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The Royal Kitchen: The Majesty of Northern Indian Cuisine

A popular Indian restaurant on the ground floor of the Bellagio Boutique Mall delivers a brilliant array of Northern Indian fare in the heart of the Mega Kuningan shopping and dining district.

The businessmen started streaming in around 11:30 am, almost arriving on cue for the just-set lunch buffet. Each seated table had at least one tall glass of lassi adorning it, many more with hot teas and water glasses filled expectantly whilst sitting atop warmly lit solid wood furnishings. Gentle melodic songs travelled through the dining room. Musings from a sitar plucked playfully along. Near the entrance of the restaurant, an incense stick burned close to a Ganesh statue colourfully decorated with flowers.

To say that Royal Kitchen is an elegantly designed restaurant is an understatement.

As if one was intently studying a detailed panel in a Mughal period painting of courtesans and princes, the dining room is a rich reflection of the gorgeous South Asian culture from which the cuisine is derived. Ambers, reds, ochres all take centre stage along with the rugs and golden embellishments that adorn the walls. Each element lends itself in some way to the beauty and bounty of the Asian subcontinent.

Northern India has possibly some of the most aromatic dishes in this world. The historical influence from the Middle East and Central Asia provides many layers to consider. Generally, when you walk into a Northern Indian restaurant, you are eating the amalgam of generations of crossover spices and techniques. So whether you are an avid fan of this style of food or trying your hand at it for the first time, a lunch buffet may be the most viable option to sample the best dishes.

On this particular Friday, there was a formidable spread. On the main buffet table, there were two styles of rice: an onion pullao and chicken biryani. In Indian cuisine, it is usually basmati: a fragrant, thin, long-grain style of rice. Likely first cultivated in India, it became popular with traders from the Middle East and became inextricably linked to their cuisine.

 

Prawn Briyani | Photo Courtesy of The Royal Jakarta

Prawn Briyani | Photo Courtesy of The Royal Jakarta

 

Something as basic as rice certainly deserves the utmost attention and The Royal Kitchen’s pullao and biryani are excellent renditions: fluffy, fragrant, perfectly steamed. The naan is hearty and chewy, providing a nice springboard for thick gravies and curries. The Royal Kitchen’s puri bhaji is excellent, with a puffy whole-wheat puri (deep-fried flat bread that inflates from the intense heat of the oil, which then creates a massive air pocket in the centre similar to a balloon) accompanied with a mildly spiced potato curry. This dish is usually enjoyed as a quick street snack in India. Straight out of the fryer, the puri was a delight and a great addition to the buffet meal.

Tandoori Pompret | Photo Courtesy of The Royal Jakarta

Tandoori Pompret | Photo Courtesy of The Royal Jakarta

Some highlights from the buffet were the mutton curry – tender morsels of mutton slow-cooked in a thick, brown gravy. The paneer, Indian-style firm cottage cheese cubes, was a briny and lovely addition to the vegetarian curry.

The chana ki dal is a luscious yellow split chickpea soup/curry that has hints of tomato and cumin. It is delicious mixed with the onion pullao. Not to be missed is the lauki kofta, light and airy little balls made with a type of gourd (the dish is vegetarian) and steeped in a tomato and onion gravy. Roasted chicken wings marinated in spicy yogurt and roasted in the oven rounded up the special buffet, with many items not found in the regular printed menu.

My favourite item by far would have to be the refreshingly tangy papri chaat. Popular in Northern India, it is typically a street food item that combines all of the best flavours and textures: sweet, salty, sour, creamy, crunchy and spicy.

Crispy, fried wafers of dough (the papri) and boiled potatoes are drenched in yogurt, tamarind sauce and mint sauce.

It is a special appetizer that prepares the digestive system for a proper meal according to Ayurvedic philosophy.

Although I can’t guarantee that was the case with me, this chaat (or “snack” as we say in English) hit all the high notes and was the perfect balance to the spicier curries and heavier food items from the buffet. Think of it as the Indian version of the rojak but without fruit and with a lot more textures and flavours.

The Royal Kitchen is indeed one of those rare gems where you find traditional Northern Indian flavours in a majestic setting. It is a very well curated spot for business lunches, family meals or a fun night out (there is a full-service bar) on the weekend with friends.

Being located on the ground floor of the Bellagio Boutique Mall is also a bonus for those office workers and Kuningan residents who want to stay within the neighbourhood but not miss out on a fancy meal. The restaurant also has the capacity to cater and does takeaway meals via Klik-Eat delivery. I highly advise dining inside the restaurant, however, to experience the décor and friendly service, and to also feast upon the special buffet.

The Royal Kitchen

The Bellagio Boutique Mall, Ground Floor 16

Jalan Kawasan, Mega Kuningan Barat, Jakarta Selatan 12950

Telephone: 021 3002 9975

Website: www.theroyalkitchenjakarta.com

 

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May Tien is a freelance writer who specializes in culinary anthropology and Asian cuisines. She has worked in the restaurant hospitality industry for many years and mentored students at Le Cordon Bleu in New Zealand.