Fortune Cookie

This restaurant in Tijara Fort Palace overlooks a beautiful oasis of date palm trees and whips out delicious lunch thalis

Heaven on earth? You bet! The restaurant is rightfully called ‘Maya’ (illusion) because it overlooks a beautiful oasis and serves heavenly food!

 |  Fortune Cookie  |  3-minute read |   09-06-2019
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On a sizzling day, as one drives through the flat arid landscape of Alwar, Tijara Fort Palace springs out of a forlorn hill, as if out of a magician’s hat, literally like an illusion. As you wind your way up the steep hill, you realise that you have to be an Aman Nath to be able to spend 16 years to first discover the place, then turn it around, rock by rock, pillar by pillar, and finally ensure it is packed to capacity even on the hottest day of the year — the roster of guests included an American film crew led by a young Indian who had moved to Los Angeles, and weekend vacationers — couples and extended families — from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida.

 As we sat for breakfast, Nath looked around with the sense of pride a pater familias must be experiencing while sizing up his progeny. “We have made Indians proud of their heritage,” he said with a look of satisfaction. “When we started we only got international tourists, but today, Indians outnumber the rest, and we don’t have a dull month anymore.” I went to Tijara to review a lunch-time thali restaurant that the inventive heritage hotelier, historian and author has created out of a spare passage on one of the ramparts of the fort.

smt690_060919020926.pngTijara Fort Palace houses ‘Maya’, the restaurant of illusions (Source: Mail Today)

The restaurant is called Maya, and its menu book, which, like everything else in the company — Neemrana Hotels — can’t see the light of day till it measures up to Nath’s exacting standards. It is this personal attention to detail that has powered the remarkable success of Neemrana Hotels, which Nath launched in 1991 (along with OP Jain and Lekha Poddar) and then ran with his late partner Francis Wacziarg until the latter’s death in 2014. On the cover of the menu book, Nath narrates the story of Lord Vishnu making the sage Narada personally experience the power of maya (illusion). Maya in the context of the restaurant is appropriate because it is indeed a bit of an illusion in the middle of what seems to be nowhere.

It is also the physical expression of Nath’s idea of a ‘non-hotel’ hotel, which is at the core of the values Neemrana stands for. One of these values is that simplicity is the ultimate statement of style. As the introduction to the company’s website states: “Life is not all about escalating into ‘luxury’ — which is a passing illusion of possession called Maya. To get ‘more’ from ‘less’ is what India can teach from its vantage point in philosophical evolution. Eventually, it is simplicity which is the ultimate in style.” The oasis of date palm trees that grabs of your vision as you look out of the restaurant, for a moment, seems like an illusion, but it’s real — and a great photo-op.

smt2690_060919020910.pngAman Nath, an imaginative, heritage hotelier, is the brainchild behind this restaurant (Source: Mail Today)

The setmenu thali, served on a heavy copper set sourced from Palitana in Gujarat, stands out because so delicious is its simplicity that it seems to be like another illusion. Even the ker-sangri ki sabj leaves a distinctive taste in the mouth. And the dal makes you want to empty out the container in which it is served. That’s the eloquence of simplicity of home-style food — and the chef, who’s from Dudu, a tehsil outside Jaipur, makes sure no one can question the authenticity of the preparations. If a restaurant can make karela (bitter gourd) taste like heaven, as Maya does, it is worth the 100-km drive to Tijara.

Courtesy of Mail Today

Also Read: So Aam, So Boring: Why I think the mango is such a vastly overrated fruit

Writer

Sourish Bhattacharyya Sourish Bhattacharyya @sourishb1963

The writer is a columnist for Mail Today, blogger at Indian Restaurant Spy and a founder member of the Delhi Gourmet Club.

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