Kashmir Indian Restaurant BGC
3/F One Bonifacio High Street, 5th Avenue corner 28th Street, Bonifacio Global City
Contact: 8844-4927, 0917-531-6023
Open from 12 to 10 p.m., Monday to Sunday
(SPOT.ph) Perhaps it’s the great diversity of dishes given the subcontinent’s many regions or the intoxicating aromas and flavors rooted in their use of spices, herbs, and other ingredients. Either way, something about Indian food almost always enthralls—whether we’re talking a dish as humble as piping-hot samosa or as grand as a spiced and roasted leg of mutton. When you think of Indian food in the Philippines, we’ll bet Kashmir Indian Restaurant is one of the first spots that come to mind—they’re pretty much the OG, having served excellent North Indian eats (initially in Ermita before moving to Makati) since the '70s. More than four decades later, they’re under a new ownership and have packed their bags and moved to Bonifacio Global City—but continue to cook up their signatures, apart from other newcomers on the menu that’ll keep you coming back.
Also read: 10 Great Restaurants for Indian Food in Manila
You’ve got plenty of tasty reasons to drop by the BGC branch of famed Indian restaurant Kashmir:
Kashmir brings their signatures over to their outpost on the third level of One Bonifacio High Street. The restaurant is now under the stewardship of Leon Araneta, who was introduced to Indian food thanks to his Indian classmates at the Asian Institute of Management—and himself recalls visiting the original Kashmir along Pasay Road growing up. By 2016 Araneta got word from the son of one of Kashmir’s owners that the restaurant was going up for sale—and he knew he had to step in. “Here is an institution restaurant, Kashmir, the first heritage Indian restaurant in the Philippines where many people first experienced Indian food,” he says in a statement. “I just could not stomach the idea that another culinary institution could be sold for parts, thrown away and forgotten. Sayang.” Never mind that he lacked experience in the F&B world; “I decided that rescuing Kashmir was something worth doing.”
Araneta describes dining today as a “sensory experience”—where colors, music, and food come together for a multifaceted phenomenon that engages all senses. Including, of course, the visual department—and this shift is evident as you enter Kashmir's BGC branch. It pays ode to the old-world charm of their original locations—while going for a more contemporary, but nonetheless dignified, look. From the outside you’re greeted by a striking aegean exterior—and this continues on as you enter their premises. At once dim yet vibrant, the space is illuminated by gold and orange accents. Displayed on the wall are works of art (by Bangalore- and Delhi-based artist and graphic designer Smruthi Gargi Eswar); and with subtle splotches of texture on the chairs, tables, counters, and so on, all elements come together for an overall regal feel.
OG fans, fret not; you’ll still find classic faves on the menu, using the original recipes you’ve come to know and love. The Fukna (P395) is as good as ever—don’t underestimate this starter’s small size, as each light and crisp shell of vegetables, chutney, and what we guess are spiced potatoes make for a real flavor bomb when popped in the mouth. Well-loved stews and curries like the Chicken Tikka Masala (P525) and Rogan Josh (P745) continue to be reliable choices—as does their famous plate of Mutton Seekh Kebab (P645), with ground mutton seasoned and formed into logs then grilled to smoky-juicy perfection.
But it’s well worth venturing out of meaty territory and into their more plant-forward entrees. Following his trips to India, Araneta realized he hadn’t even “scratched the surface of the wealth of plant-based dishes,” for which reason he made it a point to focus on their line of vegetarian and vegan eats featuring great-quality produce from local permaculture farm Kai Farms. There’s the Kashmir Organic Salad (P385), for one, where the rather assertive flavor of local dark leafy greens—we’re talking red amaranth, kamote tops, alugbati, and talinum—are lent brightness with a coconut-yogurt dressing. Edible flowers like butterfly pea also add color to the mix, and you get subtle pops of crunch from crispy chickpeas, toasted cashews, and ube chips loosely sprinkled on top.
Even humble okra gets taken out for an aromatic, heady spin—as in the Kashmir’s Okra Curry (P515). Here, the so-called ladies finger joins forces with onions, tomatoes, and spices, which vivify the okra’s naturally sweet-grassy taste without taking over. And though okra’s silky (some would say slimy) texture can be polarizing, it works its magic here, making for a stick-to-your-ribs stew that’s perfect sopped up with the chapati served alongside. Better yet, get it with the Organic Mushroom Biryani (P685)—a vegan take on the Indian rice dish with a rice base imbued with the earthiness shiitake mushrooms, and topped with fried oyster mushrooms (from mushroom-growing kit purveyor Mouldy Blooms) that makes for a crisp, spiced contrast.
The Kashmir of today definitely embraces experimentation, with successful results. This much, we can tell (and taste) Mutton Seekh Burger (P650), where the use of a spiced mutton patty (similar to the seekh kebab they’re known for) delivers distinctive Indian flair to the all-too-familiar bun-and-patty combo. And in the name of getting happy, their craft cocktails are not to be missed—whether it’s the relatively classic, G&T-esque Kheera Tonic (P450) with Old Rag gin and cucumber slices, or the more playful Whiskey Katta (P425) with a homemade spice nectar that tingles the tongue with its hint of heat toward the end of each sip.
Building on—and maintaining—a name that’s considered an institution definitely doesn’t come easy; Araneta mentions how transitioning Kashmir from its mom-and-pop roots to a professional organization was an “initial challenge that continues today,” apart from his aim of improving their front-of-house service and the closure of their Pasay Road location. Yup, today’s Kashmir has in many ways changed. Snazzy visuals and new dishes aside—if phenomenal flavor that takes your taste buds into overdrive, star service that makes you feel right at home, and warm and welcoming ambience is to go by—we say the heart and soul of Kashmir hasn’t disappeared one bit.
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