Falah Al Ajmi, the Kuwaiti restaurateur with a deep understanding of the finer nuances of South Indian cuisine is the driving force behind Dakshin Bharat Hotel in Fahaheel.
Al-Ajmi recently spoke with the The Times Kuwait about his dream venture, the Dakshin Bharat Hotel – about how it came to be realized, and about his aspirations to develop the brand so that it comes to embody the best of South Indian cuisine.
Al-Ajmi began by saying, “Earlier I was a ship captain, but an unfortunate accident cut short my marine career and forced me to think of an alternative line of work. I have always loved cooking and enjoyed good food, so combining my passion for cooking with my love of good food led me to the restaurant business. My family and I love Indian food, but Indian cuisine is so vast and there were plenty of Indian restaurants in Kuwait. To stand apart from the crowd, I needed to specialize in one particular cuisine.
“So I traversed various Indian states, visited the best restaurants there, and dined on some great food while getting to understand some of the techniques and procedures involved in Indian cooking. It was a difficult choice to make between the excellent foods on offer in various regions of India, but ultimately I honed in on South Indian cuisine. Once I had decided on the cuisine, then I started at the bottom and began learning all the finer points that take a good South Indian dish and makes it excellent. I even joined cooking classes to understand the various intricate nuances of South Indian cooking.
I then set about selecting a team of chefs who would help me realize my dream of opening Dakshin Bharat Hotel. Following rigorous on the spot interviews with chefs in many Indian states, I selected the very best available to work at the restaurant. Then came the task of designing the restaurant menu to meet my high standards and expectations. I wanted to serve the best of South Indian cuisine and offer a menu that would attract even the most sophisticated palate. I worked with my talented team of chefs to replicate South Indian dishes, while retaining the essence of their flavors and their culinary roots.
To ensure the brand image and provide high-quality dishes consistently, Al-Ajmi ensuresthat all his staff undergo regular training and he personally makes surprise inspections to make sure everything is clean and working as planned. “Training and constant checks are very important to ensuring my food retains its consistent quality. I want my diners to feel comfortable, especially when they bring their families, and I want them to feel assured that we maintain the highest standards of hygiene and cleanliness,” he said.
The same standards are enforced to every level in the restaurant, with ingredients sourced fresh from trusted vendors and the food remaining natural and healthy, with no harmful coloring or artificial flavor enhancers such as ajino-moto. “I don’t want any artificial coloring in my food and I insist that my chefs cook in a way that preserves the cornucopia of natural flavors present in Indian cuisines,” he added.
“I am well aware of the Indian community’s love and appreciation for good food. I want Indians, as well as Kuwaiti families to come here and experience for themselves the authentic taste of Indian dishes. I want this to be a place where people feel confident enough to bring their family and friends,” he said.
The restaurateur has also started a special promotion to allow members of the Indian community from all walks of life to savor true and quality Indian food, by offering a ‘Thali’ selection where a substantial full meal is at a special promotional price.
Elaborating on his future plans, Al-Ajmi said, “I intend to launch a biryani festival, and also introduce seafood to the menu. In addition, I am looking at providing a traditional ‘sadya’ (feast) once the specialized chef joins us. I also plan to introduce a buffet option for diners shortly.”
The restaurant’s main dining area features sleek white walls embellished with shimmering gold colored curtains. Private cabins for families or friends to enjoy their meal in privacy are also available. Once seated, you are offered the menu on an iPad that allows for quick browsing of all the items on offer. Dishes offered are in generous portions and reasonably priced.
Breakfast options include South Indian favorites such as Vada and Idli along with flavorful sauces. The dining options begin with a starter section that has tasty pickings from the DBH Special Puri Chat and the crisp samosas. The sea soup with chunks of well-cooked fish are another way to begin your meal.
The main dishes include among others the Bamboo biryani, the Bamboo Chicken Biryani and Dum Biryani, cooked using traditional South Indian techniques that are unique in not only the way they are cooked, but in the flavors they retain. Meanwhile the traditional Tamil Nadu Lemon rice is infused with the distinct tangy taste of lemon blended into the soft fluffy rice. Another authentic dish, this time from the South Indian state of Kerala, is the Kaapa Biryani, which is a wholesome blend of tapioca and beef, with the soft meat providing a distinct contrast to the chewy tapioca.
Vegetarians are also treated to wonderful options of freshly prepared Dal, or Mixed Vegetable Khorma, the South Indian dish that has the perfect blend of fresh vegetables flavored with coconut and spices. To round-off your meal, try the DBH Special Falooda, an ice cream concoction laden with fresh fruit.
Overall, Dakshin Bharat Hotel is an exceptional place to dine, and fulfils its promise of fantastic South Indian food.
BY CHRISTINA PINTO