The original Bukhara is a restaurant at the Luxury Collection ITC Maurya Hotel in New Delhi, India. Established way back in 1977, it takes its name and overall concept from the famous historical city of the same name in Uzbekistan (originally part of the Persian Empire and later much favoured by the great Khan, Genghis). This fully endorsed branch of Bukhara in Ajman opened its doors with the Kempinski in the late 90’s and has since been serving some of the best North Indian food in the UAE. I am lucky enough to have been to the original Bukhara in Delhi, and consequently to branches in Mumbai and even to ITC spin-off, Peshawari, in Kolkata. Having lived in the UAE since 1990 I have been looking forward to visiting Bukhara in Ajman for a long, long time.
The interior of Bukhara Ajman is very similar to the Delhi and Mumbai restaurants. Rustic-chic is how one reviewer described it. I was looking forward to trying a half dozen things, not least their clay-oven cooked kababs, perhaps the famous Sikandari Raan but 100%, without fail the slow cooked Bukhara Daal Makhani. So, I was delighted to find that, rather than a business lunch, they offer a thali of Bukhara favourites – veg or non-veg. At AED120 the non-veg thali is expensive by any standard, still it’s what my friend and I ordered. To drink we ordered my favourite, masala chaas (spiced buttermilk).
After a wait of about half an hour we were presented with two medium sized thalis which consisted of two pieces each of Fish Kabab and Chicken Tikka, a thick-set Rita, Jeera Aloo, Roghan Ghosht, spiced rice, Dahi Vada, a single Gulab Jamun and last but not least, the famous Bukhara Daal Makhani – signature dish of the restaurant. I cannot remember the last time I tucked into a meal with such eagerness and was so utterly disappointed. Chef J.P. Singh, Executive Chef of the original for over 30-years, would probably have the place shut down if he ate what was placed in front of us. The food at Sthan in Karama is ten times better.
The fish was well-seasoned and perfectly cooked, but one touch and my fingers were smelling fishy for the rest of the day. The Chicken Tikka was dry. I only managed one of the two pieces. The Dahi Vada was soggy and not a patch on the one I had at Chatori Gali in Karama yesterday. The Rita was super salty, even for my taste. The Roghan Ghosht was also salty, its meat nowhere near as tender as it should have been be. The Aloo Jeeri was also too dry. But the biggest disaster was the Daal. It was near solid. I turned my bowl over for my friend to see, nothing poured or fell out. Nor did it taste anywhere like it should have. I am so angry. This is sacrilege.
If there is a silver lining to this story it is the impeccable service we received from the initial greeting (by a happy, friendly, bubbly Nepalese young lady) and then from our amazing Bangladeshi waiter, Kazi. Together they showed us that the spirit of the original Bukhara is still alive…somewhere. Have I gone on a bit of a rant and over-spanked the baby? Probably but that’s only because I am so miffed. This is a restaurant I hold very close to my heart. Many of the references I have for dishes, particularly daal makhani, are based on the food I have eaten at one Bukhara or another. Don’t get me wrong, Bukhara Ajman is a good restaurant. What’s upset me is that it’s not great. It’s certainly not worth the money nor the drive out from Dubai.
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Xerxes physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue. Join me on Instagram @ravenousxerxes or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.