‘Charcoal’ cheers up Indianness in Bangkok….reports Jaideep Sarin
A ‘Spice Library’ with traditional condiments from all corners of India, Mumbai’s famous ‘Dabbawalas’, an Indian mixology concept at the bar to fire up your drinks and a restroom where you can hear the lively noises of Delhi’s famous Chandini Chowk area – all of this and more are on offer at the most unlikely of places, Bangkok.
In the Thai capital’s ever-busy Sukhumvit area, the Charcoal Tandoor Grill and Mixology has raised the bar for authentic Indian cuisine and that is evident from it being a runaway success, especially among foreigners. Located on the fifth floor of Fraser Suites in Sukhumvit’s Soi 11, Charcoal is not only about Indian food but also the tradition that is behind the popularity of this food.
“Charcoal offers authentic tandoori kebabs, char-grilled over glowing embers in our copper-clad ovens. People can enjoy the delicacies that come from the house of the Royal Moghuls,” Derrick Gooch, the general manager of Fraser Suites, told as he excitedly took me through a brief journey about Charcoal’s existence, its food and the idea behind the effort.
“We wanted our food to be real, authentic Indian. We spent considerable time in India to pick the best chefs and cooks, raw materials and equipment. All our spices for the restaurant and other raw material still comes from India to ensure that authentic taste,” Gooch, who once worked with a leading resort near Gurgaon and has been settled in Thailand for the past nearly 14 years, pointed out.
The popular celebration dishes, made from centuries-old recipies, at Charcoal include murg angaar (charcoal), murg malai kebab, tandoori malai broccoli, sikandar ki raan (tender lamb), the softest possible paneer tikka and dum biryani.
“Our DNA is kebabs. We offer only two types of gravies in Indian food. We get a lot of foreign guests and they really relish the char-grilled food here,” told restaurant manager Vijay Kamble, who worked in a leading hotel chain in Mumbai before moving to Bangkok.
The Sunday brunch buffet (@ 999++ THB (Thai baht)/almost Rs,2000 per person) offers vegetarian and non-vegetarian kebabs with Indian breads.
“We lay a lot on stress on retaining the original flavour of the spices that we use. The idea is to ensure that our clients should be happy having Indian food here,” told chef Manzoor, who hails from the City of Nawabs, Lucknow.
There’s a unique about Charcoal.
The restaurant boasts of a whole wall that is a Spice Library. Spices are kept here in a traditional way while sharing information about them. Another wall depicts the Mumbai Dabbawalas concept in all its colours.
Even the restroom in the restaurant is inimitable. “The moment you enter it, you will hear the real-time sounds of Delhi’s famous (and chaotic) Chandini Chowk area. The sound of vendors and honking of horns does not let you miss out on Delhi’s life,” Gooch pointed out.
The restaurant also offers the best variety of ‘paan’ (betel leaf) – straight from the popular Prince Paan Shop in New Delhi’s GK market. It is priced at THB 100.
“Our paans are the most authentic and fresh ones. We use Kolkata and Banarsi betel leaves. To suit the convenience of our foreign guests, we have smaller sized paans too,” Dev Singh, who hails originally from Nepal but has settled in Delhi for over three decades, said.
But what takes the cake is the Charcoal bar where lies the Mixology Studio. Signature cocktail creations come alive in a sophisticated industrial setting here.
“The cocktails here are combined with Indian spices to fire them up. We have a unique style of presentation too,” Kamble pointed out.
Cocktails like New Delhi Duty Free, comprising spices, honey, Bacardi, watermelon juice and mango, are served in a bottle-jar which is packed in a transparent plastic bag (like the ones in which liquor bottles are packed at duty-free shops at airports) along with a dummy Indian passport.
Other spiced up cocktails include Horn Ok Please (betel leaf, basil and gin), Mufftey Mai (gin and cucumber in a glass laced with chaat masala), 1947: Independence, Sialkot’s Gun Powder, Kolkata Rickshaw Fuel and many more.
At Charcoal, one will have to cook up excuses to explain over-eating!!