The formula says: one restaurant, one review. However, within days of each other, I had the good fortune to be invited to visit two adjacent Indian restaurants and have opted to write a neighbourly combined summary.
Gazebo and Kamat are stalwarts of the local Indian restaurant scene. Located right next door to each other on Kuwait Street in Al Mankhool, they’ve been offering top notch Indian cuisine for decades and have achieved their own notoriety.
Gazebo has something of a traditional restaurant feel about it. The mood is created with low-level lighting in an atmosphere of rich, warm, earthy tones and linen napkins. Kamat, on the other hand, presents itself as a contemporary diner with fluorescent strip lighting, purple walls, circular mirrors and ultra-modern clean lines.
The differing interior design options show unique restaurant personalities but, of course, the real star of the show is always the food.
If I’m the only Caucasian dining in an Indian restaurant, then I know I’m on to a winner. Based on my visit, it would appear that Gazebo is the choice of the local community and I am shouting “vaahavaahee”.
Gazebo’s smart waiting staff were quick to acknowledge our hunger and swiftly brought an order of papadums. To accompany them, a lime chilli chutney, raw red onion (sliced in half) and lemon wedges. My fellow diner – who is of Indian heritage – explained that one should add lemon juice to Indian food “to avoid farting”. I’d never before heard this digestion tip but who am I to question this insider knowledge?
For my main course, I chose Dum Biryani, Gazebo’s signature dish. This was not a dumb decision; it was spectacular. Gazebo is fully justified in calling their Dum Biryani ‘legendary’. For this authentic dish, chicken and rice is placed into an earthenware pot (or ‘Handi’), the pot then sealed with dough and slow cooked.
I could barely contain my excitement as I cracked open the golden pastry covering to discover succulent chicken, yellow rice and the fragrance of a million Indian spices. And what a portion! There was surely three quarters of a chicken basking in this pot and certainly enough to feed a small army. Even my vegetarian companion was tempted to try the last spoonful of rice. He summarised the dish in one word; “delicious”. That’ll be the cooking juices of the chicken I quietly thought to myself.
As if things couldn’t get any better, we cheekily asked if we could keep the earthenware pot as a souvenir. I nearly fell off my chair when the waiter agreed without hesitation. Now, if only I could recreate that wonderful recipe at home…
Kamat – Gazebo’s next door neighbour – is a great veggie escapade. You’ll find no meat here at all but you will find a heady mix of authentic flavours and beautifully presented food. With over 310 delicacies from all corners of the subcontinent, it’s no wonder that vegetarians flock to this veggie haven.
To kick things off I ordered Masala Dosa. For anyone who isn’t familiar with this dish, I can only describe it as resembling an oversized ear horn or a toppled, pale witch’s hat. A HUGE but delicate, paper thin pancake megaphone. I didn’t know whether to pick it up and wear it or hold it to my mouth and shout “hallelujah” in praise of Kamat’s veggie offerings. Inside the rolled conical horn sat a small pot of cubed and spiced potatoes. I tore it all up and greedily devoured it within minutes.
This wonderful piece of culinary theatre was followed by delicious Hara Bhara Kabab – yummy fried patties of potato, spinach, green peas, all topped with a cashew nut.
And just for the love of vegetarian food, we ordered Chaat Sev Puri too. This is a truly scrumptious type of street food that’s also served in the swankiest of restaurants. It’s a mixture of puffed rice with sev (crunchy noodles), onion, tomato and chutneys. It tastes crispy, soft, sweet, spicy, tangy and tongue-tingling all at the same time. If you’re ever wondering what to do with your spare breakfast Rice Crispies, save them for this recipe.
My advice: spend an entire week, alternating between both restaurants and work your way through both menus. You won’t be disappointed.
Both restaurants receive: 7/10