Thursday, September 21, 2017

A taste of Bollywood at Bawarchi

Just a few days before the New Year, the Bangkok-based Bawarchi Indian restaurant chain announced a “splendor opening” of its first outlet in Myanmar’s “most commercially major city Yangon”.

Photo: Montana J. McGillicuttyPhoto: Montana J. McGillicutty

The press statement promised “mouthwatering truly authentic” north Indian and Indian-Chinese fusion cuisine, as well as “stunning ambience and service” – all adding up to a splendiferous venue sure to “impress a date”.

Always keen to find new ways to dazzle my wife, I thought it might be worth giving Bawarchi a try during one of our irregularly scheduled date nights.

As soon as we passed through the restaurant’s front door, I knew I had made the correct decision. It wasn’t the ostentatious décor typical to middling-to-upscale Indian restaurants – in this case, tables laid with red napkins, orange and blue drinking glasses, and crystal vases holding plastic flowers; furniture upholstered with red, gold and black velvet fabric; and walls decorated with mirrors, wood carvings, elephant-shaped lamps and other attractive elements.

No, it wasn’t Bawarchi’s death-to-minimalism interior that supplied the point-scoring X-factor, but rather the Bollywood music playing over the speakers that helped set the evening’s cheery tone. My wife, as it happens, is a huge fan of Bollywood music and dance, and she could barely sit still or stop smiling throughout our dinner.

As for the service, it was a tad short of stunning, but just a tad. We were shown to our table, cloth napkins were unfolded onto our laps, menus were promptly opened and placed before us, and our orders were taken as soon as we were ready.

It was a bit disappointing that our Myanmar waiter could not seem to comprehend the words “naan” and “lassi” until we pointed to them on the menu, and even more disappointing that he returned and reported that the evening’s lassi batch was “too sour” for consumption.

But we refused to allow lassi-gate to ruin our evening, and as we mulled other beverage options, it was nice that our waiter volunteered the information that while the pineapple and watermelon juices were fresh, the orange juice came from a can. We both opted for pineapple juice (K3000), which was indeed fresh and frothy upon delivery.

We massively over-indulged in the food department, ordering chicken tikka masala (K6500); lahori paneer, described on the menu as a “splendid amalgamation of onion, bell pepper and cottage cheese, with spicy preparation” (K4000); and lasooni palak, or “blanched spinach leaves cooked gently, tempered with garlic/sesame” (K4000). We skipped rice in favour of two orders of curry-sopping garlic naan (K1500).

It was all quite splendid from the first to the last bite: Like magic, the naan was firm and crispy but managed at the same time to be flexible enough to scoop up delicious bits of masala’d chicken. The aromatic curries had been spiced and cooked to flavorsome perfection.

We devoured the food in an undisciplined flurry of gustatory chaos, leaving little extra to take home with us as we had planned. My wife happily admitted that the Bollywood music had given her the perfect excuse to burn a few calories even as we were stuffing our faces.