Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nagalands Kitchen, Delhi

Nagalands Kitchen
S 2 Green Park Extension Market
Uphar Cinema Complex
2211 8754, 2257 4649

The Nagaland Kitchen had been sporting an "Opening Soon" sign for awhile, until they finally did open about 2 months ago. I had been planning to visit, but when the opportunity hadn't presented itself for so long, I just went ahead and ordered a home delivery.

The menu has quite a few Naga dishes mainly featuring Raja Mircha, akhuni and Bamboo, but there are also Chinese and Thai options for the less adventurous.

The Naga special pork ribs 295Rs were billed as a starter. 2 good sized ribs with fat were what arrived home. As a dish, I think this would work better if eaten hot at the restaurant than delivered home in the middle of winter. They will also serve the dish to you without fat if you request them.

The Pork Raja Mircha 220Rs was excellent. Not too spicy and with some lovely green leaves in them, that I haven't been able to identify yet. This will go very well with just steamed rice, but since I wasn't sure, I had ordered the Basil Thai Vegetable Rice 120Rs as a side. The quantity of rice is huge and it was mildly yet excellently flavored.

The Thai Deep fried chicken 170Rs was average. Boneless pieces of chicken deep fried with a light spiced coating. Varities of this are sold at every street side self styled Chinese cart.

The Rosp Aon Dry Mixed Vegetables 95Rs was another interesting Naga dish. There were fresh snow peas, brinjal, bitter gourd and a host of other vegetables in this preparation that was flavored with angothi  - a local variety of sichuan pepper.

I'd ordered a side of the Raja Mircha Chutney 80Rs, hoping for a bowl of dynamite. What arrived was extremely tasty, but not as spicy as I'd hoped for. It did not showcase the uniqueness of the Raja Mircha the way the pork did.

In my recent quest for North Eastern food, I have found that they use minimal spices, relying mainly on fresh ginger, garlic, onions and tomatoes. The rest of the flavouring comes from using fresh vegetables and meat. In this manner of speaking, the concept is very close to Lebanese food, where again, it is the freshness of the ingredients that are the stars of a cooked dish.

I'm waiting for a convenient date when we can go visit the restaurant and eat the dishes fresh off the fire, and see and smell more dishes that come onto the restaurant floor.

Edited on 10 Jan 2011 to add restaurant visit review:
We visited the restaurant at the end of December and were welcomed in by the warm environs. The layout uses dark stained bamboo with sheer curtains seperating some areas from the others.
They do not yet have an alcohol licence and although it was quite cold, the warm interiors induced us to try their non alcoholic Bloody Mary (they don't call it a Virgin Mary) and Mojito (110Rs each).
The chicken Tom Yum soup (125Rs) was spicy and comforting especially combined with the Chicken Momos (175Rs) and the excellent red chilli sauce.

The Chicken Raja Mirchi (220Rs) was lip searing spicy in a thin gravy with Naga green leafy veggies in it. We had ordered a mixed fried rice (165Rs) but the Chicken Raja Mirchi would go well with just steamed rice too.

When we were finishing up they offerred us complimentary black tea which was quite welcome to end the meal.
The food isn't fancy, its got a home cooked feel to it with the added excitement of the Naga specialities on the menu.

VAT of 12.5% and Service Charge of 10% are added to the above amounts.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chillis Bar & Grill, Delhi

Chillis Bar & Grill,
3rd Floor Ambience Mall
Vasant Kunj

I was so excited that Chillis was going to be opening shortly in Delhi. Chillis was practically our only order-in option in Egypt , we have celebrated many iftaars and late night meals at Chillis, so it has a special place in our food memories.

So today when we saw that it had finally opened, we HAD to stop and grab a bite although we were just peckish and had no appetites for their burgers or fajitas.

We ordered my favorite SouthWestern Egg Rolls 250Rs and the husbands favorite - Classic nachos with chicken 300Rs. For drinks, we ordered the Strawberry lemonade 75Rs and the Blackberry Ice Tea 75Rs.

The drinks orders were fine, but the food was way below our expectations. While the food itself doesn't taste bad, it did not taste anything like what we had been used to for the last 4 years. The pastry for the egg rolls was thickly rolled, closer to a samosa dough. The stuffing had more cheese than juicy corn and refried beans. They had used haricot beans instead of black beans and they weren't cooked as soft as they should be. The beans were al dente. The taste was fine, but it wasn't the familiar taste that we were craving

The nachos (chips not the dish itself) tasted like they had been in packing for awhile and hence left a stale aftertaste.

When we were asked for our opinion (a standard procedure in most Delhi restaurants) we frankly told the server that the food was nothing like what we were expecting. He called the manager and the manager promised to look into it. He had a theory about how Chilis Middle East may have different recipes than Chilis USA and how his senior staff was trained in the US. But I'm not completely convinced.

I am however willing to give it another chance a month or 2 down the line, once they find their feet (hopefully).

They seem to have the right service attitude so with a bit of guidance and experience, I'm hoping for a dramatic improvement from the current levels.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gloria Jeans Coffee, Delhi

Gloria Jeans Coffee
3rd Floor Ambience Mall
Vasant Kunj

The Australian Chain - Gloria Jeans outlet in the Vasant Kunj Ambience mall is on the 3rd floor and while it is not an enclosed area, it does have seating.

I had heard that their cookies were on the harder side, but their coffee reviews weren't too bad, so we decided to stop there and rest our weary feet and caffienate our systems.

A bottle of aquafina to quench our parched throats (most food/beverage kiosks in the mall, don't stock water) was 22Rs. GLoria Jeans coffees come in 2 sizes - small & regular. The regular creme brulee iced coffee was 129Rs and the extra espresso shot was 29Rs. The Mocha truffle coffee regular size was 115Rs.

The staff is relatively new and couldn't explain their coffees and I must confess that I was apprehensive. But they stuck to their recipe print outs (pasted on the brewing and mixing tables) and the results weren't bad at all.

Though they have seating on both sides, its self service at this location. At the customer service end there were 4-5 shakers with different colored sprinkles along with the cinnamon option and the choice of sugar/brown sugar/ sugar free.

While the coffees weren't something that would compel us to return, the snacks were quite outstanding. The lassoni chicken sandwich 89Rs, while not overly stuffed was very delicately spiced and lightly grilled before serving. The blueberry muffin 59Rs was a muffin with a blueberry jam center. Moist, neither too heavy nor too airy, with just the right hint of sweetness.

The snacks selection is limited to a few light cakes and muffins, sandwiches and rolls that are pre-packaged and reheated or grilled as required.

We will be back for the muffins and sandwiches for sure. What better place to relax and browse through the books that you have just picked up from the Landmark store opposite.

12.5% VAT will be added to the prices mentioned above.

Camera and cell phone ran out of battery, so no pictures. :(

Friday, December 17, 2010

Andhra Pradesh Bhavan, Delhi

Andhra Pradesh Bhavan
Jaswant Singh Road
Just off Ashoka Road
011 2338 7499
7:30am-10am, 12pm-3pm, 7:30pm-10pm

This is one of the most reasonable places in Delhi to get a filling meal - unlimited servings for the Andhra thali at only 80Rs. The Andhra Pradesh Bhavan canteen is always full, because not only is their thali meal filling, its nutritious, healthy and hygenic too.
When the basic thali is placed on the table, it will have a katori of curd and one sweet, with a scoop of flavoured rice of some kind. These are normally served in limited quantities.

Rasam and Sambhar katoris are served next with papad.

The next server comes with his special 4 drum vessel with 4 different vegetarian dishes in them. Normally there will be a dhal and at least 2 fresh vegetable dishes.
You can choose to have puris or rice (or both) as your choice of carbohydrates. Just motion to one of the servers and they will send the respective serving bowls over.

The table has pickle (gongura), gunpowder (chutney powder) and ghee which go really well with the rice.

They also have a limited menu of other items which include a few fiery non vegetarian ones. The Chicken fry at 80Rs is a large portion and can be split between 2 people.

The chicken biryani at Sunday lunch is so famous, that we have sometimes waited over an hour for a table, inspite of their turnover being so fast.

Service is quick and efficient. While they don't pressurise you to vacate quickly, there is a general sense of urgency that pervades and you may find yourself eating faster than normal.

Its a canteen run by the State Government, so don't go there looking for ambience. But if you want an authentic Andhra meal or a reasonable yet tasty and balanced meal, this is the place to head to.

Ambience : 2
Food  : 7
Service : 7 (fast and efficient)

Note: Pictures were taken on my cell phone, hence the low resolution.

Edited on 28 Jan 2011 to Add:
We visited again a week ago for their famous chicken biryani which is only served on Sundays. The Biryani is 120Rs with a substantial amount of chicken and a raita and gravy. So its a complete meal for one.
 I did take my camera along this time. So here are some pictures of the chicken fry, thali and pickles.

However I must warn you that Sunday is a day which sees the maximum rush at Andhra Bhavan. Everyone wants their share of the VFM biryanis and thalis.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Photo Essay : Food at the IITF - Pragati Maidan

Last week, we visited the IITF at Pragati Maidan and the food and food products were definitely the most exciting items for us at the fair.

The food were rather hit and miss. I tried out a wonderful little sweet called Anarsaa from Bihar which was khoya with a rice flour coating seep fried and sprinkled with sesame seeds. This was our first encounter with this sweet and the play on textures and flavours was amazing. The kachoris at the Rajasthani Stall were excellent. The Cuttack Biryani at the Odisha stall was a disaster. Rice was cold and congealed and the curry they spooned on top was more oil than curry. The Chole Bhatura at the Uttaranchal stall was average. Here are pictures of some of the food that was on offer

The Anarsaa from Bihar

Kachoris from Rajasthan

Hyderabadi Biryani

Vegetarian Delights from Kerala

Udupi Cuisine

The Papdis and Puris of Uttar Pradesh

Biryani from Lucknow

Some Sweet from Uttaranchal made with rice flour and Chola Bhatura

An Odiya Sweet

Spicy Pickles on Sale

An Indian Food Roundup is incomplete without Chaat

Some of the Menus on offer

And here is the Crowd enjoying their food

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gunpowder, Delhi

3rd Floor
22 Hauz Khas Village


011 2653 5700
 Lunch 1200-1500 & Dinner 1930-2300
Monday Holiday
No Home Delivery

Gunpowder is a wonderful little Malyali (Kerala) Eatery located in the Hauz Khas Village with simple interiors but a magnificient view of the Hauz Khas Lake. The restaurant is not in the least bit pretentious, but serves up some of the best Kerala style food I have eaten outside Kerala, Dubai and my Malyali friends houses. Gunpowder also serves up cuisine from other parts of the coast, but the focus is mainly on Malyali food.

Its a bit difficult to locate and we ended up eating at Naivedyam or TLR Cafe before we finally found their number and got more precise instructions. They do have a couple of signages pointing the way, but the easiest way to arrive is to find the Yodakin Book Shop on your left, walk a few steps ahead. There will be a narrow gully on your right with a paanwallah sitting there. Take that right turn and keep walking straight until the dead end. Turn right and then gaze at the hard climb up the 4 flights of stairs. There's actually a print out at the base of the stairs that cautions (please call 011 2653 5700 to check if we have seating space before climbing)

The restaurant barely seats 25 and the food is excellent at very reasonable rates for Delhi so its almost always full.

The owner seems to be running the restaurant more for the pleasure of feeding people and the joy of cooking rather than as a business and this reflects in the quality and flavours. But it also means that they are very firm about timings and seating. So its best to call and reserve a table.

On our last visit, we started with the Pork Ribs(200Rs) a sweetish starter and the Buff Fry(250Rs) which was excellent with our drinks. A dry spicy dish flavoured with roasted slivers of coconut and curry leaves.
We were 7 of us for dinner all avid foodies and staunch non vegetarians and we used this opportunity to order a wide cross section of curries from the menu. A Buff Curry (260Rs), an Idukki Pork Curry (260Rs), a Coorgi Pandi Curry (260Rs) and a Toddy Shop meen - fish curry (300Rs). Each dish had a distinct flavour and each was wonderfully spiced - the trademark of Malyali cuisine.

The meats were all well cooked without being too tough or too dry. The presentation wasn't glamorous but the experience was like dishes coming out of a friends mothers kitchen, so you don't really mind.

The fish curry was tasty, but the fish itself was very bony and seemed more like the Bengali style river fish than the sea fish which is more popularly consumed in the Coastal states of South India.

To add some vegetables to our meal - mostly to satisfy the UPite and the Gujarati (relatively recent converts to non-vegetarianism) in our group, we also ordered the Avial (110Rs) -  a traditional Kerala dish of mixed vegetables with coconut. The Avials I have eaten so far have been slightly runny in texture. The dish served here was dry with such an exquisite balance of flavours and such crisp and firm texture to the vegetables, that it was the first dish to be wiped clean, even though the majority at the table were die hard non-vegetarians (from the North East of India and a Manglorean)
We had some Appams (50Rs), Steamed rice (65Rs) and Malabar Parottas (50Rs) to accompany the dishes. The parottas are absolutely scrumptious and one can make a meal of just 2 parottas and nothing else. They are that good. Flaky and tasty.

Back home, we buy appams and parotas for 3Rs, so the 50Rs is a bit of a jolt each time I look at their menu and the one at Swagath . But when you consider the difficulty of getting the right ingredients and a cook with the right technique in Delhi and the amount of labour it involves (which is why I rarely make them at home) - it is worth it.

We were so stuffed, that we did manage to pack a lot of the food as the quantities are quite generous. We had absolutely no space for even a bite of dessert. Although the pal payasam looked very tempting.

Throw in a couple of Lime Sodas (45Rs) and Beers (150 / 170Rs), tip, service and VAT taxes. But we had 7 stuffed foodies with food to spare and thetotal bill was just 3700Rs. A minor miracle in Delhi for clean, hygenic, healthy and tasty food.

This is another one of our favourite restaurants in this city and we will keep going back for more.

Ambience : 8 (for the outdoor balcony seating that overlooks the lake, decor is very basic)
Food  : 9
Service : 7

Friday, November 19, 2010

Indian Accent, Delhi

Indian Accent
The Manor
77, Friends Colony (West)
011 2692 5151

The Indian Accent Restaurant is located in the modern yet cosy The Manor Hotel. The smell of Marigolds and Rajnigandha waft through as you step into the hotel and tastefully arranged bunches of orange gendha lie along the path to the restaurant. The Restaurant has a bar cum waiting section leading into it. Given the limited seating at the restaurant, it is highly advisable to reserve a table before heading there.

When we visited on the 15th of November, they were still serving their summer menu. They assured us that the winter menu would be served shortly, once Chef Manish Mehrotra was back. (One of the signatures of this restaurant is using fresh seasonal and oranic ingredients in their dishes. Hence the menus change with the season)

While we were perusing the menu, we were served mini naans stuffed with blue cheese that melted in our mouths and tantalised our tastebuds.

Since there were no soups on the menu, we turned to the drinks menu. The Frosty Lavender was my favourite of what we ordered. An excellent mocktail, a combination of Lavender infused coconut water with crushed ice.
Honey Pepper Fizz - a rum based cocktail with honey water, pepper, pineapple chunks and basil was refreshing and fruity, with enough alcohol to infuse a warmth that chilly night.

While we waited for the appetisers we had ordered, we were offered dahi sev puris with an unusual stuffing which included wasabi peas, served in a smoking ladle.

They serve paani puri with  a twist - cous cous filling and 5 different waters: mint + jal jeera, tamarind + date, pomegranate + cinnamon, mango and yoghurt + garlic . My favourite of the lot was the pomegranate and cinnamon water.

For starters we ordered the Meetha Achaar Canadian spare ribs with sun dried mango and toasted kalonji seeds. The meat was not as well marinated as we expected. So while the marinade was tasty, the flavours hadn't penetrated through to the bone.

The vegetarian appetisers were much better. The ash roast sweet potato in herb yoghurt with radish carpaccio and crisp okra garnish (325Rs) had a melange of flavours like a dish of chaat, but they blended quite well together.

The crisp vegetable rings (onion, karela and others) with sesame seeds and Amaranth, was unanimously voted as the best appetiser on our table and was consumed the quickest.

For our main course, the vegetarian with us ordered the Tandoori broccoli that was served on a bed of corn kernels with a goji berry sauces. The dish was cheesy and lovely on a winter evening, it would be a bit heavy for the summer though.
 Both of us non vegetarians wanted the slow cooked pork Goan style served on a bed of red rice. The pork was really well done and very soft with just the right amount of fat. But the dish became monotonous after a while. It would have been nice to have some crunchy vegetables on the side. We ended up decimating our vegetarian friends tandoori brocolli in the process.
 The kaali dhal and fresh naans were excellent and could have been a meal in themselves. While most of the non vegetarian dishes had a portion of carbs on the plate, someone ordering a vegetarian main would need to order extra sides if they needed rice or bread with their meals.

The desserts were truly outstanding. The jaggery and coconut creme brulee was mildly flavoured and served with a melon mosaic that seemed too pretty to eat.
 The old monk rum balls were served with a 70% valrhona chocolate sauce and flambeed on the table.

But the winner of the evening was the tandooried pygmy pineapples with a desi daru reduction and vanilla ice cream.

The menu reads very well. But with some dishes like the pork, we felt the dishes did not live up to our expectations. While the desserts surpassed our expectations. And as anyone in the food industry knows, if you serve your diners an excellent dessert, they will be willing to forgive most of the tiny problems with the rest of the meal.

If you would like to taste a larger number of dishes, when you don't have too many people at your table, the Chefs Tasting Menu is a great option.
Non Vegetarian: Rs1975
Vegetarian: Rs1875
Add Rs1200 per person for 5 half glasses (75ml) of wine

Rough idea of Ala Carte prices pre-tax:
Mocktails 200Rs
Cocktails 350Rs
Vegetarian appetisers 325Rs
Non Vegetarian appetisers 600Rs+
Vegetarian mains 650Rs
Non Vegetarain Mains 800Rs+

Ambience : 9.5
Food  : 8
Service : 9


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