New Punjab Club: Elevating a Flavourful Food Nation With A Michelin Flair
September 20, 2022
New Punjab Club has picked a lone battle to redefine what a fraught region in South Asia means in the 21st century and in Hong Kong. Capturing the flavours of the Punjab region, a geopolitical and cultural land cutting north India and east Pakistan, Black Sheep Restaurant’s Indo-Pakistani diner exposes post-colonial Punjabi flavours that will forever change your tastebuds.
Inspired by the Lahore-based 1800s colonial social club, The Punjab Club, Wyndham Street’s diner exists as a passion project to present to a hungry Hong Kong scene with the flavours of Black Sheep co-founder Syed Asim Hussain’s youth at the private Lahore club, his Punjabi roots, and a nod to his father’s restaurant, The Mughal Room, which formerly stood in its place.
The sui generis of New Punjab Club’s culinary flair, beyond its 25-year-old tandoors, superb service, world-class curries, tandoor meats, and chutneys, lays in the details of its venue, brimming with masterful interior design in a tribute to a colonial period and rich geopolitical region.
Unassuming from street-level, a dive into the restaurant reveals flamboyance and polish in every corner and seating area. Red leather banquettes match the smoky brown wooden tables, harkening to the insides of Lahore’s older Punjab Club. Curvaceous grey wall tiles are imported from Pakistan, art is sourced from Hussain’s father’s personal collection, and Indian gin trolleys and crockery are used.
With only nine tables catered to every lunch and dinner service, it would be remissive to forget you’re dining at a Michelin-starred venue, the world’s only one-star Punjabi restaurant. It is uniquely homely and exudes love for its rotation of guests and plates.
Food and drink
In a mark of New Punjab Club’s fifth anniversary, chef Palah Mitra and Chhabil Sidhu have joined efforts to renovate the powerful a la carte menu, exploring the traditions and culture of Punjab, a region celebrated in its depth of spice and season.
Our tasting at New Punjab Club began with a selection of classical nashta (breakfast), namely the Tamatar Ki Chaat, a fruity salad of heirloom tomato, pink fir potato, rock salat, mint, dressed in tamarind sauce, and Amritsari Langoustine, fried lobster chunks paired with dill raita and mango chutney.
The chaat brings a grounded umami with a sharp tang in every ingredient of this plate: the sweet tomato is bouncy with an initial honey-like flavour, followed by a strong peppery aftertaste and the tamarind sauce at first is sweet tasting but hangs on the tongue with pronounced hints of ginger and garlic. With the lobster, the shellfish dish offered a divergent elasticity and a buttery batter that releases faint smoky and herby smells.
The star of the show lays in New Punjab Club’s tandoor curation, with chef Mitra and Sidhu’s flair best showing with the Tandoori Batari, roasted quail thighs with spices and cut with pineapple chutney; the Tandoori Cobia, line-caught cobia, cucumber, samphire chutney, lime caviar; and Masalewali Chaanp, juicy lamb chops cooked with a melange of spices and paired with a serving of laccha onions.
Employing a similar blend of north Indian spices, herby, smoky, and slightly tangy, each tandoor-cooked meat falls effortlessly off the bone and holds succulent juice released on each bite. The quail holds a familiar smokey duck-flavour, but with a tender bite. The show was stolen by the juicy lamb chop and cobia head, both offering melting sensations when consumed and acidic-umami-packed aftertastes.
The degs aur sabzi section includes the loveable signature Mughal Room Makhani, nodding to the history of the Hussain Wyndham project, a sweet orange butter chicken curry, and the fragrant, onion-packed Kashmiri Ghosht Pulao, spiced basmati rice with sultanas, pomegranate, fried onions, and Mongolian lamb shoulder.
Only a week after tasting the butter chicken, I can still recall the sweet, creamy, garam masala-powdered chicken cuts and sauce that filled a handful of paratha bread. With an added crunch from the pomegranate and fried garlic, the curry sauce was a dreamy palette taster. The pulao was oh-so-buttery, carefully balanced with a salty tone carried in the lamb and a pleasant sweetness with the sultanas and pomegranates.
Entering New Punjab Club, one can almost gain a palpable sense of nostalgia and luxury similar to the decadence of the moniker Lahore club in Punjab: it is fanciful, mystical, hawks to a classic colonial time, fit with traditional blue Punjabi suits, and assumes a bravado confidence in its interior and atmosphere as it does with its powerful menu.
A dining experience is a lengthy affair. You sit, drink up the modern American hip hop-cum-Pakistani-Indian love ballad playlist alongside a cool G&T, and order away. The nine tables rarely see more than two changes in a night, with eating at the Black Sheep restaurant almost akin with a family meal: everyone is salivating over the chef’s colourful creations and cheering at a special treat.
Lunches and dinners spent at New Punjab Club are pricey, averaging HK$600 to HK$800, but a promise that the experience at the only Punjabi restaurant you have heard about is well worth the price tag. Each dish has considered planning and attention paid to ensure a beautiful blend of spice. You will cry tears of joy and maybe the next time you sample Indian or Pakistani food in Hong Kong when you realise you can’t top it.
To sample chef Mitra and Sidhu’s new creations and the finest of New Punjab Club, we recommend ordering the Tamatar Ki Chaat (HK$198), Malai Tikka (HK$248), Tandoori Batair (HK$208), Mughal Room Makhani (HK$278), Kashmiri Gosht Pulao (HK$428), and Mango Phirnee (HK$128).
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