lot of post-production adjustments that we had to undertake in order to improve our broadcast video resolution. As a result of some glitches, we were unable to finish the show’s editing on time. Our sincerest apologies to those who stayed up to wait for the show.

We are airing this episode on Tuesday, with Bill Velasco on Profiles and Cats Motors Chairman, Greg Yu, and Mandarin Oriental Manila Executive Chef Thomas Wenger as our featured personalities. Balsa Sa Niugan, meanwhile, takes center stage for our segment on Food Trip. It promises to be a very interesting Tuesday lounging viewing, so I hope you don’t miss it.

Mabuhay
. Be proud to be a Filipino.

For comments: [email protected]

BALSA SA NIUGAN

BILL VELASCO

CATS MOTORS CHAIRMAN

FOOD TRIP

INDIAN

MAX TALREJA

PRINCE OF JAIPUR

RAAN MASALA

RESTAURANT

WELL

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