x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Restaurant review: Classics and quinoa done right at Biryani Pot

Biryani Pot is a little fancier than your average carbs-heavy shopping centre slop merchants.

Biryani Pot’s sit-down space is dotted with cream couches and formica furniture. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
Biryani Pot’s sit-down space is dotted with cream couches and formica furniture. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

At a mall as designer-label swanky as The Galleria on Al Maryah Island, you almost wouldn’t expect to find a food court of any sort beyond fully fledged bars and restaurants. It follows, then, that the venue for the self-proclaimed “food for the soul” spot Biryani Pot is a little fancier than your average carb-heavy shopping centre slop merchants. The Galleria’s wooden walls mesh nicely with Biryani Pot’s cream couches and formica furniture, plus there’s an impressive wall of jarred spices and assorted foodstuffs. OK, with plastic cutlery and plates, it’s far from a romantic date spot. But for fulfilling the twin needs of enjoying a hearty meal while relaxing in your surroundings, there’s little to complain about.

The menu, accordingly, doesn’t entirely lend itself to the starter-main status quo, so we opted for an opening salvo of roasted paneer tikka and naan bread. The generous cottage-cheese chunks of the former, flavoured with mint and yogurt, were firm and filling. Judging by the somewhat tepid temperature of the whole-wheat-flour naan, however, it didn’t appear to have come straight from the tandoor.

From the moment that we arrived and perused Biryani Pot’s menu, our eyes were immediately drawn to the quinoa biryani. It’s a commendably healthy take on a dish that can often leave you in a weighed-down, post-dining state of inanimate wallowing in its regular guise. Nutrition nuts take note: the boxes “organic” and “gluten-free” – the restaurant claims that it’s also cholesterol-free – are ticked with protein-tastic aplomb.

Filled to the bread-covered brim of one of the restaurant’s signature clay bowls and with bite-sized helpings of mixed vegetables, having previously shelled out for quinoa in its raw state, we can testify that Dh40 is nothing short of a steal in quantity alone. The quality, thankfully, is similarly second to none – to the degree that my dining partner, who began the evening with the caveat “I’m not really that hungry” does an about-turn and gets properly stuck in to the grainy goodness. We jokingly wondered if takeaway customers have to return the cute bowls after consuming their meal – a question to be answered another day, as we’ll likely be ordering out for a quinoa biryani in the future.

A nifty way to test out a newcomer against its rivals is by ordering a classic. Dispensing with any Indian naming variations – quite possibly in acceptance of the international clientele that Biryani Pot hopes to snare – the butter chicken was warm, creamy and tender. And all of the above really is fast food, too, arriving in under 10 minutes.

Desserts were presented in less generous measures, but priced bet­ween Dh10 and Dh12, perfectly agreeable, considering you’d have to be a glutton to have wanted to chew on any more by this juncture. The rasmalai, a small disc of cottage-cheese dumpling in condensed milk, compared very favourably to most versions we’ve sampled in the past. And the kheer – sweet, slow-cooked rice in milk – was a light-greenish concoction that had just the right amount of cardamom and saffron to avoid becoming overpowering.

Gourmet fast food has boomed out of almost nothing in recent years, but while burgers and the like have been extensively explored and given the treatment the world over, the middle ground is rather sparser for Indian cuisine. There’s not much else that successfully bridges the gap in Abu Dhabi between a plethora of backstreet secrets and high-end hotel dining. And, at less than Dh150 for more than what two average-sized eaters can manage to devour in a single sitting, Biryani Pot puts many posher, pricier Indian restaurants to shame.

• A meal for two at Biryani Pot, The Galleria, Abu Dhabi, costs Dh145. For more information, call 02 676 6555. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito