There was a time – briefly – when a food aggregator app was selling biryani for a meagre Rs 19. But a sordid portion of overcooked, coloured rice with flavourless meat selling as biryani left true-blue biryani lovers rather disappointed. Taking things up a notch, the latest entrant in the food delivery space—Iktara—a new delivery-only service in Mumbai, by celebrity chef Amninder Sandhu, is one that brings home Sandhu’s signature dishes, which draw from regional cuisine and her classic slow cooking techniques. And that’s why you should be excited about Iktara, the celebrity chef’s all-new Indian comfort food brand, which she has launched with long-time restaurateurs Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf—the team behind The Table, Magazine St Kitchen and Mei 13.
Team LF decided to sample a few of this food delivery service’s signature dishes and here are our recommendations. For appetisers, we tried the jackfruit kakori kebab and dahi kebab that disappeared faster than we would have liked. The jackfruit kebab, made with pounded jackfruit, resembles a galouti that is brimming with Indian spices, without being over-powering. It could use a little smokiness but was a winner with the vegetarians, as well as the non-vegetarians. The fresh mint chutney bursting with flavors made for the perfect dip. The dahi kebab was an instant hit—thanks to its portion size and subtle flavours. Delicious melt-in-your-mouth discs made of paneer, and perhaps softened further with mawa, topped with hung curd, chole, and a mix of freshly pounded jeera powder and other spices, topped off with a medley of chutneys that lend a sweet and tangy profile to the chaat-like creation. We tried the meaty Naga pork roll, which didn’t quite add up with its unimpressive mix of onion, mirchi and chutney overpowering the natural umami flavours of pork cooked with bamboo shoot and the lack of punch from the Naga chili.
For mains, we tried the evergreen sarson ka saag sans makke di roti. The saag came with a luscious finish and a palatable hint of bitterness—characteristic of an authentic sarson ka saag recipe. The Sandhu Saab’s chicken curry is a signature dish with a toothsome and balanced flavour–reminiscent of Kolkata’s much-loved chicken rezala. The curry had hearty portions of chicken cooked in a robust white curry infused with subtle Indian spices, such as pepper, in a creamy texture. To end the meal on a sweet note, we ordered kaali gaajar ka halwa made with black carrots slow cooked in ghee and spices with a palpable cardamom-y flavour. It was downright decadent. Not overtly saccharine and rich, the gajar ka halwa is another Sandhu classic worth a try.
For a fair pocket-pinch and Value for Money—Ikatara sounds like a fine addition to the Indian food-delivery space. But why the name? The moniker comes from the eponymous single-string instrument. “We went back and forth on several names, but Iktara made sense because our moto is food that strikes a chord,” Sandhu explains. Sandhu’s emphasis on slow-and gasless-cooking has helped her carve a niche for herself and will continue to underscore what she offers through Iktara. Her classic dishes such as mango wood smoked chicken, mutton seekh kabab, murgh malai tikka, and gosht ka halwa also feature on the menu here. Interestingly, you can convert all their appetisers to rolls.
Speaking about the hallmarks of Iktara as a delivery outfit, Devidayal explains, “You might get biryani for as less as Rs 100 through the cloud-kitchens that are operating on the delivery model, but we’re not competing on price, we’re competing on quality.”
What’s next? Amninder Sandhu, Gauri evidayal and Jay Yousuf are also working on a full-fledged Indian restaurant set to open later this year. “But that’s going to take some more time. Since we had ready infrastructure and resources at the Magazine Street Kitchen [an experimental culinary space from the Food Matters stable] it made sense to kick off delivery,” Devidayal concludes.