At Ayna, Hilton, the new menu is generous enough to include the entire country
Ayna was formerly a ‘contemporary’ Indian restaurant that showcased specials from the North and South. But enter new executive chef Achal Aggarwal and this 66-cover space on the third floor of the hotel, will now offer a pan-Indian menu, that the chef who was formerly with the Leela group, promises is a complete overhaul. “Being an Indian restaurant, we want to give customers plenty of choices that they are familiar with,” says Aggarwal, as sous chef Paul Joe lays out a selection of starters for a tasting. For something South Indian, there’s a chicken 65-like kozhi varuval that’s tossed in a yoghurt gravy for a twist. From the East, there’s a Bengali tandoori jhinga with kasundhi mustard that has delicately blackened edges and a smokey aroma. And if you like Awadhi flavours, the rich mewa aur mawa ki seekh is a kebab of condensed milk and dry fruits, that beats even its non vegetarian counterpart, the butter soft, mutton kakori. Joe also surprises us with a vegetable galouti featuring 12 vegetables, minced, spiced, smoked and turned into delicate patties.
An icy aambi panna sorbet later, we pair an assortment of Indian breads (do ask for the Kashmiri bakarkhani) with several gravies. Of these, the dhaniya korma that has tender pieces of chicken in a cilantro-based gravy, can be addictive, while the Alleppey fish curry teases you with tiny pieces of mango that kick in when you least expect. If you enjoy gravies of the creamy kind, the gucci makai ka korma that has morrel mushrooms stuffed with a mash up of nuts, will not disappoint. For dessert we try a phirni, dahi aur anjeer ki lauj and a slightly out of place masala chai creme brulee. Of these, the lauj or light pudding of curd topped with a sweet fig preserve, has us at first spoon. You do have a few more options like rasmalai and kulfi, but Aggarwal should consider including more for the sweet toothed, to round off his ‘pan-Indian’ promise.
Meal for two at approximately Rs.2,400. Details: 22255555
— Ryan Peppin