If there is one thing that can get me to go silent for a long stretch at a time, it is a biryani. Here is a dish I can have, morning, noon and night, if given a chance. The varieties of biryani in India are an assurance that you can spend a good part of your life discovering versions you never knew existed. Add to that the fact that every mother in the country will have her own well-guarded recipe, and you have a veritable gold mine of biryanis to sample.
Bangalore has quite a few regional varieties of biryani, each with a fiercely loyal fan following. I have eaten my way through Richies Mutton Biryani, the Fish Biryani of Meghana, the Andhra Mutton Biryani of Nagarjuna, the slightly drier version of biryani at Grand Hamza in Shivajinagar, the many Ambur Biryanis, the Donne biryanis, and loved them all.
I always think of biryani in terms of great taste and complete satisfaction when I lick my fingers clean at the end. I honestly don't look for a biryani to nail authenticity, because that is a very subjective thing. If it tastes great, bring it on. These are some of the biryanis in Bangalore that have lingered on in my mind long past their fragrance on my fingers.
A really happy discovery was that of Ta'aam, a small eatery tucked away in a basement on Queen's Road. The Laham Mandi is an Arabic version of the biryani which has the rice and meat cooking together in a stock overnight. The meal is available only post 1PM and finishes up rather quickly, so time yourself right when heading out. The Mandi comes on a large platter, good enough to serve two ravenously hungry souls. A large helping of rice and a massive portion of meat adorns the platter when it comes to your table. All you have to do is lift the bone and use a spoon to gently nudge of the meat. Believe me, a nudge is all it needs. The Mandi, though moist, is accompanied with a portion of Mandi soup, which you must sip noisily on, and some mint chutney with slivers of onion with lime juice. Don't even think of going back to work after this meal!
Laham Mandi with Mandi Soup
The walls of Khazana, a small restaurant nestled quite comfortably in Johnson Market, has a saying that goes, "Almighty gave us exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve it to you". And their beef biryani is a true testimony to their dedication in making things delicious. The beef is tender to the point of sin. In the greasiness lies the flavour of this dish, and a loud burp of satisfaction is but natural when you reach the end of your meal. The spice levels on this are a little on the higher side but in a lovely way.
The Beef Biryani at Khazana
I love miltry hotels and so far Ranganna Miltry Hotel in Jayanagar tops the list as far as its meat preparations go. But for biryani, or what they call pulao/palav, I think the honour goes to N V Naidu Miltry Hotel in Kalasipalya. The mutton biryani here comes with a peppery base and is accompanied by a gravy which gives it all its heat. The raita is more onion than curd and that little sliver of lemon you get in the bowl just adds to the burst of spicy flavours in your mouth. You may come out with your sinuses a bit clearer and it will be well worth the congested traffic you waded through to get here.
The Mutton Palav at N.V Naidu Miltry Hotel
The biryani at ITC Gardenia's Kebabs and Kurries looks quite nondescript when it comes to the table and the atta seal is broken with a flourish. When you first bite into the meat you know that it has been treated well, but the dish takes you to biryani heaven when you sample the rice. The meat is first cooked and its stock used to simmer the rice. To this, is added a range of aromatics and final drizzle of rose water. Do take the staff's advice and eat with your fingers here.
The biryani at Kebabs and Kurries, ITC Gardenia
I do have a few more I would like to add to this list, but am risking drooling on my computer and short-circuiting my motherboard. Can't have that now, can we! But just to put it out there, there is the mutton biryani from Biryani Mane, a relatively small joint in Jayanagar 7th block that always hits the spot for me and off-late the Shaadi ki Biryani from Empire has been creeping its way up my must-have list. These biryanis may not really make the cut as far as a good home-cooked one does, but they sure do come close enough when mom is not nearby to indulge you regularly.