Taking the Maharaja Express

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The best way to visit India these days is to travel there through flavours. And that’s a guaranteed journey when dining at Nirvana, located in The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain, as this editor describes her food expedition to this dining spot.

How often do you have a weeknight out with your loved one or friends? For me, that’s close to never. However, I know a couple that, no matter what, Tuesday nights they go out, just the two of them, and enjoy some good quality time together and recharge to end the week in good spirits, always accompanied by good food. This is something I would like to incorporate into my life, be it with my husband or good friends. The Indian restaurant Nirvana at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain, was the best choice to start this new tradition.

I believe that good food can improve anyone’s mood and make everything better. As Indian cuisine enthusiasts, my husband and I were thrilled to head to this much-awarded restaurant. The weather was not as pleasant as we would like, and sitting outside was not an option but, as vaccinated residents, we got to dine inside this lavish place. The décor is a mix of grand Maharaja style and cosy sofas in tones of red. The lighting adds intimacy to the ambience – perfect for a date night!

The eatery’s amazing staff greeted us. Ali and Sangharsh made sure we were well taken care of the entire evening. I have to admit that we were over spoiled by them and by the maestro of the show, Chef Mahipal Singh.

We started our dining journey by ordering our drinks. The menu at Nirvana brings exotic options infused with Indian flavours that we were eager to try. We went for their mocktail versions of some regulars to taste the different elements. Ali surprised us with Chatpata Madira, a mix of lemon juice, ginger ale and Indian spices. The eye-catching detail was the green chillies split in half that played with our taste buds and that I am sure will become a common ingredient in our drinks from now on. The refreshment reminded us of a sophisticated version of a mojito. The other drink we had is called Gulabi Sharaab and came with a red petal inside, giving us a hint on one of the ingredients – rose syrup! It also had apple and orange juice and a tropical fruit punch. It was on the sweeter side, but an excellent pairing to the food that was about to start arriving at our table.

The first entrée, the Mango and Avocado Salad, was refreshing, but not the regular style you find in many places during summertime. This appetiser has secret ingredients, the distinct spices from Indian cuisine. You might think they would clash with the freshness of the main ingredients; however, their marriage is a very successful one, giving a sparkle to your taste buds. The second appetiser of the night was the Chowk Ki Tikki, a pan-fried potato and pea patty served with tamarind sauce. Again, the dish surprised by the perfection of the flavours; it does give you a hash-brown kind of vibe, but imagine all the beautiful colours that the Indian culture has and apply this visual concussion to your palate. And because Shuruaat (appetisers) are never enough, we tried the Jheenga Til Tinka, a deep-fried Gulf prawn, tossed in sesame seeds, accompanied by sweet chilli sauce. The prawn was crunchy on the outside and moist inside, just as it should be.

It was time to move to the main dishes and, as per the row of mouthwatering starters, we knew this would be a feast to be remembered. I love Dal, a popular Indian dish prepared in many different ways, using different types of lentils or peas. We were served the Dal Tadka, made with yellow and black lentils, cooked with herbs and spices, served with a dash of cumin, garlic and coriander seeds. What I liked about this Dal is that it doesn’t contain dairy and is way lighter than some other versions.

My husband, on the other hand, loves seafood and went for the Erha Kari, prepared with Gulf prawns simmered in a creamy coconut curry tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves. According to Chef Mahipal, it’s one of Nirvana’s best-sellers, and my husband had no doubt why. The mix of spices and the subtle touch of coconut delivers a balanced yet remarkable blend of flavours.

However, the star of the main dishes selection, in my opinion, was the Bhindi Do Pyaza, fresh okra cooked with baby onions, tomato and flavoured with Indian spices. Okra is an overlooked vegetable in western cuisine and I find it challenging to cook and deal with all the slime, but Chef Mahipal and his team know what they are doing, and the dish was spectacular.

We couldn’t leave without trying some of the desserts that you only find in outstanding Indian restaurants. We picked Rasmalai that consists of poached dumplings of fresh cottage cheese immersed in sweet milk sauce, my husband’s favourite Indian dessert. The texture of these soft white cushions that melt in your mouth cannot be compared to any other type of sweet; it’s unique and a must-have if you haven’t tried it yet. And if you are acquainted with this kind of cuisine, you must know Kulfi, a traditional pistachio flavoured ice cream that, at Nirvana, is dressed with rose syrup.

It was time to wrap up. We thanked the whole team profusely for their attention and exceptional service, not to mention the delicious food. The eatery is one of the 13 dining destinations at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain, which means that we have a few date nights ahead of us to try them all. We hope to be back soon, very soon!

Stay tuned!

In the last week of June at Nirvana, you will be able to enjoy the Mango Masti, a mango festival, with memorable dishes created to celebrate this creamy and sweet fruit. In this special menu, you will find salads such as Aam Ki Chaat (mango in spicy dressing flavoured with lime and coriander) and Aam Aur Lobster (lobster sautéed with mango on a bed of lettuce). In the dessert arena, creations such as Aam Ki Rasmalai (cottage cheese dumplings thickened with milk and mango) and Aam Aur Sabudan Kheer (mango and sago pudding) are the ones to look forward to.

(Dine-in services will resume on June 11, subject to Government approval).

For more information or to make a reservation, please call The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain on 1758 6499.

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