The New Kashmir Is Next-Level Indian Cuisine
Kashmir in Bonifacio Global City has all the hallmarks of your typical Indian restaurant: Indian tunes blaring in reasonable volumes through hidden speakers; a turquoise and tangerine color scheme made hazy by dusky lighting; copper and brass pots displayed in strategic corners. It ticks off all the boxes yet is refreshingly modern—as if drawing away from the legacies of Arnaiz Avenue and assimilating to the more cosmopolitan preferences of the BGC set.
While Indians have been selling curry on the streets of Rizal since the 1920s, Kashmir was the first Indian restaurant to open in Metro Manila. Three Indian sisters began the enterprise in the basement of an old pension house in 1974. Its success eventually took them to a bigger location on the old Pasay Road where it took on a more glitzy and opulent veneer.
Kashmir in Bonifacio Global City
It would take the average Kashmir regular two seconds to see that the new Kashmir is more than just a change of address. But sit down and linger for a few more minutes to see that the new owners didn’t just want to uphold an almost-50-year-old legacy. They want to take it perhaps 50 more. Care and consideration sneak into the smaller details: from the well-appointed powder room to the vegetable garden on the terrace.
Leon Araneta planned to open near the end of March 2020, but a raging pandemic had other plans. He delayed, but as soon as restrictions were lifted—however limited—he jumped in with both feet. The restaurant, he admits, wasn’t designed to cater to takeaway, but just as some people were willing to risk dining out, he was ready to risk unoccupied seats. Incidentally, Kashmir can fit almost 200 people; fortunately, half of those are on the veranda.
Kashmir Salad, mostly from the restaurant's own garden
The menu is refreshingly curated: only three pages of well-spaced text. The goal, according to Araneta, is to overwhelm, not with multiple choices but with the hard choice of wanting to order everything.
There’s also beef on the menu, proving that Kashmir is out to go beyond the usual. This isn’t a restaurant for Indian expatriates. This is a restaurant for those who appreciate Indian flavors.
If you want to deviate from hummus (although you shouldn’t because Kashmir’s take on this popular dip is creamy and excellent) don’t miss the fukna. Eight pieces of wafer-thin pastries explode in your mouth, releasing a complex combination of onions, coriander, and tamarind chutney, which envelops everything in tangy sweetness.
It is a must to try the beef curry, not only to sate your curiosity about cow meat in an Indian restaurant but primarily because Kashmir does it well. It’s spicy enough to matter but not so much that you can’t enjoy anything else. And the beef? Fork-tender, dissolving as soon as you pop it in your mouth.
If it’s heat you’re looking for, the shrimp tandoori will set your taste buds on fire. Don’t believe for one second that Kashmir tones down its cuisine to appeal to a wider set. Lightly seasoned plump shrimps kiss the grill before being swathed in a fiery sauce. You can enjoy it with the crisp chapati that it comes with, but it’s also the perfect excuse to order a mango lassi on the side.
Araneta can probably get away with introducing more innovation, but he knows not to touch a good thing. For example, the mutton biryani is as classic as they come: golden basmati rice with pieces of tender goat meat and rich gravy. Satisfying in its simplicity.
There is admirable confidence in the way Kashmir serves dessert; there are only three but they’re diverse and delicious. There’s a vegan chocolate cake that is equal parts good and sinful as well as a spiced Indian ice cream that will change how you enjoy frozen desserts.
Indian Ice Cream
You can tell just how much Araneta thinks of his customers with Kashmir’s version of the gulab jamun. This usually syrupy dessert is dressed down to just a whisper of sweetness. Each pistachio-topped fried dough is fluffy, sopping up the lovely rose-tinged nectar. It’s impressive on its own, but even more so with the Indian ice cream. Consider it an excuse to get two desserts.
Kashmir in BGC isn’t the same restaurant that served Francis Ford Coppola and other local and international public figures. Yet despite all its recent changes, it’s safe to say that the brand’s legacy is in capable hands.