Kozhikode: Tasting the biryani at Kozhikode's Paragon restaurant is a prominent item on most foodies' wishlists. Ask biryani fanatics and you will be told every time they visit Kozhikode, 'biryani at Paragon' is on their to-do list.
The 84-year-old restaurant, which is known for its biryani recently figured as the 11th best in the '150 Most Legendary Restaurants in the World' list, released by Taste Atlas, a Croatia-based popular food guide.
The list published on Friday has seven restaurants from India including Lucknow's Tunday Kababi at 12th position, Haryana's Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba on 23rd and Bengaluru's Mavalli Tiffin Rooms at 39th.
The guide also lists 150 dishes from these restaurants as the ones "you have to try in this lifetime." Paragon's biryani is one among the dishes. In a conversation with us, Paragon's owner Sumesh Govind spoke about the special touches that make Paragon's biryani quite exceptional among biryanis.
The signature of Malabar
Sumesh, who believes that making a hearty Kozhikodan biryani is not about the recipe but the passion, says Paragon's biryani has the signature of Malabar in it, above all. He explains: "The Malabar region is a melting pot of different cultures like Arab, Chinese, English and more. All of these cultural influences are evident in our food too. The same aspect helps our biryani stand out, but still, have a global appeal."
Passion for food and giving the best to whatever you do is a line the entrepreneur often stresses on.
Talking about Paragon's food, Sumesh narrates the incident of a veteran singer trying Paragon's food years ago and giving her feedback. He remembers, "The singer said, 'I can taste passion in your food,' and to demonstrate it, she started singing a raaga, while other customers and me looked on, baffled. After humming a few lines, she said, 'I sang it without emotion (bhaava) or passion. Now, let me show you how different the same raaga will sound when I sing with passion.' And I remember her rendition was much better! Similarly, anyone can have the recipe but the food you prepare will have soul only when it's made passionately."
Spreading taste across the world
Paragon has quite a few branches outside of Kozhikode and they also are invited from major cities across the world, like New York and London to open a branch, says Sumesh. "Offers from London, New York and the like come to you when you have a great product. But, we don't want to be too ambitious. When you expand beyond your capacity without passion, the brand name is not going to click." He quotes the example of restaurants around the world that are limited to one location. "People go there on a 'food pilgrimage' or 'food tourism,' if you like, even when you have to book their limited seats much in advance and so on. This means that serving great food is not something you can expand in a business-like manner, but one should do it according to natural, organic growth,” he says, signing off.