At the new Indian restaurant Lazeez, everything tastes as good as it smells.
Restaurant review: Lazeez, Abu Dhabi
Walking up to Lazeez, a newly opened Indian restaurant on Hamdan Street in Abu Dhabi, the first thing that strikes you is the solid, studded door, in marked contrast to the floor-to-ceiling windows on each side. There's nothing to indicate whether the restaurant is open or not, so I squish my face against one of the windows and am startled by the sight of at least six waiters peering right back.
Then someone opens the door and my husband and I, feeling like royalty, are ushered in with much bowing and sweeping of arms.
The interior takes some getting used to, decked out as it is in pink and gold walls, bright paintings, beige-gold upholstery, lots of booths with curtains and sparkly chandeliers. There's even a glowing red sign that spells "Lazeez".
Then a smiling man in a tie and red coat shows us to one of the tablecloth-less tables, all set out with paper placemats, and I can't help but think that this restaurant needs to decide whether it is fancy or not.
When the menus are handed out, it takes me two minutes to find out that they have a selection of more than 12 different biryanis and immediately vote we try at least one of them.
So lamb boti masala (boneless lamb) biryani it is, and to accompany it we pick two kinds of kebabs - galouti and chicken tikka. I must mention here that chicken tikka might seem to be the unadventurous way to go about things, but it's the best measure of an Indian restaurant, especially one claiming to have secret, well-guarded Mughal recipes.
We also order roomali roti (paper-thin, tissue-soft bread) and a chicken curry, the Lazeez murgh handi special.
While we wait for the food to arrive, I discover that there is an upstairs, which turns out to be a cavernous space complete with small, majlis-style rooms furnished with low cushions and mattresses, allowing you to dine with your friends and enjoy your biryani in privacy.
Then our food arrives and takes my mind off the interior decoration. The galouti kebabs are immediately pronounced a winner: the minced meat is melt-in-the-mouth soft yet firm enough to stay on your fork. The chicken curry is aromatic, creamy and flavourful, and is perfect with the roomali roti, which must be consumed quickly; linger and it hardens so fast it cracks like poppadum. The biryani is presented in a largish earthen pot, sealed by a dome of puffed-out pastry. Everything tastes as good as it smells and I have to keep reminding myself to save room for dessert. For what's the point of enjoying rich Mughal cuisine if you can't relax afterwards with sweet treats, just like the sultans did?
As usual, we choose quickly: warm gaajar ka halwa (carrot and raisin pudding) and my favourite, ice-cold zaffrani ras malai (soft cottage cheese in a sweet, milk-based sauce with saffron) - both equally good and so subtly flavoured, it would be easy enough to devour second helpings, which my husband is keen on.
Restraint is a virtue, I tell him wisely, and we put down our empty bowls and walk out into the night, enjoying that wonderful feeling that comes after a particularly good meal.
A meal for two at Lazeez, Abu Dhabi, costs Dh200. For reservations, call 02 677 7070. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito
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