Masala Art owner Atul Bhola had told me he would offer some unusual dishes at his new Tenleytown restaurant, and I have to admit the gaulati kebab plate ($12.95) sitting before me is so different, I’m not even sure how to eat it.
The plate arrives with three lamb patties in the middle, surrounded by slices of crispy tawa parantha flatbread, a small bowl of creamy dal makhani, and a mound of aromatic rice. Bhola tells me it’s traditional to eat the kebab with the flatbread, which makes sense given the patties, despite being griddled on a tawa with ghee, have the texture of under-fried falafel balls. The parantha provides a much-needed element of crunch.
Bhola says the kebabs, prior to grilling, are ground six different times, which certainly explains their silken texture. On the last grind, he says, chef Surinder Kumar (formerly at Heritage India) adds saffron, dried chili peppers, rose petals, and other spices to the mixture. The raw ground meat is then smoked with cloves smoldering away in hot ghee.
It’s an extensive process that produces intensive flavors — a searing heat on the palate, which is accented, if not muted, by the floral qualities of the rose petals and the dark aromatics of the clove. It is indeed an unusual, perhaps even unique, experience, well worth trying if you happen to find yourself in the neighborhood of this quality Indian newcomer.