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    NCPA'S Rangoli - Five star buffet for song

The restaurant operates on the principle of daily visits by regular customers, and all Nariman Point is its customers, so everything is changed every day, including the rice. You have steamed rice, fried rice, khichdi, brown dhanshak rice, etc.

IF you are working at Nariman Point and can afford a five-star lunch, you have a choice of buffets at the Oberoi's Palms and the NCPA's Rangoli (managed by the Taj). I do not want to influence your choice _ try both. But this piece is about Rangoli.

Buffet timings are 12.30 p.m. to 3 p.m., all seven days of the week, plus, at weekends, Saturday and Sunday, there is a dinner buffet, 8 p.m. to 1.30 a.m. The price per head is Rs.175, inclusive of all taxes (as against Palms Rs.250, plus 25 per cent tax, making a grand total of Rs.320), and it is an excellent spread, I assure you of that. Eat hearty.

The restaurant is on the ground floor of the main Tata Theatre. You enter through the garden, next to the main gate of the theatre. A small glass entrance, with a smaller sign, is all there is to indicate the large and comfortable dining area inside. Like all things designed by the Tatas, the ambience and the decor are elegantly subdued. The place seats 160, very comfortably, with large empty spaces around; it can seat another 70, and does, on special occasions. The main attraction, of course, is the central buffet table, and any afternoon you will find it heavily laden with food, fuel-heated in large copper (repeat: copper) chaffing dishes. They have been prepared by Chef Navneet Tharwal, ex-Rendezvous and one of the Taj group's frontline cooks. At this point, I may mention the manager also, the very enthusiastic Mukesh Kumar, ex-Sea Lounge, ex-Tanjore, ex-Shamiana. He has been at the Rangoli for a little over a couple of months and already his presence has been felt.

And, so, on to lunch. I will describe my afternoon there. The waiter brought the soup to the table, though you may help yourself to it, ladle it out of a large black matka. The tureen is fitted into the matka and it is kept warm with an electric fire. The soup of the day was rassam, nice and thin, and, considering the number of foreigners with their weak stomachs present, surprisingly peppery. Prepared from masoor dal and tomatoes, with the typical South Indian tarka of hing, mustard seeds and curry leaves, yes, definitely curry leaves, it was the right soup for the damp wet day that was pouring itself out in the NCPA gardens and on the Marine Drive promenade. I understand that the soups change daily and are cleverly matched with the main items of food on the menu. If the main item is Chinese, then it would be a hot and sour soup, if Continental, then the matching soup would be a cream of almonds or pista, or a potato or leak soup, plus the hardy tomato soups the minestronies.

Next, I moved on to the buffet table. The advantage of being a non-vegetarian is that you may eat the vagetarian also. But, to begin with, let me consider the non-veg. The mutton was done in papri, Parsi style, what is known as papri-ma-gosh. The Taj, and Rangoli is Taj, is one of the few five-star hotels which has a handful of Parsi dishes on its menu, probably because the owners are Parsis. Hence, I have had akuri for breakfast at Taj hotels ranging from the Lake Palace in Udaipur to the Taj Palace in Delhi. Though, I regret to add, that all the akuris I have consumed have been lumpy and onionous, the reason for this may be that the owners are Parsis, not the cooks. However, Chef Tharwal's Papri mutton was good and quite authentic, adequately wet in a proper brown gravy. Plus, there was chicken tariwalla and fish Amritsari. The fish was rock fish, not pomfret, which is restricted to patra machi and Goa curry. You require a more rounded fillet for the Amritsari, this one was fleshy and seasoned. My compliments. Every lunch, there is mutton, chicken and fish for the non-vegetarians.

For the vegetarians, there were five preparations. On this particular afternoon, they included baby corn (T.D.), mushroom chilli mustard, pumpkin mutter rasa, aloo gobi, and bhindi amchur. If it is on the menu the afternoon you visit Rangoli, I suggest you try it. The bhindis are practically cooked in their own moisture, with only a spot of oil.

Plus, there was a paneer preparation, they always have one, this one in tomato based gravy, with lots of green peppers and onions, and dal maharani, which was outstanding; two dal, broken masoor and tur, tampered in onions, garlic, hing, mustard seeds, jeera. Every day, the dal is different, and it is Mr. Mukesh Kumar's boast that for 20 days the same dal is not repeated. And when they run out of dals, they move to kadhis, Sindhi, Gujarati, Punjabi. I had the dal with jeera pulao.

The restaurant operates on the principle of daily visits by regular customers, and all Nariman Point is its customers, so everything is changed every day, including the rice. You have steamed rice, fried rice, khichdi, brown dhanshak rice, etc.

In concentrating on the main dishes, I have missed out several starters. Let me list them. There are a dozen salads, ten of them vegetarian (spring onions, green pepper, tomato, cucumber, beetroot, bean sprouts, combinations with cottage cheese, rajma, sometimes a fruit aloo chaat, a German potato salad. The meat salads are chicken, mutton and fish, two out of three every day. You are encouraged to use your own dressings, Thousand The Society Collection '95, the country's foremost exhibition of arts, crafts and artefacts, will be inaugurated on September 22, by Madhavrao Scindia, the minister of human resource development.

Since its inception in 1991, The Society Collection has become a landmark event in Bombay, avidly patronised by connoisseurs, interior designers, home-makers and people about town.

Given its unflinching commitment to restore and rejuvenate India's handicraft heritage, and to promote new modes of creative expression, The Society Collection staff sift through hundreds of applications from all over India and some abroad, before choosing the 110 final entries that weave a comprehensive tapestry of India's creativity. The products this year, span an incredible range that include designerwear, jewellery, carpets, terracotta pottery, Tanjore paintings, hand-painted linen, household linen, children's clothes, paintings, knitwear, hand-embroidered saris, designer giftwraps, murals, pachikaam jewellery, leather bags, glasswork, stained glass, model trains, marble, leather jewellery, ceramicware, frames, wood carvings, murals and much more.

For the organiser of the Society Collection and its sponsors Society magazine, the concept of the exhibition is reward enough. Any profits above actual cost is given to charity, specifically, Concern India. This year they have sponsored 10 free stalls of master craftsmen from interior India, whose transportation, boarding and lodging charges are borne by them. These craftsmen, some of whom have won the President's gold medal, are struggling to protect their craft from the onslaught of modernity.

Islands, vinaigrette, curd and daal. There are mini rotis, naans and parathas, a continental bread display, achars (mews, sweet and hot mango), and chutneys, green and the imli chutney for the farsans. Yes, there is a farsan plate, dhoklas, kachoris, khaman, khandwi, patra.

And desserts: a fruit display, fruit salad, caramel custard, at least one souffle, a mousse, Black Forest, pineapple gateau, plus Indian mithais, ice-creams. Then there is coffee to end it all. At Rs.175, value for money. Agreed? Agreed.

I have not tried the a-la-carte at night, but the menu looks quite interesting. It ranges from a filet of pomfret Florentine to spinach and cheese pancake (I'd like that). But right now I am too full with the afternoon's buffet. Perhaps, some other time.

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