We are at Ayna, the newly opened Indian restaurant at Hilton boasts of cuisine from all parts of the country. The brown panels speckled with gold, the peacock eye glass embolism on one end and intricately brocaded silk covers are all symbolic of the royal splendour that India has seen.
We are welcomed with a unique drink of gulkand and mint, which Chef Rawat announces, is a signature dish of the restaurant.
The restaurant has a good collection of vegetarian dishes, says its manager, Karthik. The appetisers are in plenty and we are spoilt for choice. Chef`s favourites are brought in - kubani ka paneer tikka, homemade paneer stuffed with seasoned apricots; kumbki shammi - delicately flavoured mushroom patties that hardly carry any of the familiar smells associated with mushrooms; the typically Bengali vegetable chops - thinly crusted and beet-bright inside; the achari jingha - succulent, pickle-marinated king prawns; tender murg malai kebabs; and, batti da raan - baby lamb cutlet which has been grilled to a crisp perfection.
The menu cards have been temporarily designed and would soon make way for gold laced cards, says Karthik. Main course is mind boggling so we allow ourselves o be pampered by Chef Rawat again. The side dishes and breads are served at the table. The vegetarian fare, as promised, is lavish - dum aloo, baby potatoes slow cooked in spicy gravy; tangy bhindi amchur, okra stuffed with dry mango powder and spices in a spicy tomato-onion base; shahi paneer, cottage cheese cooked in cashewnut and poppy seed gravy; dal makhani that transports you to a roadside Delhi dhabba. Goan fish curry, a tender fish cooked in whole spices and, coriander flavoured Kongunattu chicken curry made the non-vegetarian section worth mention too.
The pulao was spicy and we were pleasantly surprised to spot bright green broccoli florets in it.
A very differently shaped Zafrani paronthi - paratha stuffed with almonds and poppy seeds - was part of the Indian breads that were brought in.
Dessert comprised of a not-so-sweet, ghee laden sakkarai pongal placed on a very sweet malpua garnished with a sweet, crisp nendran slice and the inimitable chenna payesh.
The dining experience and the ambiance of Ayna is a reflection of the senses and flavours of an era gone by.