Daawat-e-Nawab is in the excellent Radisson Blu in Agra, which I will be reviewing separately.
Agra is a rough city--anyone who visits will see the poverty. It is a city surrounded by farmland, and we saw lots and lots of wheat and rapeseed (I believe) for oil production. The city itself is extremely old, but also extremely rundown, and the locals, like in any tourist town, are looking to make a buck off the tourist trade and see people come and go every day. Outside the confines of your hotel it is a veritable madhouse, and people tried to overcharge us on everything we tried to purchase, and not just touristy souvenirs!
Daawat-e-Nawab is a gem of a restaurant. While not cheap by Indian standards, it is also well above Indian standards in every way.
Many hotel guests will only try the cafe in the hotel, since a lot of packages include buffet meals at the cafe. D-e-N was nowhere near at capacity on the three nights we stayed at the hotel, and on the last night of our stay, we were only the second table of the entire night. I doubt anyone else came in after us--a shame considering how excellent this restaurant is.
The 'Nawab' at the restaurant is a well-traveled and knowledgeable guy who is an Agra local. He has spent seventeen years of his life serving as a tour guide in the city. No hard sell for his services, although tips are definitely appreciated for his entertainment. Taanvir is a good guy and knows when guests have had enough, and will give you your space. I was very surprised when I saw him coming out of the kitchen as I had no idea the restaurant had a host!
The decor is fabulous. Brass (bronze) plates, bowls and glasses are used for every course, and they are polished with Pithambri. I couldn't find out what the constituents of this domestic brass polish are, but it is supposed to be non-toxic and reading about the company that produces it was interesting; a regular Hindustani success story!
Now on to the food. The restaurant has a small a-la-carte menu as well as two kinds of 'Daawat' (invitation) menus where you are offered samplers of many of the restaurant's finest offerings. You also get to ask for more of whatever you like. This can take a while, however, as everything is prepared to order.
From speaking to one of the waiters, it appears the restaurant sources its ingredients locally. I'm not sure if the meat is locally sourced too, but it was the best quality meat I've had in India if it was indeed from local farms. Everything was cooked just right and the chef is definitely doing her job correctly since we were more than satisfied with everything we tried.
On my second night I decided to go a-la-carte as the seekh kababs (a life-long favorite of mine) were not available on the set menu. They were amazing and I've never seen them studded with green bell pepper before.
I originally thought D-e-T used traditional Mughal recipes, but from the e-mail I just received from them asking me to review them on TripAdvisor (!), it appears some creative changes have been made to the dishes and the restaurant is experimenting with new (but classic) flavors. Perhaps the menu could point out the classic, unaltered dishes as I'd love to try classic Mughal cuisine.
I would suggest any visitor to Agra try D-e-T if they can afford it and fit it in. By international standards it is very reasonably priced and the finest Mughal dining experience I've ever had. My sister said she'd drive in from Delhi the next time she was there just to eat at D-e-T, and I have to say I'd do the same myself! There are still a lot of sights (and sites) in Agra that I haven't been able to visit yet, but I'll be back.
While I haven't tried many restaurants in Agra, I have eaten at thousands of establishments around the world, and I think D-e-T is likely to be one of the best dining options in the city, at least in its price range. Hats off to Radisson Blu and D-e-T for running a very tight ship!
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