Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dilli Dhaba

This is almost my last post about my long ago trip to India. Just one more after this about Mumbai and then we’re all done.

No trip to India is complete without a gastronomic roundabout of ones favourite foods and eateries. With so little time and so much to eat its difficult making choices – the only decisive one was that this time I would not eat any meals at home as my mum was working too hard to cook me my favourite meals and I would have had to put up with our dreadful cooks meals. A lot of my meals were decided by the friends I was out with: “our favourite restaurant is..”, “dying to eat so-and-so cuisine”, “lets try this new place”, etc. You get the drift.

Places I ate at:

Corriander Leaf, Gurgaon:
Favourite eatery of my cousin Mandy and her family. Lunched there with them on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Claims to be Pakistani cuisine but the menu read and the food tasted much the same as north Indian. Must recommend the Dal makhni.

Flaming Mustard, Vasant Kunj:
Yummy north Indian and chinese cuisine. A lovely quiet evening with parents, cousins and niece. Endless kebabs, soft rumali roti’s and delicious chilli paneer.

Chaatwala, Anchal Plaza, Vasant Kunj: Random guy with his stand, outside some shops in Anchal plaza (which I know as ATM plaza because it seems to have every Indian bank ATM possible - all in a row), makes the best aloo tikki and puchka’s. Walloped!!! Made multiple subsequent trips – all very satisfying – the dirt and grime adds to the taste!

Ano Tai, Vasant Continental, Vasant Vihar: An evening of gourmet Chinese food with a dear friend from school and her hubby. Delicious water chestnut starter and sumptuous food in a setting to match.

Geoffreys, Ansal Plaza: After a morning of window shopping with my friend V we decided to lunch at Geoffreys. IT was absolutely empty and the service was excellent. We shared a vegetarian thai curry with rice and a vegetarian tandoori platter that had an array of kebabs and tikka’s with miniature naans. Very tasty and filling

Italic, Vasant Vihar:
This brightly lit and well decorated restaurant has taken over the place of what was a seedy nightclub/ restaurant in Vasant Vihar’s C Block market. Had dinner with my parents and cousin A & his wife P (who is more delightful everytime I see her!). Well presented entrees from an extensive menu and there was no talk at the table. My dad’s tuna on toast (had a fancier name that I no longer recall) was simply fantastic.

Swagat, Defence Colony: This is the replacement restaurant on the site of my childhood favourite Faley’s. As a child I craved their wontons and going there was considered the biggest treat. Now it’s North and South Indian food and even on Tuesday night it was packed to the gills with eager customers. Spent a great evening with two MBA buddies (now married to each other) eating a very tasty north Indian meal

TGIF, Vasant Vihar: My mum’s birthday lunch was a toss up between this and Punjabi by Nature which is also in Vasant Vihar. We had eaten so much North Indian food by then that this became the obvious choice. TGIF was once the most exclusive place to eat mainly based on its price and being a frontrunner in Mexican style food. Now it has competition at every level and its veneer of exclusivity seems to have faded. This fall from exclusivity is also evident in the general upkeep of the place (dull to say the least) and the appalling service. The food was alright, served in generous portions possibly to try and hide the mediocrity of the settings. We had a pleasant enough time although maybe Punjabi by Nature would have been a better idea.

Near East, Vasant Vihar: Not guessing that I was planning to arrive in time for her birthday two of my mums’ cousins had planned dinner at this Vasant Vihar eatery. We went along after the very exciting world record cricket chase. High on the buzz that a good game of cricket brings we ate a fusion dinner of Thai and Chinese dishes. I have to admit that the décor and ambience of the place seem confused and quite dull. The food thankfully distracts you from all these problems. It was a lovely evening with my uncles, aunt, parents and the perfect finish to my mothers’ birthday.

Olive Bar & Kitchen, Mehrauli: After a morning of exhausting window shopping in one of the ugliest Gurgaon Malls our eyes needed the restful ambience of this haveli courtyard restaurant. All the white walls and gently flowing water made for the prefect setting for lunch. Between my mum, my friend V and me we shared a simply delicious meal of vegetable risotto, stuffed bockwurst and a four cheeses pizza.

Nanking, Vasant Kunj: This is a rather fancy restaurant for such an un-fancy colony. Looking at the uninspiring shopping centre block in which Nanking occupies a few floors you would never be tempted to go in. Despite its unassuming exteriors this gem of a restaurant is perpetually full. Very simple décor and an extensive menu are the ideal combination. My parents and I enjoyed an evening of wholesome, hot Chinese food - my idea of heaven!

Passion my cup of Tea, Vasant Vihar: I know I know you can get chai at any corner roadside shop so what’s all the fuss about. This is not really their competition. This is the new concept of a tea bar, beating an unknown path in competition with the various coffee chains that have popped up in every part of Delhi. The first of its kind in the capital it has won a few awards and is being much talked about. Went along to see what the fuss was all about. Warm sunshine through the glass walls of the tea shop helped. They had quite a varied selection of teas on offer and each of us chose something different. All 3 choices were excellent. It was a pleasant change from the nauseatingly similar coffee shops. I guess that will only last till it becomes a nauseating chain all its own!
Any meals not accounted for were at the chaatwala. My stomach was in seventh heaven.

I am not enamoured by Indians who live abroad for a few years and then go back and behave like tourists visiting a country for the first time. I agree that our immunity changes and becomes lower abroad. I think thats mainly due to a combination of factors like a stricter hygiene standard in restaurants and less spicy foods - in India we build up higher immunties to help us weather all that comes our way. I admit that it’s likely for returning desi’s to fall ill the first few days due to a change in style of food or the water. I agree the pollution levels are different and that the traffic can drive you to insanity. I agree that the sheer volume of the city and extreme temperatures can be loud and stinging. But I also think that the body has enough resilience to deal with all these things. We were after all born and brought up there. No matter after how long you go back you body will readjust itself to the rhythm of that life – in a few hours or a few days. I think that it’s better to be brave and enjoy all the delicacies you can’t get abroad. A few tablets, some good sunscreen and care with drinking water will take care of any serious illnesses. I had a brilliant time – food wise it was everything I hoped for. I ate in lots of different and new places. The taste that the Indian atmosphere adds to the food is different – everything tastes special. Things are spicier than you remember them, sweeter than you though possible and tastier than you dreamed of. This is the food of my country and I hope I am never afraid to go out and eat when I am back in India. I hope you aren't either.


  1. Dal Makhni.. yum yum. I wanna go home too :( Right now.

  2. Anonymous2:27 AM

    I agree with you about the "eating out" in India...even my kids(ages 9 and 4) eat out there...i think our immune system does not get too sensitive since we drink tap water here in the US!!! 40in2006

  3. Can't wait for the Mumbai post. This Delhi stuff is over my head. Never been there, though I would love to. You must really love your food to make such a dutiful compile :-)

  4. Me, I know! As a kid dal was the last thing I would ever touch but now I have a sudden love and longing for dal makhani when I am in India.

    40in2006, No point going back to India and vegetating at home. Half the delight is in running around eating all the stuff not available where we live. Good to give you kids the gift of a tough immune system from an early age.

    Parth, you might be disappointed by the Mumbai post - be warned. And yes I do love my food and my city.

  5. wish i could say the same but I can't - a few days in India and my system goes upside down .. actually even my papa's did and he used to live in India :(

    ooh some of the dishes has made my mouth water

  6. You need some good food cooked by Me. Pappa, or even san for that matter wudn't fall ill.