Fun with vegetables at Rajhdani Street.

Whenever someone says Indian vegetarian, the first thing that comes to mind is a huge round platter (thali) with little bowls of assorted vegetarian curries and pulses, some rice, possibly some bread and a dessert all served at once, on the same thali.

Rajdhani Street serves traditional Indian dishes as well but since this is not your average vegetarian restaurant, there was a lot more going on than I could have imagined. We were served  magic potion’s in what looked like Harry Potter’s drinking glasses and green concoctions in test tubes straight out of a sci-fi flick. We even got to try pav bhaaji (thick vegetable curry) straight out of a fondue pot and experienced a dhokla pizza for the first time in our lives. This was a glimpse into the future of Indian Vegetarian food.

I was there at a blogger’s meet and had the pleasure of meeting some really cool Dubai food bloggers while  re-discovering vegetarian cuisine. The only regret was not being able to sample any of the main courses because I was so full on the appetizers. That’s what happens when you get an engaging conversation going on along with an endless supply of really good food. I am pretty sure I will return for the main course at some point but for now, here is a lowdown of the dishes thatI was able to sample.

Dhokla is a food item that originates from the Indian state of Gujarat. It is made with a fermented batter derived from rice and split chickpeas. It can be eaten for breakfast, as a main course, as a side dish, or as a snack. The guys at Rajdhani street made sure you can eat it as a late night takeaway dinner as well by turning it  into the dhokla p izza. Took me a while to get used to it but once I got going, there was no stopping me. I’m not sure if I can ever look at pizza the same way again!

I also enjoyed the paneer ka lifafas which were basically deep fried cheese pockets. Definitely not something you want to be seen around if you are on a low calorie diet but probably the best thing for mindless eating while engaging in a deep intellectual conversation about the future of food blogging in Dubai. A word of caution – they were highly addictive and you could end up stuck somewhere in the space time continuum after having a couple of these puppies. There was a possibility of eventually finding your way back to JLT, as long as you did not wash them down with the Maharajah Lassi or the Malabari Chas.

If travelling through different dimensions is not your thing, may I suggest the  Masala thumbs up, a magical potion from Hogwarts guaranteed to solve all your digestive issues or the Hara Pudina Shikanji (mint lemonade) a refreshing drink served in a tall test tube straight from Dr Jekyll’s lab.

My favourite dish of the day was the pav bhaji fondue. Pav bhaji is a popular street food from India  with many variations in ingredients and garnishes, but is essentially a spiced mixture of mashed vegetables in a thick gravy served hot with a soft white bread roll, drenched in butter. The dish originated in the 1850s as a fast lunchtime dish for textile mill workers in Mumbai.

A  fondue is a Swiss dish of melted cheese served in a communal pot over a portable stove heated with a candle or spirit lamp, and eaten by dipping bread into the cheese using long-stemmed forks. It was promoted as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union in the 1930s.

So this dish was essentially the fusion of a decades old Western staple with an Eastern street food classic. It was so good looking that I kept staring at it for a while before daring to destroy the immaculate presentation. The colour added by the spiced garnishes transformed it into something out of a Paul Klee original. It was almost too pretty to eat but when has that ever stopped a food blogger in the past? Sadly, I could not admire it for too long as my fellow bloggers were attacking this dish from all kinds of angles. So I joined in with them and like all good things, the Pav Bhaji fondue also come to an end. With it, the space in my stomach filled up and thus ended a wonderful evening. I excused myself from tasting any of the main courses but promised to go back and sort out my unfinished business.

RISO, The Italian Vegetarian.

I’ve always been a little envious of vegetarians. The power to say ‘No’ to a juicy burger (or a steak for that matter) puts them in a league above the rest of us mortals. That kind of self-control and resilience is unheard of in my circles, even though we do understand that vegetarians have a 12 percent longer life span than those who are not.

The funny thing is, they may not even be trying that hard. That revelation come to me as I nibbled on some mushrooms at Riso, the new vegetarian Italian kitchen in town.

Earlier, when someone said vegetarian food, I always pictured a raw carrot or a head of steamed broccoli but as the different items on the tasting menu were presented that day, I started to see vegetarian food in a completely different light.

So apparently, vegetarians don’t have any super powers at all (other than accidentally saving the planet perhaps). They don’t turn down a steak because of some great sacrifice to save humanity, they just know better. Why kill yourself by eating food that is harmful to you and the planet you live on when you have healthier options that can be just as appetising as your favourite non-veg options?

As a case in point, I love Pizza and I do sometimes get a little offended if it is not done right. If I begin to list down the number of restaurants that have destroyed my Pizza experience (including the biggest pizza chain in the world), this may turn into a completely different kind of post. The guys at Riso though, they get it. It was almost as if I had some divine connection with the pizza chef. There are a few others who do such pizzas in Dubai but that ultra-thin and crispy circle of perfection is what pizza dreams are made of.

So if you are not a vegetarian yet, you (like me) may have to do some soul searching soon and if you are one, well done – you guys had me fooled for a very long time. In any case, head down to the newly opened Riso Italian and discover this little gem for yourself.

PS Prepare to be surprised! If it looks like coffee and sounds like coffee, chances are that it may not be coffee at all. The Mushroom Cappuccino at RISO is actually the chef’s rendition of mushroom soup, served in a coffee glass complete with froth and all!

Riso Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato