ONE OF HOUSTON'S most celebrated new-ish restaurants, the upscale Indian outfit Musaafer in the Galleria, has a new spring menu that's said to blend two cuisines — including authentic Indian recipes, of course, and also Mexican — all highlighting local ingredients, with the fantastical modern techniques and gastronomy Musaafer is noted for.
Indian-born Chef Mayank Istwal previously worked in Mexico at the renowned Quintonil, where he learned about Mexican flavors. He was also said to be particularly inspired by salsas, as his native cuisine leans on the use of tomatoes in many of its dishes.
"Fast-forward to today," says a rep for the restaurant, "Mayank applies his Quintonil learnings in his new Mexican-inspired interpretation of butter chicken using tomatillos which are caramelized in custom tandoors with wild honey, cashew, cilantro and fenugreek. Other menu highlights incorporate the use of wild Texas bluebonnets … and a cocktail uses a custom root-to-stem tea blend."
The new mango and turmeric salad
Blackwood Farm in nearby Hempstead is a new partner of the restaurant and will contribute fresh produce to all the new dishes. One of them is features morels stuffed with the farm's Malabar spinach — an ingredient native to India's Himalayan region — with house-made malai cream, mushroom soil, spiced creamed cheese and garnishes of "yogurt stones" and granny smith compote.
New starters also include avocado chaat with corn crisps and tamarind and mint chutneys in a dish painstakingly crafted to look like a very real avocado. This kind of edible trompe l'oeil is one of the restaurant's favorite tricks; it also turns up in a now famous dessert from the original menu with yogurt, raspberry and pomegranate gussied up to looks like mushrooms.
A new salad of mango and turmeric incorporates "green mango carpaccio," burnt chili flakes and jicama. The Rizala entrée is a lamb chop, or you can substitute paneer, with rose petals, brown onion, serrano, cilantro and house-made roomali roti.
Pastry Chef Ruchit Harnej will introduce three memorable desserts, as well, including the Phirni, which is rice pudding with fresh black pepper, rose cremeux, spiced apple compote, prune cereal bar and a Texas bluebonnet mist. "Guests are invited to spritz the bluebonnet mist on their dominant hand," explains the restaurant rep, "filling the senses with the aromas of a lush floral field in each bite."
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