It is difficult to stand out in the restaurant scene in Pune today. New places open every week and the Puneites taste buds are spoilt for choice.
New on the block in Magarpatta, at the popular Season's mall, is Khaansaab, a restaurant that bills itself as the frontrunner in the cuisine of the northwest frontier.They are a franchise of the well known flagship restaurant of the same name in Hyderabad.
Located on the first floor of the mall the space is large, with a lounge area for cocktails and starters for those who do not want to tarry and a fairly expansive dining area. The tables are well set out and the arrangement gives a feeling of room to spare.There is a private dining area with a long table for those who wish to host their own parties as well,
In keeping with the "Royal " theme the settings are glitzy with chrome plated chargers and goblets in gold and silver. I am not sure how 'Royal' ties up with Northwest frontier as the latter is known for the ruggedness and harshness of its terrain and there is nothing to suggest those qualities in the decor. A couple of kitchy paintings of warriors on horseback and crossed swords is the one bow in that direction but this contrasts painfully with the rest- a large chandelier and carved chairs with velvet upholstery. The red curtains draped along the front windows are not in the best taste either.
We begin with a couple of mocktails as Khansaab have not received their liquor license as yet. This situation will not last long as they expect to open their bar soon with a complete range of drinks but if you are keen on a drink with your dinner it might be good idea to check before booking.
The Coco mocktail is cool if a little oily. Coconut milk mixed with soda would have been nice if the soda was more fizzy. Their Apple Pineapple ka Panna is much better. A fresh tasting drink of roasted apple and pineapple with a hint of cumin and kala namak , it goes well with the appetisers that followed.
First off -give the Paya Shorba a miss . Made with lamb trotters it is very salty and, with bits of grease and gristle floating around, is most unappetising.
From their huge selection of starters the Malai Paneer Tikka is outstanding. Creamy, melt in the mouth paneer with a filling of cashew nut paste, finished in a clay pot, I could make a meal of just this. The taste of the Roti pe Paneer ki Boti is also excellent- morsels of paneer in a mint chutney with freshly chopped onion rings served on delightful small puffy rotis. However it was served cold and this was disappointing. Another interesting vegetarian appetiser is the Tandoor Bharwan Khumb, with spinach stuffed barbecued mushroom with a sprinkling of cheese. Forget the Corn Cheese Kurkure. a nice idea with a tasty filling, it fails completely because of the pastry which is tough and not at all crisp as it should be.
From the selection of Non vegetarian appetisers go for the Murgh Malai Chandi Kabab. Superb with its generous lather of butter and a smoky flavour from the char grill. I don't much care for the Sarsone Mahi Kabab as I am not a fan of Basa fish which has no texture at all and is always a bit slimy on the tongue. How much better a surmai or pomfret would be ! Gosht ke Gappe is another nice idea which does not work out. The poories/ gappe are not crisp, in fact they were quite soggy, and the mutton slivers topped with sev seemed quite alien to the whole.
From the choice in the Main course we like the Baingan Bharta with olives and the Bideshi Sabzi Desi Masala though it is a bit run of the mill in its tomato gravy. This gravy finds its way into many other dishes which are fine when eaten individually but might be an overload of sameness if ordered together.
Choose the Dal KhaanSaab, a kala dal with a difference . It goes beautifully with the Shahi Malai Paratha. I always say that the quality of a restaurant can be gauged by the dal on offer and, in this instance, Khaansaab does itself proud.
Again the main course sea food choice, Kadai Jhinga Amritsari, isn't great. While I like the fact that the jumbo prawns are not floating in a sea of red gravy there is no particular Amritsari taste about it and the crushed coriander seeds are a bit overwhelming combined with the other spices. Highly recommended on the other hand is the Rajwada Raj Ghosht, excellent tender pieces of lamb with a strong flavour of smoked cloves. Delicious !
From the desserts we try the Khubani Ka Meetha, which seems hurriedly prepared and not a pleaser, and the Flambeed Gulab Jamuns which are too large, stodgy, with a thick skin and a brandy which does not soak in, making it very inedible.
Our dinner is memorable for the excellent quality of the ingredients , from the vegetables to the meat and poultry. Each dish is presented well . The service is good and we were not short of attention.
All in all this is food to remember and we think Khaansaab will be a winner especially as all the dishes are priced most reasonably. We plan to return soon for the promised "bater", (quail) and another helping of the Malai Paneer !
Address: First Floor East Wing, Seasons Mall
Meal for 2- Rs 1500 without drinks