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A big fat Indian Christmas in Mumbai's Bandra | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis

Christmas is the time when the resident chef in every family ensures that dinner is an elaborate affair with meat, prepped and cooked a dozen different ways, gravies like sorportel, xacuti sannas, and sweet delights of guava cheese, kulkuls, baath/plum/rum soaked cake or coconut stuffed sweets that resemble half moons.

Arth, a swanky new Bandra eatery, tries to replicate this seasonal decadence by fusing small portions of North Indian cuisine with typically Christian recipes in a fabulously fat 'Christmas thaal'.

While the concept of fusion can become one glorious mess, the thaal, barring a few mishmash offerings, turned out be an exciting endeavour. Chef Amnindar Sandhu, a regular traveller and collector of exotic ingredients, has helmed the new Bandra eatery as gasless kitchen, where everything is made on charcoal or tandoor and in pure copper and aluminium vessels. Sandhu experiments with Indian food only, focussing on North Indian and Northeastern, which reflects in the thaal she offers us.

Setting the festive tone at the entrance stands a large and beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Gold-brown tinted interiors, complete black and white travel photographs, ornate chandeliers and old jazz tunes in the background cement the feeling of holiday warmth. Our table, for instance, was partially barricaded with gold bars, with contrasting dull cushions and a tiny bowl of red and green poinsettia.

Within minutes of sitting down, we're served a shot of beetroot and carrot welcome drink called kanji. The sour taste leaves us salviating for the thaal, exactly as intended. Feeling ambitious, we opt for both the veg and non veg thaal, and the attendants are kind enough to accomadate our request by serving the portions in a single thaal.

The thaal itself holds many surprises — sheer size being the first. It sits there, occupying almost the entire table, and we Insta-foodies have a hard time fitting its 28 inches diameter into one frame!

The show-stealers, among the starters, are the pies; lamb-and-ale pie, with shredded, tender lamb, and morrels-and-mushroom gucchi pie, baked with a delightful pattern of holly leaves. Also impressive were the smoked beetroot cutlets, juicy smoked lamb chops and the Bharwan tangri, or chicken drumsticks with the right amount of grease and spice.

We are then served cool punch and hot wine — together. While the combination does nothing for the tastebuds, the drinks are sharp and sassy in their own right. Dressed to the Christmas nines is syrupy red Rudolph punch of reducted rhododendron, pineapple and coriander in a goblet lined with silver sugar balls. Dispensing the wintry chill was the classic mulled wine, generous with spices (read: extra-long cinnamon stick with star anise) that instantly opened up our senses for the long menu ahead, though we'd prefer it slightly hotter.

The main course on non-veg platter spelt more pleasant fusion food: turkey biryani – a long leg of turkey in fragrant rice, and duck moilee – thick and sour gravy with succulent duck pieces. We are sceptical of the sound of 'cranberry kabuli pulao', which, although slightly sweet, is salvaged by a spicy counterpart of creamy mashed potato, called truffle chokha.

It is a delight to see two very Christian offerings: 'foogiyas — soft, fried balls of East Indian bread, and sannas — steamed rice cakes that felt could do with more toddy, as now they felt like puffy idlis. But this bland item is soon forgotten for the strong, flavourful coconut gravy of paneer moliee (with the typical yellow broth of the south Indian meen moliee).

By the time the desserts arrive, we're stuffed. But how can one resist the curious fusion of kulfi on a stick, dipped in a glass of eggnog, and topped with semolina, nuts and basil seeds? Unfortunately, despite an unusual plating of two strawberry cinnamon cornets planted on a bed of white pebbles, the dish doesn't work for us. The problem is with the size – small as can be, it is gulped down in one bite, leaving us without a chance to really experience the crispy cones with yoghurt and strawberry fillings.

The winner is a usual suspect — a glass of piping hot chocolate, made cheerful with marshmallows. You just can't go wrong with this one, can you?

Our verdict: The thaal is an example of how too many good things together can be overwhelming. The quantity is too much for two (no complains there), but be prepared to carry home a few doggy bags. Eat light the entire day, and take take a friend to be your partner in crime. The more, the merrier!

With inputs from Sriparna Samajdar

Where: Arth, Plot No. 604, Pinnacle House, P D Hinduja Junction, 15th Road, Khar, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050

Time:12pm-3pm | 7pm-1am

Date: Till January 1, 2018

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