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    From multani paneer to moong dal and baked kulchas, Jamavar’s festival has all things Punjabi covered

    It’s a meeting of legends. The Leela Palace meets the Punjab on a silver platter at their lavishly appointed nighttime restaurant, Jamavar. Outside, the monsoon winds whip the ‘mashals’ or lighted torches that line the ocean-facing garden into whirling dervishes. There is a muted roar of the surf crashing on to the land. Just as once the native Masulla boats ferried visitors from foreign lands from their ships to a safe haven. So expect to eat like a lion when you sample the menu that chef Debdash Balaga has created for the two weeks of the Punjabi Food Festival that begins todayPICTURES OF LEELA PALACE FOR INDULGE. EXPRESS / R.SATISH BABU
    Inside at the Jamavar there is a sense of having arrived at a calm haven. There are convent style counted thread linen runners that crisscross the table that allow the cut-glass crystal ware, the large-sized porcelain platters, the small silver bowls filled with rose petals and a single candle to reflect the opulent style of the restaurant. Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his royal court would have felt happy around these parts, though for the moment it’s mostly NRIs and their foreign guests who hold court. Our glasses are filled with a South African white wine that has a label of a wolf stretching out its neck and baying at the moon in vintage Dracula style. It’s called Wolftrap and, being both spicy and fruity, it inspires us with a martial spirit. As the note to the wine making valley of Franschhoek, where the grapes are grown, informs us: “No evidence of wolves has been found in the valley. We created this wine to remind us of the mysteries and legends of days gone by.”
    “It’s in the ingredients that we create the cuisine of Punjab,” explains chef Balaga. “The paneer that we get in the North has a melt-in-the-mouth texture, which is why we have called it the Multani paneer tikka here,” he explains. The entrée of four famous legendary sources of Punjabi style food come plated on a square tray along with chutneys and relishes. Of these, the Multani paneer is worthy of those poets who compared the beauty of a heroine to a slice of the moon. Of course, this was in the days when the moon still had a mystic appeal. Never mind, a maiden’s thigh, or a slice of the moon, the paneer still tastes perfect. It’s accompanied by a red snapper fish tikka cooked Amritsari style, a butterfly prawn and a mash of humble chhole, or dried green peas pretending to have gone up-market on a disc of baked roti. We would have been quite content to stop here, but being in a Lioness of the Punjab mode, we also tried the mains, mostly gravied chicken, baby corn, with a variety of freshly baked kulchas, naans and rotis, with rice pilau to top it up.The best was yet to come. Gorgeous moong dal halva and kulfi also served in royal style.
    Till August 2. A meal at the Jamavar without tax or the Wolftrap wine will come up to Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 per person. Details: 33661234

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