Monthly Archives: December 2011

Lodi- The Garden Restaurant (Lodhi Road) 8/10

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Note: this review has been sponsored by DhoomBox.

Just beyond the entrance to Lodhi Garden is this blink-and-miss entrance to what is possibly one of the most beautiful restaurants in Delhi. As you walk through the path, you notice tables out in the open amidst the bushes and the trees, with heaters and soft lighting. Since December can get fairly cold in Delhi, I opted to sit inside instead.

The manager, Vijendra was kind enough to sit with me and explain the concept of Lodhi restaurant. They serve European cuisine, primarily- just my kinda place! Some of their vegetables are sourced from their organic farms- one in Gurgaon, and one in Delhi. The clientele is mostly expat- given the close proximity to Nizamuddin, Jorbagh, Golf Links and the Lodhi Institutional Area. Which means that its not going to be easy on the pocket. Be prepared to shell out premium moolah for a premium setting.

As part of the set menu, I chose a coriander lamb skewer, a tomato and celery broth, garlic chicken morsels with risotto and their house special- a chocoloate mousse.

Things started off badly. I’m fairly sensitive to mutton and lamb in terms of their odours. The skewers came from a lamb or goat that had either been spayed/neutered or was fairly old. You’ll notice a pungent smell in certain kinds of meat, particularly in low spice mutton/ lamb/ beef curries- I got the same smell in the skewers. Not that I’m complaining- a lot of people actually relish the smell. I don’t. the skewers also needed a little more in it- just flavoured with coriander gives it a bland, one-dimensional taste.

But the soup turned it around for me. Warm, filling, yet light it actually reminded me of the soups my grandmother would make for me when I was sick. Couldn’t have asked for better. But what truly blew me away was the chicken. If you’ve cooked chicken, you’ll know that there’s a fine line between partly cooked and overdone. If it’s not cooked enough, it’ll taste awful (and will be unhygienic too). Overdone and it’ll be dry and fibrous. This one held the line throughout. Every bite was sheer joy- juicy, succulent and bursting with flavour. The tomato risotto accompanying the chicken played the brilliant sidekick to what was the perfectly cooked chicken.

But then again, the chocolate mousse had issues. Slightly grainy as opposed to the smoothness one would expect from a mousse- I thought I could taste the flour and butter (or atleast some kind of fat). Wasn’t really a put off- but after that chicken, it couldn’t match up to that standard.

Top Tips

  • Extensive wine cellar- ask the manager for his recommendations
  • Few other places in Delhi (such as Thai High and Magique) match up to their ambience
  • Don’t park on the main road. Instead, there’s parking a few metres ahead of the road. Or you could park at the Lodhi garden parking spot
  • Perfect for a late lunch after a walk in Lodhi garden
Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 9
Ease of access 7
Service 8
Quality of food 8
Value for money 4
Would I go back there? As often as it suits my wallet!
Meal for two Rs 2000 (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted

Ichiban (Pandara Road) 4.9/10

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An old haven for Oriental food seekers, usually late at night, Ichiban provides acceptable food, but is not likely to burn a hole in your pocket.

After a walkaround at Dill Haat, we headed over to Ichibaan on a cold December night mostly in search of soup to fend off the chill. While the restaurant is small- 20 guests at best, it does have a warm, cosy feeling to it. The soft lighting and the almost-hidden citronella oil dispenser does add to the ambience.

For starters we ordered the chilli potatoes and the crispy lamb. Since there were three of us, we figured to go with two starters at least. Both were acceptable, but I’d still prefer the honey cilli potatoes at Zen in CP. One must note here- the portions are HUGE. One plate of anything, whether it be soup, starters or the main course will easily provide for two people. We didn’t know that- ah well.

Onto the soup. Having ordered the Mie Bakso (an Indonesian soup with meatballs), the chicken hot ‘n sour and the seafood/seaweed soups, we were disappointed with all but the seafood soup. The Mie Bakso has this weird burnt flavor to it and the meatballs weren’t really cooked through. The chicken hot ‘n sour is acceptable at best, but no better than the ones you’d get in any roadside Chinese food stall or even at Majnu ka Tila. The high point really, was the seafood soup. Even though it had the seafood flavours- it had none of the pungency that one would usually associate with seafood (see my comment on the Miso soup at Sushi earlier). Perfect!

Ichiban serves a variety of Oriental cuisines, including sushi, much to the delight of fellow foodie Rukmini. So sushi it was for her. Also fellow foodie, chef par excellence and mother Sahana looked up and down the menu, searching for a Thai red curry with fish. It wasn’t there. Upon request, the chef did agree to make a fish red curry. Highly commendable, I say! I ordered a dry lamb.

I would have to say that the food is up to par. The Sushi did come with the dipping bowl, wasabi and ginger. The red curry was excellent and the fish cooked just right. The let down was the lamb- a little overcooked and therefore too stringy.

But, like I mentioned earlier, we didn’t know how large the portions were going to be and ended up over-ordering. The food just described would be enough for 5 people. We ended up packing most of it.

 

Top Tips:

  • The Pandara Road eateries are quite interesting. Do try out Gulati’s sometime
  • The service is woefully slow. From taking orders to serving.
  • Parking is an issue. Most weekend nights will have you hunting for parking space along the narrow bylane. These guys should get together and have a valet parking system

 

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 6
Ease of access 3
Service 3
Quality of food 5
Value for money 7
Would I go back there? Sure, just not often though. Would probably head to Gulati’s instead
Meal for two Rs 1200 (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol No
Credit cards Accepted

 

 


 

 

 


Sushi (Moets- Defence Colony) 4.5/10

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Of late, there’s been a flurry of activity in the Japanese cuisine space in Delhi. Perhaps it’s a sign of the growing affluence of the middle class, who now can afford exotic gourmet cuisine in the Capital. While I would always prefer the lunch spread at Threesixty at the Oberoi or the platter at Sidewok in Khan Market, we decided to try out a place none of us had been to before. So, enter Sushi- Moets’ offering in Oriental cuisine. The reservations were made- something that was recommended. Plus, since it was fellow foodie (and now fiancee) Rukmini’s birthday, I wanted it to be perfect.

Getting there wasnt an issue at all. Defence Colony is well connected, being in the heart of South Delhi. As you climb up the narrow stairs to the first floor of the building that is unofficially referred to as ‘Moet’s’, you begin to soak in the warm ambience, the soft lighting and the background music. The maitre d shows you to your table, which we had to change a couple of times- they had left the air-conditioning on way too high for early December

The wine list is impressive, but we were there just for the Sushi. And its a pity they didnt have any sake. I mean, come on! What kind of self respecting Japanese restaurant doesnt serve sake? I dont need warm- cold will also do. Sighing at our sake-less fate, we ordered the miso soup, the veggie tempura and the seafood platter.

The miso soup was wonderful- just what we needed on a nippy evening. Although initially, I did think they could have put in a little less fish stock/ sauce. Then it was time to go on to the tempura veggies. Again, while the batter and the light soup that accompanies tempura were acceptable, I found it a little difficult to imagine why would the chef subject his poor guests to such mammoth sized pieces. And try cutting a stick of asparagus with a pair of chopsticks. Go ahead, do try.

Now comes the seafood platter. Oh wait, did I say platter? No no, that cant be right. This was a well decorated plate, replete with wasabi and ginger and- hod your breath two types of sushi. One was a prawn nigri which was by far- the high point of the meal (four pieces) and the other was a generic tuna and salmon roll (four pieces each) with which I wasnt impressed. At all. Overall, we felt that a restaurant that serves a sushi platter, that too for close to Rs 1000 a plate needs to have more than 3 types of sushi on it. Where’s the yellowtail? Where’s the sashimi?

The service was another issue. Painfully slow, the waiters had to be reminded twice of our order. Finally, when the sushi did arrive, it did so sans soya sauce. They got the soya sauce (not the low sodium version) and looked at me blankly when I asked for a second bowl (it is considered inappropriate to share a dipping bowl when having sushi).

To top it off, fellow foodie Rukmini, who happens to really like sushi, fell ill the day after. I think I’ll stick to Sidewok or Threesixty next time.

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 7
Ease of access 7
Service 3
Quality of food 4
Value for money 2
Would I go back there? Only if you promise me that we wont have sushi
Meal for two Rs 1800 (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted

Top Tips:

  • The ‘valet’ (the boy who will take your keys when you park the car) will ask for Rs 20. The parking ticket says rs 10. Your call.
  • Strange how the other offerings of Moets, such as Stone are in a different league altogether.
  • Sushi does serve other oriental cuisine (apart from Japanese). I sincerely hope they do that better than their namesake.

Paranthe Wali Gali (Chandni Chowk) 5/10

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Yet another sojourn into the Old City brought me to what could be one of the most difficult places to find. Its a tiny lane- three people would have trouble walking abreast, not marked by any signage and it leads out of a cacophony of cars, buses, carts, trucks and the occasional cow. This is Paranthe Wali Gali. After a look around the fairly well maintained (atleast in part) Red Fort at the beginning of Chandni Chowk, fellow foodie Rukmini and me jostled our way past Dariba Kalan and the Sisganj Gurudwara to come to a nondescript entrance to this lane (on the left).

The name says it all, of course. But while I was expecting a never-ending line of parantha shops on either side (ala the sweet shops on the lane from Vishnu Ghat to Har-ki-Pauri in Haridwar), there are just a bunch of 4-5 shops making and selling paranthas. We tried to get a place in the first few and managed a couple of seats only after some waiting. Dont be fooled, there’s no maitre d, and tables are shared. While there’s no menu, the prices are displayed prominently in the restaurant. Parantha prices range from about Rs 20 (for a plate of plain paranthas) upto Rs 75 for the exotic banana and chocolate flavours. Two paranthas make a plate. We stuck to old favourites aloo (potato) and gobi (cauliflower). Here’s where it gets interesting. For what is a very reasonable price- you get a plate, some daal (lentil soup), subzi (mixed veggies) and achar (pickles) over and above the parantha. These add ons are refilled by the usual chhotu and are included in the price of the paranthas. Plus, you get as many refills as you like (much like a thali). We also ordered a bowl of curd to go with the paranthas.

The paranthas themselves were excellent. It easy to see why this place has established itself on the Delhi food circuit (and therefore earned a place on this blog!). Best of all, they lack the usual dollop of ghee or butter that is the hallmark of highway paranthas (an urban diet perhaps), making them relatively light, yet filling. We werent able to have more than a couple- which means that our total bill for lunch came to about a hundred bucks.

Here’s the downside. Hygiene is non-existent- this is street food after all. On a weekend, getting a place to sit can be an issue and its usually a free for all when it comes to seating- expect to share your table with strangers. A full complement of guests means that your order will take a while (upto 15 minutes)- which, on an empty stomach, will feel forever.

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 2
Ease of access 1
Service 6
Quality of food 8
Value for money 9
Would I go back there? Not on a regular basis- but if I were in the area, why not?
Meal for two Rs 100!
Serves alcohol Are you kidding me?
Credit cards Again, joking or serious?


Top Tips:

  • The closest metro station is Chandni Chowk. This is important since you’d be mad to take a car/cab in that mess.
  • The walk from Chandni Chowk metro station to Paranthe Wali Gali is confusing and not for the faint hearted/ people with personal space issues
  • Do drop in at the shop selling fresh jalebis on Chandni Chowk at the entrance to Dariba Kalan on the left.
  • Speaking of Dariba Kalan, where else do you buy silver in Delhi?
  • Keep some tissue paper handy- you’ll need it- I promise


Cafe Delhi Heights (Galleria, Gurgaon) 7.7/10

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After having dined Delhi Heights thrice in the last month or so, I’m happy to say that this is one gem of a place, which is yet mostly unknown, except for residents of the area. Diagonally opposite Galleria market- next to the Looks salon, there’s plenty of parking space and none of the crowds that have become the bane of Galleria. Also, Galleria needed a slightly classy eatery as opposed to the ubiquitous chaat wala.

Look for Enrique- a most helpful chap. Of course, we found the entire staff to be polite and courteous (even the DJ, who very kindly turned down the music at our request), but Enrique clearly stands out. The menu, while slightly confusing, shows you that these guys can pretty much deliver most kinds of cuisines and its fun watching the chefs in action in the open kitchen.

Try the Asahi beer. Even if the waiter doesnt mention it, they usually have a few bottles stashed away. This Japanese beer is a good accompaniment to most kinds of cuisine. Upon Enrique’s recommendation, we tried the galouti kebab- amidst much trepidation, I might add. I strongly believe that super-specialty food (such as a kebab from a specific location in UP) is best left to specialty restaurants. However, I am happy to report that the galouti kebab at Delhi Heights does live up to its recommendation. The skin is slightly crispy, offering the slightest resistance before the fork breaks through into this perfectly minced and marinated meat. While its not exactly melt-in-your-mouth (which is the realm of Al-Bake in New Friends Colony), the kebab is a viable option as a starter. You could also try the mezze platter which includes their own twist- a beetroot paste!

Onto the main course, the standout dish of choice is the singapore laksa- the Singaporean twist to the Burmese khao swey. You could also try the tenderloin- one of the few places in the NCR where I would recommend a steak. The juicy lucy burger is also an option. However, stay away from the schnitzel- the chefs could do well to slice the lamb less thinly so that there’s more meat and less crumb. You could also give the pizzas a miss. But do try the tiramisu!

 

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 8
Ease of access 7
Service 9
Quality of food 8
Value for money 6
Would I go back there? Absolutely!
Meal for two INR 1500 + taxes (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes
Credit cards Accepted

Top Tips:

  • Try having breakfast here- interesting menu for the mornings
  • The decor is fairly minimal, but do check out the mini-TVs for each booth and the no smoking sign that starts with a large SEX!!! on top

 


 

 

 

 

 

Vera Pizza by Tonino (Gurgaon) 5.5/10

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The parent restaurant- Tonino, on the MG Road is nearly unparalleled in terms of Italian food. This offshoot, in Cyber City, Gurgaon pales in comparison.

Having said that however, as one of the many, many restaurants in the area, each clamouring for your attention (and credit cards), let us now reduce our expectations from Tonino to your regular-working-lunch eatery for the corporate minions that make up cyber-city’s population. In that case, Vera Pizza does not disappoint. The lunch buffet looked fairly large, but unattractive, which led me to have a look at their pizza selection- which is apparently cooked in a wood fired oven (although how they got the permit to burn wood in the middle of Cyber City is beyond me). The pizza of choice is the verapizza fantasia which, as the name suggests is a (meat) eater’s fantasy. Four types of cheeses, lamb, chicken and even eggs! I’m not so sure if Italians traditionally like eggs on their pizzas though- that too sunny side up! You could also try the chicken lasagna which isn’t half bad, given that the lasagna sheets retained their texture till the end and the sauce was the perfect blend of the tomato sweetness and the bite of the parmesan.

Unfortunately, there’s not much else to recommend. The grilled chicken sausages with mashed potato and mustard (btw, why would anyone want to serve bangers and mash in an Italian restaurant is beyond me) had no mustard and the high point of the garlic bread was the olive oil it came with. The tomato soup lacked the tanginess one would expect in a tomato soup and the chicken soup well, had woefully little chicken and tasted more of mushrooms.

All in all, if you’re looking for a pizza in Cyber City and are sick of the Dominoes/ Pizza Hut/ Papa Johns clones, Vera Pizza is pretty much your best choice.

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 7
Ease of access 5
Service 6
Quality of food 6
Value for money 4
Would I go back there? I don’t really have a choice. I work in Cyber City and love a good pizza!
Meal for two INR 1400 + taxes (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Yes (apparently they have the lowest prices in the area- or so the board outside the restaurant says)
Credit cards Accepted

Top Tips:

  • Reservations arent really necessary
  • Parking will be an issue
  • Just go for the pizza. Forget everything else.

 

Xes Cafe (Saket) 5/10

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A restaurant before its time. And I mean that in a not-so-good way. Xes Cafe has plenty of potential, but its going to be a while before the potential begins to show. On the ground floor of the DLF South Court in Saket, you may be forgiven for thinking its somewhere in the DLF Place-Citywalk-MGF stretch, but you’d be mistaken. Take the road behind these malls, the one going past the IRCON Building, past the Square One Mall (which has a pretty nice rooftop restaurant by the way) and you come to DLF South Court. A fairly new mall, which includes as its inhabitants- one Toyota showroom, one furniture store, one private art museum (!), one booze shop and Xes Cafe. Walking through the mall is much like exploring a ghost town- you never know when baddies are going to jump at you from the shadows forcing you to whip out your Smith and Wesson!

Having said that however, Xes Cafe is wonderfully done up in dark shades and tasteful lighting. A huge poster of the Beatles adorns the space next to the bar and with Wacko Jacko’s music in the background and a video of a Bryan Adam’s concert (muted of course) on the TV, it makes for one of the best 90’s theme cafe I’ve seen in a while. Since it’s opened just a couple of weeks back, the furniture, cutlery, etc are all spanking new. They are yet to get a liquor license, which is a pity, because I was really looking forward to a refreshing beer after a morning’s worth of shopping.

We were offered mineral water, which we politely refused (in favour of a coke). However, we were offered mineral water again after the starters, from the same bottle, which was now inexplicably open and slightly depleted of said water. Slightly strange!

We settled for a bruschetta with tomatoes and pesto for starters. Unfortunately, it was completely devoid of salt! When asked later, the chef made a point that he prefers not putting salt on tomato-based bruschettas since it makes the water in the tomatoes run (remember your high school physics classes? Ex-osmosis?) and that he would rather leave it to the customer to decide whether he wants salt on a bruschetta- a very valid point that. Well of course I want salt! I would like salt on everything I eat! Unless if its dessert. So, I’d love to put some salt on my bruschetta. Unfortunately, the salt and pepper were conspicuously missing from the table and had to be called for.

No matter, we moved on to the mains. We ordered for a peri peri burger and a fish ‘n chips. The presentation is awesome- huge plates piled up with food. Not just the mains, but the accompaniments (chips, coleslaw, side salad) as well. No complaints about the way the food looks or the quantity. Unfortunately my gastronomic joy ended there. The peri peri burger was brilliant (although they could have used a slightly spicier sauce to bring out the true Portuguese flavours)- the bun was perfectly soft and pliable, the lettuce was crispy and there was enough chicken inside to serve at a Punjabi bachelor party. The chips could have been cut slightly larger, but no complaints there as well. However, what was again missing were mustard, ketchup and tabasco sauces- which I would expect (without asking for) at any restaurant serving burgers.

The big let down was the fish. While the portion is massive- two huge chunks of fish, battered and fried resting next to a bowl of tartar sauce- the size of the pieces made it impossible for the fish to cook all the way through. Result? The middle of the fish remained undercooked. Not only was it inedible, undercooked meat of any variety is also unhealthy (unless if you’re having sushi, apparently). The chef took our suggestions of cutting the fish into thinner slices the next time very kindly and even offered a replacement, which we politely declined. The taste of undercooked fish is enough to ruin any appetite.

I would have liked some dessert to get the fishy taste out but there is no dessert menu.

I’d say this restaurant has hope. But its going to be a while before it actually gets up and running. While the other issues (lack of liquor, cooking techniques) could possibly be resolved sometime, the major drawback is the location. Unless DLF South Court fills up (of which I have no doubts, given Delhi’s penchant for retail therapy), I wouldn’t actually want to go eat at Xes Cafe, opting instead for the scores of other top-notch restaurants at MGF, Select and DLF Place instead. As fellow foodie Rukmini says- why would I want to go to a restaurant in Cyber City, Gurgaon unless if I work there? Similarly why would I want to eat at Xes Cafe unless if I’m actually inside the mall for some other reason? An exception could be made if the food is different, or exceptional (for e.g. Chor Bizzare or Gunpowder), which unfortunately Xes Cafe does not offer.

 

Ratings/ Quick Facts Scale (on 10)/ Remarks
Ambience 9
Ease of access 2
Service 8
Quality of food 4
Value for money 3
Would I go back there? Not just yet. Will wait for a few months
Meal for two INR 1600 + taxes (without alcohol)
Serves alcohol Not yet- liquor license awaited
Credit cards Accepted

Top Tips:

  • Do give this place a visit if you happen to be buying a new Toyota from the showroom at the front of the mall
  • Try not going to the loo. They don’t have one inside the restaurant
  • Service is exceptional- but that might have been due to the lack of other diners (we were the only ones there)
  • They have a side entrance too- if you dont fancy a walk down a deserted mall
  • Plenty of parking space