Opulence doesn’t attach itself easily to the word “relaxed”. The two always seem like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that don’t quite fit no matter how hard you try and jam them together. But in some rare instances, the two unlikely adjectives somehow meld steadfastly together.
This is exactly what you’ll discover when you walk into Qureshi, an immaculately put-together Indian restaurant within the confines of the Tournament Players Club (TPC), formerly known as the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club.
The restaurant exudes sophistication and splendour, with an ornate chandelier making an immediate statement and plush carpeting, elaborate copper plates and crisp linen adding to the general sense of opulence. But equally, it emanates an air of relaxed languor, with picture windows facing out to the perfectly manicured golf course, allowing your imagination to wander into a fantasy world of its own making.
Qureshi the restaurant has been in Malaysia for the past three years, but in India, the family name is a hallowed one marked by 200 years of cooking for the nawabs (rulers) of India.
The patriarch of the Qureshi family, octogenarian grand master chef Imtiaz Qureshi is often credited with reviving the ancient dum pukht method of cooking from the Awadh region and is so revered in his homeland that he has even been honoured with India’s fourth highest civilian award, the Padma Shri (he is currently the only chef to receive this recognition).
Imtiaz has even taught celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay how to master the complex dum briyani and nihari techniques; Ramsay was reportedly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work involved!
In Malaysia, Imtiaz’s son Ahsan Ali Qureshi has been integral in the running of Qureshi. A trained chef who learnt under the auspices of his father, Ahsan now focuses on the expansion and strategic development of the many businesses under the family umbrella, which includes Rangoli and Indigo in Abu Dhabi and Zaika in Dubai, among others.
Ahsan was inspired to start Qureshi in Malaysia after conducting lots of research and discovering that North Indian frontier cuisine was sorely missing from the local food tapestry.
“What I found was either South Indian cuisine or a fusion between South Indian and Malaysian food. In order to test the waters, I did a number of catering events to give Malaysians a taste of real Awadhi cuisine to gauge the local reaction. From there, it took me over a year to establish the Qureshi brand,” he says.
To ensure authenticity, all the restaurant’s spice blends are brought in from India, manufactured by the family’s company, Grande Cuisines Spice Company. Interestingly, each dish has its own distinct spice blend, made up of a secret mix of spices that only family members know.
The Awadhi cuisine that the restaurant is famous for also employs the use of highly specialised cooking techniques.
“Typically we use a round, heavy-bottomed pot, known as handi, in which food is tightly sealed and cooked over a slow fire. The sealing of the lid of the handi with dough means food cooks slowly in its own juices and retains all its natural aroma and becomes imbued with the richness of flavours that comes from the unique spice blend,” says Ahsan.
There are lots of mouth-watering options on Qureshi’s menu, but here’s where you should start: the rosemary tandoori prawns (RM50). The prawns have been given lots of head-to-tail attention and are perfectly cooked, retaining their plump rotundness while still being succulent. The dish is fiery with a nice char from the grill and rich spicy-herbaceous flavours surrounding it. The Goan pickle heaped at the bottom of the prawn pile-up adds tanginess to the offering.
Also from the tandoor is the Burrah kabab (RM55) or tandoori lamb chops marinated with spiced vinegar, potlee and Peshawari masala. The lamb here is tender, malleable and suffused with rich, spicy flavours.
From the briyani selection, have a go at the Dum Lucknowi briyani (RM55). This is the technique that put the Qureshi name on the map.
According to Qureshi’s head chef Harun Rashid, cooking the dish involves a labyrinthine process that includes making a stock, cooking the lamb and rice individually until each component is about 80% done and then cooking everything together on low heat with the stock, ghee and saffron and sealing the dough band that typifies the dum cooking.
It is laborious work and you’ve got to wonder if the end justifies the means. In this case, it totally does.
The briyani rice is fluffy and each rice kernel is separate and distinct; nothing sticks together. The lamb meanwhile, is in a class of its own – pull-apart tender and full of rich, aromatic flavours.
Another interesting offering from the menu is the Dal Qureshi (RM40). Although it’s essentially a dish of black lentils cooked with tomatoes and finished off with butter and cream, there’s more than meets the eye to this one.
“This dish can take the whole day to make. First, we soak the dhal for four to five hours, then we boil it, mash it and cook it very slowly – for three to four hours with tomato puree, garlic water, butter, cream and Kashmir chilli,” says Harun.
The result is a revelatory dish, one that is creamy and buttery, rich and decadent and still bursting with bouncy lentils in every mouthful. It’s a not-to-be-missed affair, in my books at least.
Qureshi makes its own rendition of the ubiquitous butter chicken (RM45) and it’s probably – scratch that – definitely the best butter chicken I’ve ever had. Creamy, tomato-ey, rich, slightly sweet and with large chunks of grilled chicken floating in this heady mixture, it’s one of those dishes you’d happily lap up all by yourself without feeling an overwhelming need to share.
Qureshi also has a great array of drinks to choose from. Like the Thandai (RM20), which offers lots of milky goodness in the form of cardamom, almonds, saffron and milk. It’s a soothing, sweet beverage elevated by the nutty almond bits and spice undertones.
If you’re after something a little more unusual, it is well worth trying the Jalzeera (RM18). Made with mango, cumin and fresh mint, this is a drink that doesn’t seem like it could possibly make any sense.
I mean, what place does cumin have in a cold beverage, right? Wrong. Because not only does the Jalzeera successfully straddle the sweet-savoury divide, it also manages to make cumin the star of a (surprisingly) good drink.
At this point, you’re probably thinking “Desserts? Don’t think so – way too full”. Well, I implore you to ignore your distended belly and do yourself a favour and order the Classic Rasmalai (RM25), a cottage cheese sponge surrounded by reduced milk enhanced with saffron.
The sponge is cottony soft and absorbs all the rich flavours of the sweet milk without descending into a soggy mess. It’s the sort of dessert you’ll think you can’t possibly finish, but will end up polishing off with gusto.
Ultimately, a meal at Qureshi is one that is immensely satisfying. Yes, you should be prepared to fork out a little more than you might be used to for the experience, but you’ll certainly get more than your money’s worth for this delectable Indian epicurean odyssey.
Ground Floor, East Lobby
TPC Kuala Lumpur
10, Jalan 1/70D, Off Bukit Kiara
60000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2011 1007
Open daily: 11.30am to 2.30pm; 6.30pm to 10.30pm