An eatery that offers a taste of traditional Keralite fare at an affordable price has Nishad Padiyarath reeling for more.
When was the last time you had a lip-smacking Thalassery biriyani? I do know that biriyanis are an indispensable part of the menu in just about many restaurants in Oman. Of the many varieties of the dish available, the Thalassery biriyani is a hot favourite. In fact, thanks to the popularity of this dish, Muscat has its own set of restaurants that offer it.
So, on a Saturday afternoon, my friend Azeem and I decided to try the dishes at Foodbook, an Indian restaurant located in Al Hail (right next to Muscat Lightings on the highway) that has already become a household name in the city.
From outside, Foodbook looks prominent, and offers a capacious car park, which is something that most restaurants in the city lack. The restaurant is well decked out, with tasteful décor and a congenial atmosphere. I chose Thalassery chicken biriyani, priced at RO1.50, while my friend selected chicken fried rice along with chicken manchurian, priced at RO1.7 and RO1.8, respectively.
“Over the years, Thalassery biriyani has made a name for itself in the biriyani world,” said Azeem, who hails from Thalassery, in Kerala, India.
In less than 10 minutes, our food arrived. The Thalassery chicken biriyani, with two hulking pieces of meat, was packed onto a very ornate-looking (and durable) platter, and had dishes on the side for salad and chutney.
My biriyani was soft and just spicy enough for me to tuck in with some gusto. More importantly, it was cooked skilfully enough so that my hand was not slathered with oil in so doing. The meat was tender and slid right off the bone, and the steamed rice was perfectly fluffy. It was a winsome combination that connoisseurs of biriyanis would certainly enjoy.
“The softness is a result of hours of keeping them on dum, which is a technique in which a vessel is sealed, usually with a strip of dough, and heated from both the top as well as underneath,” Azeem explained.
It was Azeem who had first suggested Foodbook and was impressed with my choice.
“The secret to the taste is that they do not use any kind of artificial flavours or seasoning whatsoever,” he said.
Unfortunately, Azeem was slightly deflated with his own selection. After sampling a spoonful, he murmured (between mouthfuls): “The curry is too spicy and the fried rice is too salty but it’s fine.”
The menu also offers Puttu Biriyani but I was told that the dish was available only in the evenings. “That’s one of their very popular dishes,” said Azeem, who remained cheerful despite his disappointment.
“You must try something else when you come next time. The beef Puttu Biriyani is just delicious,” he added.
Some of the other highlights of Foodbook include Foodbook Sadhya, Mutton Malabar style, Muzhuman Kochi Nirachathu, Mandi, different varieties of dosas and more. Diners can also quench their thirst with a special Foodbook tea.
At the end of our sumptuous lunch, we ordered juices. I chose Dragon Shake (a blend of ice creams and nuts) and Azeem chose Jugget Special (a blend of dry fruit and ice cream).
“I have no words. This is just too good,” said Azeem after drinking his juice. “You do not need to eat anything but just have this juice and it will fill your stomach,” he said with a smile.
Dragon Shake sure packed a punch. It had the right amount of sweetness but was a little bit heavy. As Azeem rightly said, it is not advisable to have these so soon after your lunch. The Foodbook juice menu also includes Date Ajwa (a unique blend of Ajwa date), Coco Crunch (a blend of chocolate cream and nuts), Magic Boy (a blend of mango and ice cream), all priced at RO1.5.
The total price of lunch for two was a very reasonable RO8.
And the tagline of Foodbook says: “There is no sincere love than the love of food…” and that goes well with this restaurant.
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