The Café Urbano bistro, located on the first floor of the Presidente InterContinental Hotel in Polanco, is currently hosting a two-week Indian gastronomic festival in conjunction with the Indian Embassy and the Gurudev Tagore Indian Cultural Center.
During the inauguration of the festival last week, Indian Ambassador Muktesh Kumar Pardeshi spoke about the close similarities in seasonings and cooking styles between Indian and Mexican cuisine.
“Of course, the two gastronomies are very different,” he said, “but both use an abundance of fresh ingredients and spices, and both incorporate rice and rich sauces to add flavor.”
Presidente InterContinental Polanco general director Guillermo Valencia V. added that the hotel has always strived to provide its guests with the best in both international and Mexican cuisine, and that the Indian food fest was part of an ongoing series of global dining experiences.
“We want to give the people in Mexico a taste of the rich culinary heritage of India,” he said.
And in order to ensure authenticity, the Presidente InterContinental and the embassy flew in two renowned master chefs from India’s upscale, state-run Ashok Group hotel chain, Radhe Bihari and Ashok Kumar Kanojia, to oversee the production of every dish.
The festival, which was launched on Wednesday, Aug. 30, and will run through Thursday, Sept. 14, showcases cuisine from the northern part of India, primarily Moghlai and Punjabi tandoori cookery.
While food in the south of India tends to include plenty of coconut-milk curries heavily seasoned with chili peppers and other spices, northern India cooking incorporates meat dishes, rich gravies, aromatic seasonings and, of course, the omnipresent tandoor oven.
Moglai cookery, the wholesome Punjabi fare, was developed at the royal courts of Delhi and Agra during the majestic era of the Mogul maharajahs, who were responsible for the building of the Red Fort and Taj Mahal in the early 17th century.
Unlike the spicy curries that predominate in the south of India, Moghlai gastronomy is known for its complexity rather than its torridity. Most South Asian connoisseurs consider it the haute cuisine of Indian cooking.
In Moghlai cooking, much use is made of sweet and aromatic spices, with Indian bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom considered the basic condiments.
Delicately seasoned sauces and succulent marinates replace the blistering hot Dravidian curries of India’s south.
The Café Urbano festival includes a sampling of both vegetarian and meat-based appetizers and snacks, including shrimp amritsari fried with sesame seeds, garbanzos and mint chutney, sautéed potato and pea samosas, bhune tomato and cilantro chowder and mushroom and spinach chicken broth.
The main course bill of fare includes tandoori shrimp with saffron, masala curried lamb chops and desi chicken stew.
Vegetarians can opt for a hardy lentil dahl oudhi chowder with cream, adroitly seasoned with an array of Indian spices, served with a bowl of sweet basmati rice.
For dessert, there are gulab jamun cheese dumplings in thick honey, saffron-and-almond flavor kesar badam kheer rice pudding and semola and pineapple custard.
All meals are served with freshly baked tandoori naan bread and crisp lentil poppadums.
Café Urbano is offering the special Indian cuisine menu during both lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday from noon to 10:30 p.m., and during a special brunch on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Additionally, the Epicentro bar in the Presidente InterContinental Polanco’s lobby is offering Indian snacks Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Also, there is a display of photographs of India provided by the Gurudev Tagore Cultural Center along the hotel’s walls surrounding Café Urbano and a small stand selling Indian handicrafts, jewelry and clothing.