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Five-Star In A Box

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Manish Desai, a 32-year-old Mumbai-based executive with a leading multinational, often travels to New Delhi on work and frequently stays at the Taj Palace Hotel. Mostly, he has lunch outside at a meeting, but there are times when he finds himself alone during lunch hour. “I go straight to Masala Art and order a dabba,” he says. Dabba at a five-star hotel?
 
Masala Art, the hotel’s north Indian restaurant, has recently introduced dabba meals, inspired by the popular lunch boxes of Mumbai. Of course, this dabba, with its stainless steel covering encompassing delicate china bowls, is a far cry from the Mumbai ones served in offices. You can choose between a Punjabi or a Lucknowi dabba and between vegetarian, non-vegetarian and seafood. For Rs 1,200 plus taxes, you get a vegetarian meal with soup, kebab, a main course and dessert. All this is accompanied with rice and breads. 
 
“A five-star meal at affordable rates has made our dabba popular. We sell between 8-10 daily,” says Rajesh Wadhwa, executive chef at the Taj Palace Hotel. The dabba isn’t the only value meal on offer at the hotel. If you fancy Vietnamese cuisine, step into Blue Ginger for a bento box.
TOKYO ON A TRAY: The Japanese set meal at Fenix, The Oberoi, Mumbai; QUICK BITE: The Welcome Meal tray is ITC’s version of the modest thali    

Typically a Japanese concept, the bento box gives you a sampling of their signature dishes such as silken tofu and water chestnut cari, wok-tossed fish in hot bean sauce and grilled chicken lime leaf for Rs 1,500. Taj Westend, Bangalore, also serves the bento box. 
 
Executive lunches or meals for single diners have caught the fancy of hoteliers and restaurateurs across the metros, from Delhi to Mumbai and from Bangalore to Chennai. “The idea is to serve some of the most iconic dishes of the restaurant in a simple fixed menu with sufficient portions for a single diner making it cost-effective,” says Manisha Bhasin, executive chef at ITC Maurya in New Delhi. So you can walk into Bukhara and instead of ordering a la carte, order the Express Platter that will serve you a helping each of barrah kebab, peshawari kebab, reshmi kebab, seekh kebab, murgh malai kebab and murgh tandoori with dal bukhara, a choice of breads and dessert for 
Rs 2,200 plus taxes. 
 
If you’d rather eat in the comfort of your room, try the WelcomMeal tray, ITC’s take on the modest thali. Take your pick from Indian, western and oriental cuisine. 
 
For those who crave Italian, Travertino at The Oberoi offers a two-course and three-course menu for Rs 1,250 and Rs 1,500 respectively. Dig into a minestrone soup along with a seafood platter and finish with some Belgian chocolate cake and homemade hazelnut ice cream. A key feature of an executive lunch is time. “Our appetisers are served within 4-5 minutes and as soon as you are done with them, the main course is served in another 7-8 minutes,” says Soumya Goswami, executive chef at The Oberoi. 
 
The same philosophy is followed at The Oberoi, Mumbai, where Vetro offers the Pronto! Lunch — a two- or three-course Italian meal featuring regional home-made specialities. The whole experience is completed within 45 minutes. The hotel also offers a Japanese set meal at Fenix, which is popular with those looking to grab a quick yet wholesome meal.
 
Mumbaikars with a craving for Chinese food often head to Ming Yang at Taj LandsEnd where a soup and a platter of dim sums costs Rs 1,300 plus taxes. 
 
Executive lunches are fast gaining popularity with Bangaloreans as well. “We see a lot of diners who prefer a working lunch where they combine business with either a functional lunch or one hosted for a client,” says Amit Wadhawan, executive chef of The Oberoi, Bangalore. Rim Naam, the hotel’s specialty Thai restaurant and Szechwan Court, its Chinese restaurant, both offer express lunch menus starting at Rs 750. 
 
Further south, the city of Chennai is also welcoming the concept. The Hyatt Regency offers express lunch menus at its Chinese restaurant Stix and Italian one, Focaccia. Priced at Rs 999, both places offer a great selection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare with signature dishes such as spring chicken and seared tuna. All of ITC Grand Chola’s restaurants — Ottimo, Cucina Italiana and Peshawari — also offer single-diner menus. 
 
So the next time you plan to take your client or colleague out for lunch, don’t fret, it won’t burn a hole in your pocket. 
 
smita(dot)tripathi(at)bworld(dot)com

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 03-12-2012)