Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar – traditional or fusion Indian?

Rang Mahal by Atul KochharSince I interviewed Atul Kochhar last year at Taste of Dubai when he also showed us how to make sea bass curry, I’ve been longing for his Indian restaurant, Rang Mahal to open at the newish JW Marriott Marquis Dubai – after all his London restaurant, Benares, does sport one Michelin star.

So seven weeks into opening, we find ourselves, with hostess guiding us, walking down a long corridor flanked with opulently decorated booths, passing a small bar without a soul in sight sadly on a weekend, before entering the restaurant. No surprise Rang Mahal translates to Palace of Colour with rich red, orange and ochre murals gaping down at us, whilst giant ornate columns dominate the vast high ceiling room but with rather oddly, grey utilitarian flooring. The restaurant lacks intimacy with a huge divide between the windowed kitchen and the dining tables, in particular ours, where we overlook a patch of green with baseball match in full swing. Not quite a Prime 68 view, but we’re only on the fourth floor.

Rang Mahal muralAs vast as the restaurant is, so is the menu with many enticing dishes from small dishes and salads to main courses divided into five forms of Indian cooking – tawa griddle, sigri charcoal, tandoor oven, plus curries and biryanis – all designed for sharing. With the dimmed lighting not helping my photography, my food pix are really not worth showing here so I hope my description paints a picture.

Hungry bunnies that we are, we start off with a couple of grills as appetisers - griddled lamb chops and charcoal-grilled Gulf shrimps. Succulent morsels of lamb fall of the bone, whilst the fennel marinade gives a delicate fragrance intensified by a rich Telicherry black pepper, an extra-large variety from the Malabar coast of India (so Google tells me). Finger-licking fodder. Good to see Atul living by his promise of sourcing local where possible – the Gulfite shrimps are truly ginormous marinated in lime and lemon with plenty of herbs (coriander?) thrown in – so soft and juicy. Teeny pickled carrots on the side.

Moving onto our real mains, I am keen to see how Atul’s sea bass curry compares to the dish from Taste even though the ingredients differ slightly. In this case line-caught – not sure where this one’s fished from – clearly not local though. A little over-cooked I have to say slightly disguised by a rich green mango and coconut sauce – but the mustard tempered mashed potatoes are way too stodgy an accompaniment. On the other hand, the slow-simmered spiced lamb curry swimming with onions and tomatoes is a real treat for our taste buds – all swiftly mopped up with steamed rice, paratha and generous lashings of refreshing cucumber raita. The black lentil dal infused with tomatoes and garlic is velvety and buttery – pure soul food. A side order of griddled al dente asparagus spears with a sprinkling of sesame arrives on a bed of chunky onion and tomato masala and is quickly polished off.

Atul describes his cuisine in my interview as ‘British Indian fusion food’, but I reckon he’s more of a traditionalist without being a purist though – quite different to Sanjeev Kapoor’s fare at his restaurant here in Dubai, Signature. Anyhow however one chooses to describe his cuisine, bar the one sea bass dish, the food truly impresses.

Well worth noting our wine of choice for the evening, a Dindori Reserve Shiraz is from Sula vineyard in India (priced at AED 450). It was Sanjeev Kapoor who first introduced me to Indian wines last year, and am glad to say our silky tipple didn’t disappoint – but sadly it’s the only Indian choice for reds on an otherwise, hugely comprehensive wine list.

Service is spot on, attentive without being intrusive, with courses well spaced out, but despite a near-full restaurant, the place seriously lacks atmosphere not helped by the layout I mentioned earlier. If you exclude our two bottles of vino, price per head is AED 344 per person which is pretty reasonable given our order of four mains and a number of side dishes just for the pair of us. Admittedly we skipped dessert, but one thing’s for sure next time, am leaving tummy space for the apple tatin – perhaps that’s where the fusion influence shines through. I would have loved to give you a four, but with ambience seriously amiss at Rang Mahal, a key component of any dining experience, here’s to a three out of five FooDiva knife rating.

The Lounge at JW Marriott Marquis DubaiWorth noting the ground floor wine bar, Kork, where our evening started with some bubbles is a little sterile to say the least – unlike the Lounge with this clever wall display of 1,326 bottles. And no I didn’t count them.

Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar is located on the fourth floor of the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai on the Sheikh Zayed road, Business Bay. Open daily for dinner only. T; +971 4 4143000. AED 819 per head including two bottles of vino and water. Licensed.

How do you prefer Indian fine dining – traditional or fusion? Where do you head to for a boozy Indian meal?

A bientôt!

FooDiva. x

FooDiva Rating:
Reserve with RoundMenu
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24 Responses to “Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar – traditional or fusion Indian?”

  1. Geordie Armani February 17, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Fabulous colour scheme, I guess you blended right in :) great review as ever x

    • FooDiva February 17, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks GA. Yellow actually ;) x

  2. Johan Z February 17, 2013 at 11:29 am

    It seems that the reputation of ‘Fine Dining’ Indian Cuisine is now getting the recognition it so rightly deserves. Glad to read that the Dindori Shiraz can compare with some of the World’s better wines – this is a big step forward for a country which is not known for its awareness about wines.
    Great photo of the bottle display in the Lounge.

    • FooDiva February 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks Johan. Did you try many Indian wines when you lived there?

  3. Sarah@thehedonista February 17, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Interesting. I tried a couple of the new Marquis restaurants last week, and was very impressed, but their pricing seemed more reasonable. Rang Mahal seems a little pricy to me. I’m a huge fan of both Indego and Nina’s, but I confess I haven’t been for a while – must remedy that. Love your bar bottle shot. Indian wine? Now there’s something I must try….

    • FooDiva February 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      Thanks Sarah. I’ve only tried the two at JW so far and Prime 68 truly wowed me. The Japanese restaurant’s izakaya gastro pub concept really intrigues me. I used to frequent Indego a lot, but not been to Nina’s in years. Love to get your opinion on this wine. I would definitely buy it again. x

  4. IshitaUnblogged February 17, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I am very curious about Rang Mahal. I believe there is a Mustard fish in the Menu which is cooked in the Bengali style – I hope that the Seabass that you are talking about isn’t the one. Sula is one of the finest Indian vineyards that we have but Indian wines still have a long way to go – probably that’s why you haven’t seen any other on the Wine list. Exactly the same thing re-iterated by Chef Abhijit Saha when I met him, who’s an expert Oenelogist himself and is a Founding member of Wine Society of India. Well, three knives from FooDIva means that I’ll have to wait a bit more for my Bengali Mustard Fish!

    • FooDiva February 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      Ishita, looking at the menu – it’s sustainable salmon ‘Mahi Tikka’ with Bengali mustard. If you’d like a copy, email me and I’ll forward it. Good to know about the wine – can you buy it at duty free here do you know? The food and service would get a four, but sadly the lack of atmosphere brought it down. Still a good choice of restaurant though if you’d like a drink with your Indian feast. I would definitely return!

      • IshitaUnblogged February 18, 2013 at 5:31 pm

        I don’t know whether I’ve unsubscribed or not, your replies are not coming to my email. Hmmm… Mahi Tikka is not Bengali and Bengal doesn’t have a copyright over Mustard – so really curious. I make Bengali fish Curry with French Mustard!!! About Indian wines, I don’t think it’s available in DDF. I have got the product catalogue with me, atleast it doesn’t show there. Will email you:)

        • FooDiva February 19, 2013 at 8:04 am

          Not sure why you’re not receiving replies but thanks for the heads up will check it out. Next time I shall take you with me when I review :)

          • IshitaUnblogged February 20, 2013 at 7:40 am

            Thank you very much! It will be an absolute an honour. Oh, by the way, MMI stocks Indian Wines. Yesterday I had gone for the launch of another Indian fine-dining in Souk Al Bahar and I made it a point to ask. Actually, I’ve been asking everyone since I read your review!!! They did have Indian Wines and apparently MMI stocks them all:)

          • FooDiva February 20, 2013 at 11:10 am

            Great to know MMI stocks it and look forward to hearing about Patiala ;)

  5. Penny Mackenzie February 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Thanks for the review. I love the warmth of the decor.

    I have not had Indian wines in recent years so it is good to hear that the industry is improving.

    I always feel when I have been to an Indian “fine dining restaurant” (in Dubai) that I really could have had similar flavors from some of the low budget eateries in Dubai so it is good to see that I can venture out and spend a bit more on a meal that will be special enough to warrant the extra cost.

    It occurs to me that I need to clarify that statement. I am not saying that the fine dining establishments are rubbish. I am saying that some of the places in Dubai that serve you your dinner on a humble plastic plate with a tissue box for napkins produce really yummy Indian food.

    • FooDiva February 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      Thanks for dropping in with a comment Penny. I do agree – Karama and even Barsha, JLT and Dubai Marina have some great little Indian gems. Have you tried the beach shack Bu’Qtair by the way? Sadly though if you like a tipple with your curry you do have to head to a licensed establishment, in most cases hotels – and that’s how they get away with charging a premium for the food. Mind you I do think the dishes are very affordably priced for a hotel venue.

      • Penny Mackenzie February 17, 2013 at 3:02 pm

        It is on my list to visit before it gets too hot! The days fly by.

  6. Mehnaz February 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Like it was mentioned earlier. Indian fine dining always leaves us drawing comparison to the equally scrumptious affair that is available in most cheaper places. And for people like me who dont drink ‘THE FUSION’ elements are the main attraction really. For eg. Chef Vineet Bhatia’s saffron infused mashed potatoes.

    P.S I see that you liked BuQtair. You should try Al Afadhil in Sharjah for their delicious Kabaabs and OUT OF THIS WORLD LASSI!!! No other Lassi would ever stand a chance next to it!

    • FooDiva February 17, 2013 at 6:40 pm

      Quite right Mehnaz, why pay a premium for traditional food you can get in standalone restaurants? Love to try the Sharjah joint if I can find my way there :) ) Where is it exactly?

      • Mehnaz February 17, 2013 at 6:57 pm

        Its on al wahda street at the very beginning. After the bridge there is a KITCHERAMA showroom, you take the first service lane and then the second right. You will find it on your right hand side. I just tried googling it and found it marked !!! http://tinyurl.com/chp2pmk

        Its best to go on a weekday because weekends are awfully crowded. There are all of 5 items on the menu so we just go in and ask them to get the lot. You could ask them to ‘WASH’ the spice down if you dont enjoy SPICY food.

        • FooDiva February 19, 2013 at 8:02 am

          Many thanks! x

  7. Sarah February 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    African & Eastern keep a Sula Rose, it was ok as they go. Great review S x

    • FooDiva February 17, 2013 at 6:40 pm

      Thanks Sarah. x

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