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March 11, 2010

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Indian delights at Bukhara

SINCE opening its doors in 2006, Bukhara Indian Grill and Lounge has quickly established itself as one of the best Indian restaurants in Shanghai.

Set in a three-story building in Hongqiao area's bustling Hongmei Road, Bukhara has become a mecca for those seeking authentic dishes using fresh ingredients.

With extensive vegetarian offerings and a team of seven Indian chefs tending three 600-kilogram clay tandoor ovens imported from India, the kitchen specializes in rustic food from the rugged northwestern frontiers of India.

"The only thing we bring in from the outside is the raw materials; we make everything else ourselves," says Vinod Maini, Bukhara's director. "Only Indian chefs make our food because we want our guests to enjoy authentic Indian food."

The restaurant has a ground-floor bar with a range of beers including Erdinger on tap and a full complement of spirits, cocktails and wines. The second floor is a 100-seat restaurant fitted out with dark-wood rustic furniture and Indian artwork and murals.

Diners can see the Indian chefs rolling out breads and grilling dishes on the charcoal grill in an open kitchen.

On the third floor Bukhara has a banquet hall and function area that can accommodate groups as small as 30 or as large as 150.

Apart from the quality of its Indian cuisine, Bukhara also has a dedication to providing genuine vegetarian cuisine.

Members of the families who run the restaurant are committed vegetarians and ensure that there are separate vegetarian cooking areas and one of the most complete selections of vegetarian curries and grill options anywhere in the city.

Bukhara has a range of classic char-grilled dishes and meat curries to satisfy the most enthusiastic of carnivores.

As a starter, try Bukhara's samosas. Their version of this classic Indian snack are light and crispy on the outside and plump and packed with fragrantly spiced vegetables and whole cashews.

Also to nibble on is the barbecued paneer cheese. Made in house, the cheese has a texture similar to ricotta. The paneer is char-grilled to give it a delightful smoky flavor and is accompanied with red and green grilled peppers.

Also from the char-grill, Maini recommends the mutton chops, one of Bukhara's signature dishes.

Like other dishes, the chops are prepared with an exacting technique, being marinated for 24 hours to make the meat tender and imbue it with complex Indian spice flavors. It's easy to see why these large succulent chops are a house favorite.

Also from the grill, the magnificent whole king fish is a testament to the skills of the chef.

Spices are rubbed into the scoured skin and the whole fish is delicately grilled to maintain the moisture in the flesh.

Finished perfectly with a squeeze of fresh lemon, this dish exemplifies the stunning simplicity with which southern Indian recipes handle seafood.

Other curries include a rich and creamy butter chicken and a fiery rogan josh.

Both curries are free of food colorings and use only natural ingredients - an approach Bukhara takes with all its dishes.

For vegetarians, the dhal is a highlight. Using black lentils - a lentil variety not often spotted in Indian restaurants around Shanghai - the dhal is cooked very slowly for 24 hours. The long, slow cooking makes for a thick, flavorsome example of this vegetarian staple of Indian cuisine.

Diners can also find one of the most exhaustive lists of Indian breads at Bukhara. From stuffed parantha, to giant-sized naan, the Indian chefs skillfully utilize the clay tandoor ovens to produce 11 different types of handmade breads.

Bukhara's Indian desserts are not to be missed. They are all made on site and the traditional gulub jamun - a fresh milk dumpling served in a hot sweet syrup - and classic phirni are must-try. It is a cold crushed rice and milk pudding, and both dishes are freshly made that day and a sweet finish to a great meal.

Bukhara is great value on weekends, offering a buffet brunch from 11am to 3pm. With more than 45 items on its al-a-carte menu, the buffet also includes free flow beer, juice and soft drinks for 150 yuan (US$22) for adults and 80 yuan for children.

Lunch during the week is also good value, with five courses for 80 yuan, including soft drinks and tea and coffee.

For lovers of Indian food, this restaurant provides both value for money and a chance to experience some of the best Indian cuisine in Shanghai.


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