Monthly Archives: November 2011

Chor Bizzare (Noida) 6.8/10

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Having originally dined at the Hotel Broadway long long ago and later at their newer outlet in Noida, I am happy to note that neither the decor, nor the quality of food have changed. Because those two things really, are what make this chain of restaurants an absolute stand out for me. In common Indian parlance, a ‘chor bazzar’ is a thieves market- where anything and everything under the sun might be available. Now, dont get me wrong, this place is known only for its Kashmiri food. But do take a moment for the decor to sink in. Nothing matches. The plates, glasses, tables, chairs and even the cutlery are all a hodgepodge from different sets. If you get lucky, you might even be seated at a former bookcase, now turned on its back and given legs! And dont miss the vintage car in the middle of the restaurant which doubles up as the buffet bar.

On to the food. There’s not much of a choice here. Skip the buffet. Skip everything on the menu. Just ask for the Tarami which is a seven-odd course meal covering various Kashmiri specialties such as the lamb roganjosh, haaq (spinach), tabak maaz (lamb cooked in milk and then deep fried!) and the goshtaba (miced lamb meatballs), which by far is my favourite part of the Tarami. I am told that the traditional tarami involved in the wazwan style of cooking in Kashmir consists of 36 courses (!) and is a part of any momentous occassion or event. Of course, that is reduced for our light-speed lifestyles and restaurant economics.

These are flavours that one would not get in other restaurants. The brittleness of the skin of the tabak maaz, contrasting with the milk-cooked insides is simply to die for. Add to that, an old favourite- that of the lamb roganjosh. But to top it all, the goshtaba. Succulent meatballs, in a heady soupy gravy, the goshtaba is simply put- one of the best things that could happen to a lamb.

The Tarami is followed by a firni and- because the powers that be at Chor Bizzare care for your digestive tracts- a cup of qawah- a traditional green tea consumed in the Himalayan regions. The heady brew provides the perfect finish to the rather copious quantities of food you will have just consumed.

Its a pity though- that Chor Bizzare doesnt have more branches.

 

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 9
Ease of access 5
Service 5
Quality of food 8
Value for money 7
Would I go back there? Everytime, everyday
Meal for two INR 1500 + taxes (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted

Top Tips

  • No need to try anything else- just the Tarami
  • Valet parking is available at both outlets

 


 

 

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Barrique (Gurgaon) 6/10

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These DLF people sure know how to design their buildings. Under the imposing twin towers of Building No. 9A and 9B in Gurgaon’s swanky Cyber City, we have this restaurant called Barrique. Now, whether the name refers to a French wooden barrel or the Hindi term to chop finely, is anyone’s guess. Right next to Mainland China, which was pretty much a disaster (see my review on this blog), Barrique is a multi cuisine haven for lunch-seekers and thirsty execs alike.
The massive wine rack at the entrance tells you that this place does serve alcohol. However, since we were dining there for lunch, that too on a weekday, alcoholic beverages were out of the question. What was also out of the question, were the mocktails, which can easily be substituted for with sugar syrup, says good friend and fellow foodie- Jairaj. We had ordered the Pollo ala Melagnaise and the Napoli Meatzaa- both of which, we are told, are quite representative of Barrique’s expertise in Italian cuisine.
We loved the food. The chicken wasn’t overcooked, like it is in most cases and the Meatzaa was exactly that- full of meat. The generous portions of bacon helped things along too. the flavours came out just right and even the cherry tomatoes in the chicken pasta were fresh. However, for hard-core carnivores, we would strongly recommend the grilled prawns (wrapped in bacon and served with their own barbeque sauce)- heaven! But then again, the dessert was a bit of a let down. We werent expecting cheesecake of Big Chill standards, but ordered the blueberry creme pie nonetheless. Unfortunately, the cream was too heavy and too sweet. The pie base wasnt exactly crumbly and frankly, the thing needed way more blueberry compote.
But, if I were to be on a mission to impress a potential client (or the cute girl in office) on a limited budget, I’d take them to lunch at Barrique.

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 8
Ease of access 6
Service 5
Quality of food 6
Value for money 5
Would I go back there? Sure, just not every week
Meal for two INR 1000 + taxes (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted

Top Tips

  • Stick to the Italian stuff. You’ll get better Indian fare at Punjabi by Nature across the road
  • Getting there is not much of a pain- except for the toll plaza at the entrance to Gurgaon. The building no. is 9A- a little confusing for non cyber-city dwellers. Its at the first turn after the entrance to cyber-city. Valet parking is free.
  • If having lunch, try getting a table next to the french windows.

All American Diner (India Habitat Centre) 6.8/10

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The old favourite, the safe haven for brunch seekers, the dependable All American Diner at the India Habitat Centre is usually packed to capacity on most weekends. To add to that trouble, they dont take reservations. Getting a table at around 10 am at the AAD is about as difficult as swimming through honey while your hands and feet are tied.

So you get a stool at the bar and you place your order. The food is dependable. You know what to expect. My favourite happens to be the Sunrise Skillet along with the Peanut Butter Malt. The Sunrise Skillet is an all-sorts mix of eggs, bacon, sausages, pancakes and cheese while the Peanut Butter Malt is- simply put- an orgasm in a glass. If however, you happen to be not partial to peanut butter in general, there are a number of other malts and shakes- ranging from fruit-based to chocolate to coffee. The Belgian Waffle Combo is also highly recommended.

Eventually, you may get a table and be served there. Of course, you may not get a table at all- in which case you get to suffer the ignominy  of eating at the bar.  If however, you manage to get there post noon, the breakfast menu is no longer available and as a consequence, you’re more likely to get a table.

On the lunch and dinner menu- the Buffalo Wings, the Surf ‘n Turf and the Fusilli with Chicken & Veggies could possibly end up on your table and you wouldnt be disappointed. However, stay away from the Chicken Pot Pie.

There’s an interesting semi-buffet as well for the starving masses on a Sunday morning after a Saturday night out on the town. You pay Rs 445 plus taxes and you get to have whatever you want on the breakfast menu. Yes, whatever you want AND in whatever quantities you want. Obviously, you cant be sharing that. But its a good option for those pigging out sessions.

As a breakfast/ brunch place, the AAD has few comparisons. In recent times, in order to keep up with the ever increasing fan base, they now have tables outside, on the lawn, which on a cool morning- is a fairly awesome place to have breakfast/ brunch. Overall however, they could do with a little more hygiene- having spotted cockroaches in the diner a couple of times.

Ratings Scale (on 10)
Ambience 8
Ease of access 8
Service 4
Quality of food 8
Value for money 6
Would I go back there? About once in six months
Meal for two INR 1000 (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted

Top Tips

  • Check out the wide variety of Americana on display- from old Coke poster ads to a jukebox!
  • Alcohol is served from 11 am onwards. A beer with breakfast anyone?
  • Try pairing a brunch at the AAD preceded by a walk in Lodhi Gardens (right opposite to the IHC) and followed by a tour of whatever art show that’s on at IHC. Cant think of a better way to spend a lazy Sunday.
  • Forget about calories- just this time 🙂

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News Cafe (Vasant Kunj) 6.2/10

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Fancy a Sunday brunch anyone? We did. And tired as we were of the usual haunts of IHC and the like, News Cafe in the DLF Promenande Mall, Vasant Kunj was a likely choice. Having dined there a couple of times before, we knew to expect decent food.

However, what we didnt expect was that the restaurant was on the verge of shutting down. In fact, we are told that the restaurant did shut down for a couple of weeks (?)- possibly because of lease rent issues. Anyway, that’s besides the point- just call in advance to check if they’re open.

As a group of eight, we managed to plough through quite a cross section on the fare available. Note that I mention the ‘fare available’ and not the menu. Just as not all that glitters is gold, not all that is mentioned on the menu is available. For example, in the traditional breakfast, the sausages weren’t available. You couldn’t order a hot drink, or any drink that used to be hot, but now cold (e.g cold coffee or iced tea). However, the restaurant waiters were nice enough to run down to the la marche nearby and get us fresh sausages.

While the bacon and cheese burger was large and wholesome, the burger buns left much to be desired. By the time I had finished the burger, the buns were falling apart into crumbs- rendering the whole concept of a burger as completely irrelevant. The steak and eggs, was a different story altogether. The steak wasn’t tenderised enough prior to cooking- and when you serve a steak dish without steak knives (apparently they don’t have steak knives), that doesn’t help either. The fish fingers were too thin and didnt have enough fish in them. Although, the tartar sauce served with the fish fingers left everyone wanting more.

On the flip side, the salads are wonderfully fresh and well seasoned. The same goes for the eggs benedict. And while the tiramisu was wonderfully light and fluffy, the cake in the ganache was stale- atleast 2 days old.

Apart from that, the food is acceptable, the waiters are really sweet (the chefs might be a little slow, though) and the location is excellent.

Ratings Scale (on 10)
Ambience 8
Ease of access 8
Service 6
Quality of food 5
Value for money 5
Would I go back there? Maybe- if stretched
Meal for two INR 1800 (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted

Top Tips

  • The pièce de résistance really is the location. On the 3rd floor of the DLF Promenade Mall, it has a seated balcony overlooking Nelson Mandela Marg which, on a sunny winter morning would be an awesome place to have brunch.
  • Try their ‘habanero’ sauce. Has a ‘hot’ rating of 10/10 and a Scoville rating of 100,000–350,000! And keep a glass of water handy.
  • Ask for Vijay Yadav- one of the funnest waiters ever. Our meal at News Cafe would have been a lot less enjoyable if it hadnt been for him.
  • A wonderful alternative to the overpriced Smokehouse Deli on the ground floor and the overrated TGIF next door.

The Kitchen (Khan Market) 7.4/10

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Nestled in in a corner (next to where Khan Chacha’s outlet used to be) of the middle lane of Khan Market lies a slightly unlikely sort of restaurant. Its not large by any standards. It’ll seat about 20 at best. But having dined there a number of times, I can tell you that it serves some of the best food in Khan Market. The ambience is akin to a warm welcoming living room, painted in red, with posters and paintings adorning the walls. The service staff is efficient, if slightly stretched- owing to the usually full complement of guests.

You might want to try the glass noodle salad. Light, well seasoned, with a tangy, zesty citrus flavour. While they have a large variety of mains, the dish to try out is the Khao Swey. Originating in Burma, Khao Swey is essentially noodles with a coconut milk based gravy. While the original recipe calls for mutton in the gravy, The Kitchen serves vegetarian and chicken versions. While for puritans of part-Burmese descent (like me), this is slightly sacrilegious, its not all that bad. The coconut milk imparts a creamy texture to the gravy, which is swimming with chicken, noodles and eggs. Then you have the usual assortment of condiments- peanuts, crispy potato wafers, fried garlic lime and onions. This allows the diner to build up a personalised khao swey according to his/her tastes. Personally, I like it with lots of garlic and lime, topped off with the potato wafers and a little bit of onions. While, I cant say that its authentic Khao Swey, it does remind me a little of my grandmothers cooking.

Amongst the other mains, I would suggest the chorizo burger. Of course, they may not have chorizo all the time, in which case try the keema pao. In the desserts, try the cheesecake. But if you are a Big Chill cheescake afficionado, prepare to be slightly disappointed. You could also try the Lemon Yoghurt cake.

But here’s the thing, you cant really classify The Kitchen as having a particular type of cuisine. Its got a mix of Italian, Thai, Chinese, Indian, American and even Burmese! There a cross section of most types of cooking, and I’d recommend The Kitchen over most other eateries in Khan Market. A must go-to if you’re particularly fond of citrusy flavours.

Ratings Scale (on 10)
Ambience 7
Ease of access 8
Service 7
Quality of food 8
Value for money 7
Would I go back there? Without a doubt
Meal for two INR 1500 (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol No
Credit cards Accepted

Top Tips

  • Check out the Khao Swey Counter on the blackboard
  • Also check out the huge copper cauldron they use as a basin in the washroom!
  • Instead of having dessert at The Kitchen, head on over to Big Chill or Chokola or even Mrs Kaurs
  • The head waiter is extremely efficient and courteous. Big thumbs up!
  • Feel free to ask them to reduce the volume of the music- some times it does get a little too loud.
  • For the veggie lovers and health freaks- check out their healthy options portion of the menu

Mainland China (Gurgaon) 5/10

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As a well established, pan- India chain, one has certain expectations from Mainland China. Having sampled their fare in Saket (Delhi), Andheri (Bombay) and Calcutta, I was eager to try out their outlet in Gurgaon. I’m not a big fan of chinese food- just a personal choice, but I firmly believe that Mainland China’s standards of quality of food and service were among the best in the food industry.

Until I visited their Gurgaon branch in Cyber City for their lunch buffet.

Granted, it was a weekday and at lunchtime. But if you have seating available for say, a hundred people, it would stand to reason to have enough service staff to manage a hundred people. Sadly, that was missing. What was also missing were plates! At the beginning of the buffet counter, queues of guests could be seen, waiting for plates to arrive from the kitchen! Completely unacceptable. Despite assurances from who I could only assume to be be the service captain, we had to endure upto 15 minutes of wait-time before plates arrived.

On to the food. Appetizers were thankfully served on the table. Veg dimsums, some kind of fried potatoes, salt and pepper veggies and chicken lollipops. 3 veg and 1 non-veg?! While that would be good news for vegans, veggie lovers and other herbivores, its completely unacceptable for meat-lovers.

The spread otherwise was acceptable. Three mains of non-veg and veg, along with noodles and rice. Apart from the mustard fish, I can’t say that any of them warranted a second helping. The fish was well seasoned with the gravy having the right amount of sharpness from the mustard- not overpowering, nor flaccid. I didnt try the salads, but noted an acceptable spread of the greens. The desserts were a little confusing. While they had the standard icecream and darsan, for some reason, there was also a chocolate fountain and almost- empty bowls of what we assumed to be nuts. The caramel custard was limp and there was a strange peppercorn mousse which frankly, reminded me of the two rupee cakes you’d get at roadside chaiwallas as a kid in Calcutta.

The big let down, however, was the service. Only two servings of appetizers- after being repeatedly asked for the second. It took ages to get a can of coke and as mentioned above, there simply werent enough plates to serve at full capacity.

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 7
Ease of access 6
Service 2
Quality of food 4
Value for money 5
Would I go back there? Certainly, but only if all the other restaurants in the area shut down
Meal for two INR 1000 + taxes (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted

Top Tips:

  • Get a reservation. Definitely.
  • Getting there is not much of a pain- except for the toll plaza at the entrance to Gurgaon. The building no. is 9A- a little confusing for non cyber-city dwellers. Its at the first turn after the entrance to cyber-city. Valet parking is free.
  • Ala carte is recommended over the buffet.

 

Al Jawahar (Jama Masjid) 6/10

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Move over Karims, there’s a new kid on the block. And what a kid! Karims may have the branches in Noida and Nizamuddin and the history, but sacrilegious as it may sound,  Al Jawahar is miles ahead.

To add insult to what could be very injurious to Karims’ flow of clientele, its situated right next door. So its the same pushing through the crowded streets of Chandni Chowk, soaking in hundreds of years of history, until the deft rickshawallah brings you the little lane of gastronomic pleasures. One of the first restaurants on the left is Al Jawahar.

Their family room is on the third floor- after a series of confusing staircases. Thankfully its air-conditioned (the first two floors are not). The service is friendly and efficient. They might not ask your opinion as to whether your meal was satisfying, but they will come back to ask if you’d like another naan or roti.

We tried the mutton burra kebab- something that every self-respecting mughlai restaurant will have. Perfect. No other word for it. Wonderfully marinated, charcoal grilled, sticky and almost falling off the bone. Just what every mutton burra kebab aspires to be.  That was followed up by sheermal and the chicken jahangiri- standard items that you would find in every mughlai eatery. While the sheermal was a little on the dry side, the jahangiri was everything that the name makes it out to be- fit for a mughal emperor! I was expecting the gravy to be swathed in oil (which it was to some extent), but surprisingly less compared to other restaurants serving similar food. The lightness of the gravy probably contributed to the fact that the portions could be slightly larger. The firni was just as light and a good finish to a wonderful meal.

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 4
Ease of access 2
Service 7
Quality of food 9
Value for money 9
Would I go back there? Certainly, although I might think twice about venturing into the Old City
Meal for two INR 600
Serves alcohol No
Credit cards Not accepted

Top Tips:

  • Getting there and getting out is a pain. Forget about taking your car- there’s no place to park and you wouldn’t want to wade through such traffic.
  • The easiest option is to take the Delhi Metro (Yellow Line- towards Jahangirpuri if you’re coming from south Delhi) and get off at Chawri Bazaar (and not Chandni Chowk). An open rickshaw will charge upto INR 20 to take you to Al Jawahar. Just say Jama Masjid or better- Karims. They know where to go.
  • The rickshaw ride can be bumpy- hang on tight!
  • Careful of your belongings. Those are fairly crowded streets.
  • Appreciate the Old City- take a walk down Chawri Bazaar or into the Jama Masjid and soak in hundreds of years of history.
  • I wouldn’t trust the drinking water- even if it comes to you in a ‘sealed’ bottle. Open a bottle of Coke instead.
  • Restrooms aren’t exactly acceptable, but when you gotta go… well, you gotta go.


Thai High (Mehrauli) 7/10

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What’s a restaurant like you doing in a place like this? That’s the first question I asked as I entered this partially-open air restaurant in Mehrauli. Situated on a busy street next to the Mehrauli Bus Terminus, you would hardly expect an upmarket place amidst the rickshaws, honking cars and daredevil bikers. But, you drive up to the Ambavata Complex, get out of your car and the liveried valet is happy to take over the pains of finding parking space.

As you ascend the three stories (and one flight of stairs) to the rooftop restaurant, the mood changes further. You are now greeted by the maître d’, soft music, a fresh breeze and is that a hint of lemongrass? Difficult to imagine a tranquil ambience when you know of busy street below.

And really, the ambience of Thai High is one of its major selling points- primarily because of its location. But once you get over the environment (where the honking cars can still be heard, but far far away), you look around and spot the majestic Qutub Minar towering over the minions of houses and offices that crowd Mehrauli. At closer proximity is the tomb of Adham Khan.

The food is acceptable- although the vegetarian fare leaves much to be desired. Fortunately, as a hard-core non-vegetarian, that didnt pose of problem for me (read, vegetarians and vegans- stay away!) We ordered their signature Thai High Satay which was a bit of a let down. The chicken was slightly undercooked marring what would have been an absolutely fantastic starter. The peanut sauce was perfectly seasoned, although I would personally prefer the peanuts to be chopped slightly finer as opposed to something that resembles crunchy peanut butter.

The main course was a thai red curry (fish) and crispy noodles (chicken). While the crispy noodles were pretty good, drizzled with some kind of chicken strips barbequed in a tamarind sauce base, I was blown away with the red curry. I’m not a great fan of oriental food, particularly Chinese cuisine, but Thai food is ok. That said, the red curry was perfect. Not heavy at all, it struck the perfect balance between the zing of the lemon grass and the solid creamy base of coconut milk. We were left licking off the last dregs of the curry.

The Baileys chocolate mousse which we ordered for dessert was par for the course- nothing to write home about. The thai-style cooking at this restaurant remains its forte.

 

Ratings Scale (on 10)
Ambience 9
Ease of access 5
Service 8
Quality of food 7
Value for money 6
Would I go back there? Without a doubt
Meal for two INR 1500 (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted


Top Tips:

  • Going to Thai High for dinner is far better than lunch- the soft lighting and open air on a summer (or even autumn) night can be awesome
  • Also, they open up the upper terrace for better views of the Qutab, lit up in the darkness. You can see for miles around.
  • The upper terrace is also fantastic for private parties
  • The valets are highly courteous and helpful only once they know that you’re headed to Thai High
  • If you’re heading there on a weekend it would be helpful getting reservations
  • Vegetarians and vegans- you could possibly give this one a miss

Getting there: