Saturday, March 22, 2008

Delhi Belly: Eating in NCR

The last one month has been extremely erratic in terms of posting. Blame it on a terrible work schedule and my always-on-overdrive son. Okay, okay... you can blame it on my laziness also!

What has happened over the last few weeks is that we have been eating some very fancy stuff. Many springs later when I would be on oatmeal-diet to cure my ulcers, I will come back to this post to reminisce about my fleeting glimpses of perfection!

Sushi-r Kobita

In the last few months, there has been a surfeit of sushi joints in Delhi. When I say joints, I mean delivery places. At reasonable rates, these guys deliver a platter home and the only hiccup is the time taken - because making your sushi fresh and then negotiating the Moolchand Flyover traffic means you choking on drool long before the stuff makes it home! Of course, this is perfectly acceptable when you consider the alternative is Sakura, which brings you to the edge of poverty with every meal.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, a friend invited us to a sushi-and-sake dinner. We were expecting a phone-in menu and hoping that he would time the order well enough to feed the hungry masses. He blew our mind by charming one of the sushi-joint-owners enough to be able to borrow a chef for the evening!
What followed was a sight seen often enough on certain Calcutta footpaths. There would be a popular fuchka-wallah, who would be churning out the fuchkas at a dozen per minute but never fast enough to disperse the crowd in front of him.
We did exactly the same thing. As the chef lovingly pressed the sushi rice, inserted the filling, wrapped the nori (seaweed) and chopped the roll, we hung around him like a pack of hyenas. As soon as he put the produce on the bento plate, we sprang and the rolls vanished in a puff of smoke!
Despite such pressures to perform, the chef never let up on the pace and in fact, helpfully explained to me the intricacies while expertly chopping the maki rolls into 8.
The salmon, tuna and shrimp were first rate. The wasabi knocked the pants off when we were not careful enough. The host genially topped up our drinks. A CD of Raahat Fateh Ali Khan surfaced. An excellent raconteur told stories of a bygone Calcutta.
And the perfection of the evening rivalled the elegant symmetry of a haiku.

The Art of Spice
We started the evening with the intention of watching underfed models sashay on the ramp. A colleague magnanimously donated his India Fashion Week passes to me and we set off from our dusty hamlet in Haryana for the shining lights of Pragati Maidan. We had 1:30 hours to reach and secure our second row seats.
The last thing on our mind was the work ethic and religiosity of the Sikhs in Delhi. Which is why we were stuck for 50 minutes around the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara as millions of sardarjis took a weekly break from earning money and came to pray.
When we reached, Neha Dhupia was about to get into a car and leave. The show was long over. Being the last day, they were about to dismantle the ramps.
To cheer ourselves up, the wife and I landed up at Masala Art at Taj Palace. Yes, these impulsive dinners are reason why everything in our house, including the TV, is on EMI! But we never think of such piffling matters in the presence of good food.
And good food turns out to be a completely inadequate description of the stuff they conjure up at Masala Art. Their plated meals are a sight to behold - if you can hold yourselves back for an instant to admire the presentation. Their kababs are a little watered down in spiciness to cater to their European clientèle. But you cannot fault the quality of their meat and its marination.
We avoided their Raan - as we feared that the two of us may not be able to finish off a lamb's leg. But then, we had tried the last time around and it was with considerable grief that we had to take this decision.
The starters, main course and accompaniments were all excellent. As was the service. Now, I am only waiting for the good lady from Citibank to call so that the bill can be split into 6 EMIs.

Rs 899 + taxes
The Great Kabab Factory has been featured on this blog earlier as well. In the context of exceptionally good food in fantastically large quantities at absurdly high prices.
But having eaten there again last night, I managed to devise an algorithm for future comers. It's quite simple, really.
Eat the mutton.
The chicken is rather bland. Fish is, by and large, quite unpalatable to the west of Midnapore district. Hence, red meat is the safe bet. They will keep coming at you with all sorts of kababs. Avoid. Just keep popping in the mutton stuff - barra, galauti etc - and you will be fine till the biriyani arrives. And hopefully, will keep some space for the dessert.
I have read somewhere that blogs which dispense advice / suggestions are the most popular. So, I managed to fit in some advice in my incorrigibly frivolous blog. And hey - it wasn't all that difficult! I think I will do it more often...

This post was in order as two of the three meals mentioned are probably going to make it to my list of 10 Favourite Restaurants, whenever the next version comes out...
That good, huh?
Yeah, that good!


Anonymous said...

Okay, now you're talking. Bring on the humour and the food posts I say. And, breaking the bank so you can gorge on heavenly food; now thats something I'm familiar with:-)


Rimi said...


Abar khabare kotha likhechhe.

:-( :-(

(Not that I'm discouraging you. I collate your food writing so I have a point of reference when I visit Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore. But it's bloody depressing to read about other people's good meals)

iz said...

How cool is that! The only time I eat sushi is when I go to bombay and pig out at tetsuma and then have no money left for the rest of the trip.

Diligent Candy said...

Oooh, I think I live for such posts.
I now NEED to eat some sushi today :)

Anonymous said...

please write about how well your wife cooks.... have heard she is a good cook as well....

Anonymous said...

u hv commended bukhara. How do u rate it vs. dum pukht? tried non veg fixed menu indian accent at friend's colony? or the saturday brunch at 19 oriental avenue Hotel shangrila? or the pork belly & Wagyu beef at Ai Saket? or the dark hot chocolate at chocola khan market?