The Achari Paneer Tikka at the Devi Indian Restaurant in Montreal was Tandoor roasted chunks of marinated Paneer Cheese, Peppers and Onion.
I had a number of dishes at Devi on this occasion, and, while their Mint Naan and Roasted Tomato Soup were nothing remarkable, their Tandoori specialties were terrific. I was very impressed with the previously reviewed Devi Lamb Kebab, and their way with Paneer was every bit as good.
For those unfamiliar, Paneer is a simple Indian cheese made by curdling fresh milk with vinegar or lemon juice and then pressing the curd to produce a dense, rubbery mass. It is quite mild tasting, much like Western Cottage Cheese, and it is particularly useful in cooked dishes and on the grill as it holds its shape and does not melt.
The name ‘Achari Paneer Tikka’, as this dish was named at Devi, can be broken down easily. Most people are familiar with the word ‘Tikka’, chiefly from restaurant like ‘Chicken Tikka Masala’, but as exotic as it may sound, it is simply a Hindi word for ‘chunks’. The other term ‘Achari’ is derived from the Hindi word for ‘Pickle’ and, in this context means ‘pickled’. Accordingly, this particular Devi specialty glorifies under the slightly less appealing name ‘Pickled Cheese Chunks’.
Anyway, the ingredients here, were clearly skewered before being put into the Tandoor and, as you can see, the three, very generous chunks of Paneer were interspersed with pieces of Green Pepper and Onion. The temperature in the Tandoor was, I have no doubt, much hotter than a standard home oven, and you can see the lovely job of caramelizing it produces, along with just a little smoky carbonization for another level of flavor.
The Peppers and Onions were still tender and very flavorful, while the Paneer had a texture that was exquisite. I have elsewhere waxed effusive about Haloumi Cheese, which also does not melt, and the simplest way for me to describe the Devi Paneer in terms of a beautiful consistency is to liken it to the Grilled Haloumi at the Efendy Restaurant in Halifax.
The one slight disappointment I had here was the fact the Paneer did not seem to have been pickled. I was really looking forward to what this might be like but, after I tasted it, I am pretty sure that whoever drafted the menu was a little clear on the distinction between ‘pickled’ and ‘marinated’. The cheese here was definitely marinated and the spice combination was fairly complex and also well balanced and delicious. I can’t say what the components might have been, although mustard seemed to play a strong role, but, whatever it was, it made up for there having been no pickling involved and, all in all, I thought the Achari Paneer at the Devi Indian Restaurant a definite winner.