Gulab Jamun in syrup.

KUALA LUMPUR: THERE are several Indian restaurants in West Malaysia that offer Northern Indian cuisine, some quick service eateries and others, more upscale establishments.

However, Qureshi, at the TPC Kuala Lumpur in Bukit Kiara, in its entirety, deserves to be placed in a category of its own: From its softly splendid decorative touches and ambience of regal elegance to its freshly prepared heritage cuisine, the artistry in it all rightly deserves the classification “fine dining”, and the plaudit “exquisite”.

Dining in Qureshi is certainly not an experience to be hurried. The spacious setting, with two private dining rooms tucked in one corner facing a manicured green, invites you to simply indulge — in time, good company and quality food.

But let’s get to the fundamentals.

The restaurant’s cuisine originates from recipes innovated and developed by the Qureshis, who trace their lineage back more than 200 years to the cooks who ran the royal kitchens of the Nawabs of Awadh, a region in northeastern India.

There is a tribute to this in the ornate menu, with a picture of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah (1748-1797), who seems to have been the trigger behind the dum pukht style of cooking finding its honorary status in the region’s royal kitchens of the time.

The dum pukht style in India is singularly Awadhi in terms of historical origin, where layers of meat (or vegetables) and rice, fragranced by spices, are cooked in clay pots sealed with dough. It’s a slow cooking method that allows the steady permeation of spices and herbs throughout the contents of the pot with the help of steam.

For the uninitiated in India’s northern and frontier style cuisines, there is helpful guidance in the menu with picture symbols marking dishes as Signature Qureshi, Spicy and Vegetarian, and a brief elucidation on the composition of each dish.

Muhammad Ahsan Ali Qureshi manages Qureshi at TPC and has helped set up numerous other restaurants worldwide with his siblings. He tells me that each type of dish served here is made using their own unique paste blend developed by his family and ancestors.

The Dum Gosht Lucknowi Biryani is slow-cooked basmati rice, local lamb and spices in clay pots sealed with dough.

I start with the Dum Gosht Lucknowi Biryani. The layer of dough sealing the individual claypot is ceremoniously cut open by a dapper waiter.

I need no invitation to dig in, the aroma is so wholesome. The lamb (“local lamb”) is “meltingly tender” as my colleague Chin puts it.

Meat, condiments, spices and rice have melded in a mellow marriage of natural juices and subtle flavours; as my other dining companion, Suryani, chimes in: “it’s a very fine taste”. No whole spices or bits and pieces make an irritating appearance in my mouth, all these are taken out from the pot after the rice has been cooked.

Ahsan also tells me that the lamb is delivered to their kitchen as a whole carcass and the Qureshi tradition is to cut and apportion each part in their own kitchens. They never use frozen lamb.

The satin-like texture of the Butter Chicken (front) Dhal Qureshi.

The other outstanding meat dish for me is Qureshi’s Butter Chicken.

It is a soulful blend of smoked chicken pieces in a very subtle tomato-cream infusion that may or may not have chilli; just a hint of it on my palate towards the end of the mouthful ... It’s hard to tell, the sauce is such a congruous blend, delicious with rice, and delicious mopped up with naan.

Tangy, creamy Prawn Moilee.

The Prawn Moilee has significant resonance with Thai cuisine; plump, juicy prawns swimming in a coconut base uplifted by the tanginess of lime leaves. The coconut cream never takes the dish into the realms of cloying richness, thankfully.

Chicken Tikka.

My least favourite of the luncheon selections is the Punjabi Fish Tikka, marinated with kashipur yellow chilli, carom seeds and lemon juice, revved up with a yogurty mint sauce. The chunky white flesh, though tender and fresh, seems to dominate my palate, a one-note affair once you get past the outer coating of marinade.

The soft Peshwari Murg Tikka, however, makes up for this in the tikka section, with the spices well-absorbed into the sweet chicken flesh.

The food at Qureshi has a subtlety in flavour that eludes the general run of Indian restaurants, which seem to equate Indian “spiciness” to tongue-scorching fieriness/pungentness and “creamy” to heavy use of a tomato and coconut milk base.

In Qureshi, multi flavours of a single dish surreptitiously steal across your palate in a nuanced balance. You’ll likely never be overwhelmed by just one domineering taste, and no two dishes taste alike.

Qureshi also caters for vegetarians and an outstanding offering is its signature Dal Qureshi, a tantalising mix of black lentils, cream, tomato and butter. At once comfort food and elixir, it has a unique aroma and depth I have not tasted in other black lentil dishes so popular in India’s northern states.

Explore also the savoury platter of Chaat (snacks), inspired by the streetfood of Mumbai and Delhi; the Samosa Chaat — crispy, chopped samosas in a sweetish tamarind sauce with chick peas — gets a two thumbs up from us all.

The Indian desserts are a choice few made by one of the cooks whose sole task is in preparing the sweets. The Kulfi is an extremely fine blend with an understated sweetness.

Gazar Ka Halwa.

The warm Carrot Halwa and fragrant Gulab Jamun are also recommended.

Grand Master Chef Padma Shri Mohammad Imtiaz Qureshi, Ahsan’s father, is the gentleman responsible for reintroducing and refining the dum pukht in Indian cuisine.

The family Qureshi, a long line of royal cooks and master chefs, have also studied and reinvigorated recipes gleaned from the ancient manuscripts of the Moguls. Qureshi at TPC is delicious proof of their centuries-old expertise.

Qureshi Restaurant

ADDRESS: TPC Kuala Lumpur, Ground Floor, East Wing, 10 Jalan 1/70D, Off Jalan Bukit Kiara, KL.

TEL: 603 2011 8007

OPENING HOURS: 11.30am-2.30pm; 6.30pm-10.30pm

WHAT’S COOKING: Gourmet Cuisine of Nawabs of Awadh

MUST TRY: Dum Gosht Lucknowi Biryani, Butter Chicken, Dal Qureshi.

The restaurant offers soups, salads and a variety of biryanis (RM45-RM65), also kebabs and curries (ranging between RM30 and RM135).

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