Vivanta By Taj in Guwahati is in its third year of existence. It’s the most talked about address in the city today and is spectacularly sited with majestic mountains as the backdrop.

As one enters the hotel, one can see that the décor has a lot to boast about in terms of traditional Assamese touch –the legs of the tables have been carved out in the shape of the bottom part of an Assamese sorai.

In the rooms, the walls and the throw pillows have kingkhap designs on them – a style inspired by the Ahom dynasty and signify the royalty and magnanimity of the erstwhile kingdom.

There is also a photo gallery dedicated to the beauty of Kaziranga National Park and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary. In the open field, one can see a huge Ahom-era ‘Mokha’ (shaped like a pot in white).

Indranee Phukan, Public Relations (In-charge), Vivanta By Taj, who has 10 years of rich experience in the hospitality industry says, “If you look into our décor – you will see huge amount of representation of our local culture in say the furniture, and in other small aspects.” Giving sharp focus to the local angle, there are two huge auditoriums – ‘Joysagar’ and ‘Rudrasagar’ – and one can see the front desk staff draped in traditional mekhela chador.

The hotel is the perfect base from which one can discover the entire city of Guwahati and also travel to other destinations of Assam.

The property has two exciting restaurants – ‘Seven’ and ‘Umami’ – which is truly on the upper level of dining – and there is a bar-cum-lounge- ‘Octave’ for people who love to hit the watering holes.

‘Umami’ opens only during the evening hours and serves Pan-Asian food. ‘Seven’ opens right in the morning and is open till midnight.

Explains Indranee, “The restaurant ‘Seven’ is an ode to the Seven Sister States of the North East. Sikkim is actually the eighth one which is known as the ‘Little Brother’. We have a bar which is called the ‘Octave’ (dedicated to Sikkim) – the ‘Octave’ is the eighth note in the musical parameter. We also serve food from other parts of the North East in ‘Seven’ hence the name.”

Offering a congenial and relaxing atmosphere and superb hospitality amid scarcely believable grandeur, the high point about the hotel is the traditional Assamese breakfast spread offered every morning to the guests in their restaurant ‘Seven’.

Though the property has an array of breakfast options, but, as Indranee puts in, “The Assamese cuisine and Assamese breakfast is very well received by people from all over the country and internationally.”

How did this whole concept of Assamese breakfast start? Informs Indranee, “Whenever a person from outside comes here – from anywhere in the country or in the world – they are very interested to know about the local cuisine – what do people get up in the morning and eat. That’s when we decided that we have to introduce the Assamese breakfast. It was introduced six months after Vivanta By Taj started its operations here.”

Says chef Vivek Rowmuria who hails from Majuli and is in charge of the morning breakfast in ‘Seven’, “We have not deviated from the original stuff and we have kept everything in breakfast – tilor laru, narikolor laru, juliy agur, chira, doi mixed with gur and banana, tekeli rmukhot diya pitha, gila pitha, cream and also komal saul.”

Vivek, who has worked with the Taj in Surat also, excels in making Mediterranean, French and Mexican cuisine.

Said Arpan, another Assamese chef, “We experimented by making dosa with joha rice and believe me, it was an instant hit with our guests. In fact, guests from South India have told us that they savour it more than the original dosa.”

Krishanu Maity, another chef who hails from Kolkata, stated, “I am with Vivanta By Taj in Guwahati for the last one year. I have learnt how to make Assamese dishes like khar, labra and tekeli mukhot diya pitha. I have also learnt how to make pork, chicken and fish in Assamese style.”

Maity who has also worked with the Oberois in Kolkata further puts in that apart from the Assamese delicacies, breakfast is also a spread of North Indian, South Indian, Continental fare as well as juices, fresh fruits, muesli, cornflakes and egg items.

Indranee further puts in, “Our chefs are in the learning process. We have some of the best people who are in the business here and we have got them to train our people here with our local inputs. It’s been a mix and match (read there are quite a few Assamese chefs and expert chefs from outside the State).

The restaurant ‘Seven’ serves Assamese breakfast, Assamese thali and main Assamese dishes. Other favourites are the Naga pork stir-fried in tender bamboo shoots and Singpho tea which is unique to Arunachal Pradesh and Manipuri black rice kheer.

Chef Vivek further stated, “We also have an Assamese thali– vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The Assamese thali comes in the a la carte. The thali comprises everything – from chutney to alu pitika to khar to labra, kola maatir dali, tengaanja, Assamese-style mutton, fish and saak bhaja. In the dessert, we give kola saulor payash (kheer). The Assamese thali is very popular among our guests. We have a buffet spread in dinner every day and even there we try to give a representation of Assamese dish – be it chicken or fish”.

The hotel tries to showcase the Assamese dish in all forms – be it in breakfast, in form of main meals like a khar or if it is the tengaanja, koldilor diya maas,or tilor chicken.

Vivanta By Taj in Guwahati is the only place in the city which is offering a traditional Assamese breakfast every day in the morning. They have been doing this consistently for the last three years. Breakfast is served both as buffet and a la carte.

Indranee further puts in, “The chefs here did not have much knowledge about Assamese food. Assamese food has not travelled out as much as what it is doing now. We know a lot about Punjabi food, Konkani food, South Indian, Bengali cuisine, and Hyderabadi. But, the average Indian does not know much about Assamese food. Some people think it is just all about bhot jolokiya, some people think it is mostly pork, while some think it is an affair of fish or bamboo shoots. But, they don’t know how subtle, simple, delicious and healthy our food is. That I think is a beauty in itself. The hotel is a very good platform for us to showcase the North East and Assam in form of food.”

She further remarks, “Earlier, our grandparents used to have komal saul, chira doi or pitha guri or just a square meal in the morning or poita bhaat. Our chefs studied those aspects and decided that let’s try and serve it here. We have a counter that serves tilor laru, narikolor laru, pitha guri, chira-doi, komal saul – as many varieties of rice which is there in the season and which is plentifully available, we try and serve that. Our guests find it very interesting that most of the stuff is rice-based in different forms.”Food is so very important because the hotel is looking at a national and international clientele.

Remarks lady chef Amiya Bora (who comes in every morning to prepare the traditional Assamese breakfast), “We also serve lalsa (which people sip sitting in the garden al fresco space) along with the traditional fare. People are very surprised – they ask why is it called lalsa? They are used to green tea, the milk tea, the ready made tea, but not lalsa. We explain that lalsa is full of antioxidants, it is good for health and it keeps us going throughout the day. Lalsa is served along with fresh tekeli mukhot diya pitha and gila pitha.”

Indranee says that the jalpan comprises doi, chira, gur and bananas cut into it and this is part of the regular breakfast cereal section. It is there with the muesli, cornflakes and the fruits. Tilorlaru and narikolor laru just flies off the counter.

For dinner, in the a la carte menu, they have Assamese dishes – one can order Assamese style chicken or masor tenga with the normal rice. “The joha rice is something which our guests are enamoured of – the smell, which is the high point. It is an international representation in the buffet – you have a pizza, Chinese section, biryani, soups, normal regular subzi, dal and tadkas. Even in the banquets we get request for more representation of Assamese food. Our chefs try to innovate every day – from alupitika to alu-bilahipurachutneys and stuff like that. The feedback regarding Assamese food is appreciated both by the Indian people as well as foreigners,” remarks Indranee.

She maintained that the Tatas and the Taj coming to Assam and the North East is a very big step forward for tourism and for the overall development of the State – “When a big brand like this comes in through, there is a huge amount of confidence, interest and people look forward to that opportunity. Nowadays, people in Assam and the North East are travelling outside their respective States and the country.

So, people are familiar with standards of food and hospitality. When a big brand like Taj comes into Guwahati it is obvious that they have done extensive market research to think that there are enough growth opportunities here. It also instills a lot of confidence in the people of the region. The Tatas always believe in taking the community and the society they operate in hand in hand.”

The PR executive further maintained, “Before when people wanted to come to visit Kaziranga or Manas, it was like – ‘where will we stay, is it safe enough to travel, is there a good hotel that we can bank on through’. But, now when they look up and do a Google search, they know that there is a Taj in Assam. So, people are now planning more and more to come to Assam and it is a big boost to tourism. We give people the confidence to travel, to make plans and to explore the entire region. We have so much to offer in terms of natural beauty, in terms of everything – North East is like one of the last untouched areas of the country where people are still exploring.”

She summed up by saying, “Its three years now for this hotel and we are very happy with the journey so far. We are not just for the local people or for the people of the country. We are for everyone – which includes people from foreign destinations.”

Providing a mix of recreation and relaxation, Vivanta By Taj in Guwahati is a luxurious oasis of peace and tranquility and makes for a comfortable stay with a dedicated staff who walk the extra mile to make you feel at home.

Parinita Datta

Parinita Datta is Chief Copy Editor of Northeast Now. She can be reached at: parinitadatta@gmail.com

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