In spite of having spent countless hours roaming along the streets of Kolkata, I had not discovered Al Luqma, until relatively recently. I braved the incessant rain on a Sunday afternoon to go here for lunch with friends.
The first thing that struck me on entering Al Luqma was that it was old school. It looked traditional, not dilapidated. It seemed that it had been there for a long time catering to the needs of generations of Kolkatans.
From the moment you walk into the establishment, you can sense a feeling of comfort. While they do offer traditional table-style dining most are accustomed to, my favorite thing about Mandi House is that they have an area where you can sit down on the ground amongst an array of pillows that brings upon a feeling of relaxation.
Now for the food! This place has more than generous portions with any item you get off the menu. Prices are reasonable and worth it because these plates are in huge portions. I went with my friends and we shared few plates consisting of Mandi chicken, lamb, and fish on top of a bed of rice. With the house mayonnaise, salsa, and a little bit of lemon, this meal was delicious!
Tandoori Grilled Chicken : The yogurt marinated chicken was tender and earthy with a nice smoky flavor from the tandoor oven. Served with Lachha Onions, Lemon wedges and Mint Chutney! Got the whole chicken, which was huge! There were thigh/leg pieces and breast/wing pieces. They were splayed in a certain way to maximize surface area so you can appreciate the the yogurt marinade and the tandoor charring. Really juicy and flavorful.
Lebanese Chicken : The Julien pieces crispy on the top, and sat in a tangy sauce that was just mildly spicy. The herb mix on top of it and had just the right amount of salt in it. It’s a really good deal and it comes with some really unique and tasty chicken seasoned with Mediterranean spices, which goes surprisingly well. (Forget to click picture)
Fish Tikka : Basically one of the benchmark dish to try at Arabic Restaurants. They used big fillet of fish (Basa) deep fried. Firm, yet if you pushed them hard enough they’d yield to becoming like pulled one. So just perfect texture. The marination was extremely rich.
Mutton Chops : The Mutton Chops were a melt in the mouth delight, the meat was tender but the most amazing thing for me wasn’t the effects of the intramuscular marbling – as gorgeous as it was – but the intermuscular fat. This was one of the softest, most tender fat I’ve eaten, collapsing under the teeth and probably so soft (alas I didn’t try it) to suck through the teeth. I enjoyed, especially the dry aged on the bone, juicy fat and meaty chew, not to mention the perfectly seasoned and charred outside common to them all.
Mandi : The word ‘Mandi’ comes from Arabic word “nada” meaning “dew” and reflects the moist “dewy” texture of the meat. Mandi is a traditional dish that originated from Hadhramaut, Yemen consisting main of meat and rice with a special blend of spices slow cooked until it tastes heavenly. It is extremely popular and prevalent in most areas of the Arabian Peninsula, and even considered a staple dish in many regions. It is also found in Egypt and Turkey. We had opportunity to taste 3 of these variants where rice part remains same, just the meat changes with every type of it. Each one of it has been served with 3 types of gravy (Mutton, Chicken and Tomato) along with carrot, Cucumber salad with a hint of lemon.
Mutton Juicy Mandi : Rice is cooked with special Basmati mixed with special masala. Mutton pieces are blended with extra ingredients to give a rich taste. Garnished with fried onion, fried cashew. Fragrant and richly spiced, the biryani had fluffy separated grains with generous chunks of tender lamb underneath. I’m not well-versed with the dozens of different mandi styles of rice. With this one, the meat is cooked with rice so the lamb infuses some of its meaty gaminess into the basmati.
Chicken Steak Mandi : Rice is cooked with special Basmati mixed with special masala. Chicken with BBQ sauce cooked at a specific temperature & grilled. Garnishing including fried onion, fried cashew. I was really impressed with my steak. It was cooked to perfection when it arrived at our table and there was more than enough flesh to satisfy our needs. The juiciness, and flavour of the steak were exceptional, just the right amount of char on the outside to give a little crunchy texture and the soft meaty middle that quite literally sent my endorphins into a spin!
BBQ Chicken Mandi : Rice is cooked with special Basmati mixed with special masala. The first thing that hits you when you want to bite is the unbelievable smell, very meaty but also a spiciness which definitely had the saliva glands working overtime, it was a carnivore’s delight.
Rabdi : Rice pudding made, is similar to rice payesh, made at Indian homes. rice pudding made across India, it is similar to rice payasam made in south Indian homes. One of the most favourite Indian desserts rice kheer can be made quickly and easily with just a few ingredients.
Kunafa : This is a bit difficult to describe. It is served warm, has vermicelli consistency on top and some melted cheese on the bottom. It is sprinkled with chopped pistachio and pine nuts.
Props to the owners for opening a new restaurant in the midst of pandemic. Wishing them the best of luck! Al Luqma has some truly delicious trans-arab dishes. Some are under the impression that there is a single universal Arab cuisine, however the “Arab World” is diverse and represents well over 20 separate nations with different cultures and dialects. It’s just the beginning. More to follow.