On my umpteenth visit to Manvaar last night, I realized that I haven’t written any review of this restaurant, in spite of it being in my top favourites! Yes, that happens. When a restaurant becomes your go-to-place on the slightest of hunger pangs, you are bound to relish the food than thinking of reviewing it. Perhaps, Manvaar is a kind of place that doesn’t need a review as such, but an ode! It needs to be celebrated. It may not become an institution any soon like the legacy restaurants but sometime in future it might.
We stumbled upon Manvaar in our first year in Dubai in 2011, and have been going there ever since. There might be other Rajasthani restaurants in town (like Bikanerwala), but Manvaar presents the fiery side of Rajasthan. It encapsulates the spirit of the desert and brings to fore the rural cooking of the state. The authentic style of cooking that relied on few ingredients and spices that were available in the harsh topography. So you see a lot of desert beans, dry vegetables, red chilli paste based curries enhanced by yogurt and garlic and barbeque items. It’s the food of the warrior clan called Rajputs who relied on game meat and enjoyed their food. But there are other communities also in Rajasthan who feast on vegetarian food, like Marwaris. So you will see a lot of diversity in the menu of Manvaar that offers a sneak peek into the ordinary everyday cooking of Rajasthani people.
Whenever we have anyone visiting us from India or elsewhere, we take them to Manvaar. It’s like the high point of culinary art for us. Not the rich food fit for kings & noblemen, but the simple honest food that’s high on flavours & authenticity.
For those visiting Manvaar for the first time, one strict advice: Please don’t order from their North Indian menu. This is where the catch is. People tend to order the familiar like butter chicken but don’t fall into that trap. It might be good, but it isn’t the reason you are here. I think the restaurant had included the popular North Indian menu so to tap the people who might not want to have Rajasthani cuisine or haven’t tried it. But trust me, once you have Rajasthani cuisine, you’d always have it.
And it’s not just about food. Even the famed Rajasthani hospitality could be glimpsed at Manvaar, where the servers treat you like acquaintances than customers. Over a period of time, you would just show up and they would know your order (if you are ordering the same thing over and again like I order my Special Chicken). The ambience is truly reflecting the Rajasthani culture and art like the jharokhas, tribal art, knick knacks etc. They have been enhancing the ambience quite seldom, so you might see something new every time. Before you even order, the server will bring the garlic & red chilli chutney, green chutney, papad, sprouts and roasted green chillies. But go slow, by the time food arrives, your appetite must have been whet and tongue already on fire.
The best dish at Manvaar ought to be Laal Maas. Literally meaning red meat, this dish is feisty in its spice quotient. Made in a red chilli paste, yogurt and garlic, it was a dish of the royalty. I have had many spicy versions in Rajasthan, but the one available at Manvaar is a mellow version, since the clientele here wouldn’t be able to take that much spice. If you are not a fan of red meat, then Manvaar Special Chicken is a must try, which essentially is the same curry.
Kair Sangri is another regional dish you may try, it’s a thick curry of peas and desert beans. Gatte ki Sabzi is a must, which features on all Rajasthani Thaalis wherever you eat. Dumplings in a yogurt based gravy, Gatte ki Sabzi is best enjoyed with their Bajra rotis. Papad is Subzi is a fusion of crunchy and spicy. Kurkure Palak is a novel dish which I have only had at Manvaar. Crunchy bits of spinach with subtle spices, a good starter.
Kadi is also as good as it should be at Manvaar, available in many versions – with pakoras, onions, beans or plain. Banjara Maans is dry dish with a lot of garlic. Dal Bhaati Churma is pretty good for those looking for a heavy meal. Try their Namak Mirchi ka Parantha if you can handle so many spices in one platter. I always order this spicy parantha with my Special Chicken, a double whammy to the tastebuds. Their chappatis are very small, request for a little dab of ghee, else they will douse it in ghee. Finish off the meal with Jaljeera, another spicy drink but good for digestion. They have a variety of mouth fresheners and jaggery also, take a handful, because the desserts aren’t their strong point.