Chaat…..a synthesis of textures, a medley of flavours….a truly 360 deg dish.
Call it what you may, a light snack, nick nack or an appetiser, Chaat is an Indian invention that is truly irresistible. Its an experiment with flavours and textures, a perfect medley of diverse tastes guaranteed to tickle your buds. Chaat is a pan Indian phenomenon, where regional specialities abound with each region imparting its nuances to the dishes, as also there are pan Indian chaat dishes with regional twists such as Paani puri, aka Gol gappe, aka Puchka.
Some places in India stand out for the quality and inventiveness of their chaat preparations and instantly evoke a strong epicurian sensory response, followed by nostalgic longing to eat. Lucknow is one such place. Though Lucknow occupies mind space for meaty delights more than it does for vegetarian food, many are unaware that the place has a rich tradition of chaats, some so unique that they are only found in Lucknow.
One such place is Royale Cafe in Hazratganj, located in the heart of Lucknow right opposite the Hazratganj Metro station. So if you are in Lucknow, short on time and long on chaat desire do make it to Royale Cafe for chaat flavors of Lucknow.
Crunchiest paalak chaat….
The chaat variety at Royal Cafe is overwhelming, its not possible to get through past a few dishes if you happen to visit alone. If you are in a large group then probably you could get past half the menu. One of my favourite dishes is Palak chaat. The main body of the dish consists of spinach leaves coated with a secret batter and fried to perfection. These are then bathed in thick yoghurt and flavored with sweet and sour sauces. Before serving the dish gets a sprinkling of dry spices and fresh coriander to complete the experience.
Perfect crunchy, tangy start…..
Having tasted Palak chaat in some other parts of the country, I can say with authority that the one served at Royal Cafe Lucknow is by far the best that I have had. What separates it from any ordinary paalak chaat is the amalgamation of unique textures and flavours. As you take the first bite you are amazed by the crunch index of the dish…..and left to wonder as to how something bathing in yoghurt and sauces can retain its crunchiness…..for so long.
At Royale Cafe this dish acquires a sophistication like no other, no sauce no spice is wasted, each and every ingredient has a purpose that it fulfils, every note is heard and appreciated. Its an operatic performance in musical harmony.
An Aloo tikki like no other…
Aloo tikki (Potato cutlets) is the most ubiquitous chaat dish specially in North India and something that everyone loves to love. Before I tasted it at Royale Cafe it was difficult to imagine how good it could get, I always thought this is as good as it gets.
First and foremost its the quality of ingredients that you notice, the sauces both sweet and sour, the assortment of texture enhancing stuff, the yoghurt the dry spices different for each dish and finally served in kulhad to enhance its flavour and visual appeal.
Kulfi to end…..and why not
Though not as good as Prakash Kulfi in old Lucknow the one at Royale cafe is still a very fine specimen of its species. It is much better than the average fare that we get in Delhi. Again the quality of ingredients and the honesty of process and technique shine through the dish. It is creamy and thick and with various flavours to chose from can be a very fitting end to the chaat adventure.
Basket chaat………enormous chaat with monster flavors.
Location timing and how to reach….
The most convenient and efficient way is to catch the Lucknow metro. You need to get off at Hazratganj Metro station and Royal cafe is just a two minute walk.