Friday, September 18, 2009

Dilli Meri Jaan- The spirit of Delhi

The spirit of Delhi

Well, if you know what Delhi food is all about, then you should know this place. Well, I spent 20 years if my life in Delhi but I didn’t realize what was the essence of Delhi food. This was till the time I was at school. But the moment I stepped out of Delhi, I knew what I missed. For the next 8 years, travelling from the dusty streets of Alwar and Jaipur in Rajasthan, to the crowded areas of Charminar and the elite Banjara Hills in Hyderabad, from the canals in Netherlands to the beaches in Sydney, I set across this voyage of gastronomical delight. A voyage of culinary introspection. While I savored the tastes of different cuisines, I discovered the delicate intricacies of taste and the mesh of Indian spices coupled with culture.

Well coming back, as I started of saying, sometime you never know what is so special about something that you have been with, till the time you are no longer. Now, I know that you know that I have just disclosed the biggest secret of the Hindi film industry, aka Bollywood. Haven’t you seen, girl and boy are together, but don’t realize that they are in love, until, either of them go away, or perhaps one of them is getting married or maybe the villain is about to do those dirty things with the damsel in distress. While the permutation of how they relies may extend till infinity depending upon the imagination of the writer, director, drawing a similar corollary to my life, I never realized what Delhi was all about till I left it. And when I say what Delhi is all about, it definitely includes the food.

Well Delhi is that vibrant city which is an intoxicating cocktail of power, politics, aggression and jugaad. From the power center streets of Vijay Path, to the suave and posh south Delhi, from the crowded Chawri Bazaar and Chandni Chowk to the trading community of Punjabi Bagh, the taste that binds the palates of this diverse crowd is something that you’d not get anywhere else in the country. I am sure you must have realized how touching a topic this is for me to write as I have digressed so many times, but coming back for the one last time to the point that I wanted to mention.

While every region has its own taste, Delhi is this sizzling potpourri where you have the tastes of the country being amalgamated into one pot and being served piping hot. Take for instance south Indian food. In every corner of Delhi, you would get a range of south Indian cuisine being served, which predominantly includes dosa’s, idli’s and vada’s which is served along with coconut chutney and sambar. But if you have sampled the cuisine in Delhi and that served in south India, you would realize the difference. One of the distinct differences any one would be able to recognize is that the sambhar in south is all watery and liquid, where as the north Indian variant is thick and viscous, along with vegetables. Similarly, the dosas down south are thick whereas up north, you find them thin and crunchy, the paper crunch variant. The gol gappas served in Delhi are different from the gol gappas served in Hyderabad. While in Delhi you would have a golgappa’s filled with boiled potatoes and chickpeas, but down south you would have them served with boiled chickpeas, which is similar to the matar ki chaat that you get across in Uttar Pradesh.

I realized that Delhi food is all about sizzling chicken tikkas, tandoori chicken, which you find across every galli nukkad in Delhi. It’s all about street food in Delhi. The chole batures, the tikkis and the chaat or the so called fast food at every corner. The fast food that serves chowmein and dosa on the same tawa, but invariably has different and distinct taste.

The perfect meal would be the roasted variant of starters, be it a chicken tikka during the summers or perhaps the fish tikkas during the winters. Tandoori chicken, followed by butter chicken coupled with the awesome daal makhani served with piping hot butter naan. Not to forget the sirke waala pyaaz and the hari chutney, some thing that alone you get in Delhi and no where else. Let me tell you that for a long time, I was like the lost traveler in the desert looking for water. I was literally quenched to have the sirke waali pyaaz and the hari chutney. As I stayed across the country and abroad in fact, I have always looked forward to coming back to Delhi, for the spicy tikka’s, the succulent kebabs, the juicy tangri’s and the hot curries that you get no where else in the world.

The busy narrow lanes of Jama Masjid, where you have Kareems and Al-Jjwar, Khurana’s at Karol Bagh, Rajinder da dhabha at Safdarjung, Galina at Gole Market, Gullu’s meat wala at Rajpura Road, paranthe waali gali at chandnichowk. It’s all abuzz with action and that is fresh food.

For Delhites, it’s not about ambience but all about taste. Perhaps for this taste, you would find the swankiest of Mercedes lined up along a road side dhabha, where you find no social hang ups, only good food and taste. In places of truly delicious food, you would find the real Delhi, be it a rickshaw walla or a businessman, an IT professional and a media person, all lined up together. This is perhaps what I term as the spirit of Delhi.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Food of India

Kareems

Gosh, I can ramble on and on and on about this place. This place has been my second kitchen ever since I have been in Gurgaon and let me tell you, it has been about 11 years now. Perhaps I can safely say that if you are a non vegetarian and in Delhi and haven’t been to Kareem’s, you probably should not call yourself as the big fat foodie. It is as heinous a crime to have not gone to Kareem’s as it would be if you are in Lucknow and not been to Tunde’s. Its like that PSPO ad “Arre ise PSPO nahin pata types”. I hope I have been successful in translating the or perhaps in creating the right image or should I call it as the perfect foreplay to a gastronomical journey.

While you may have innumerable shops that might open every here and there and may profess to cook non vegetarian food, let me say Kareem is probably the big daddy of all. Unperturbed, it has been around for as long as I can remember. This establishment means only strict business, and that is good food. While I am sure that you must be aware that there are different branches of Kareem’s spread across the NCR, from Jama Masjid, being the headquarters, to the Kareem’s at Noida, Gurgaon, Nizzamuddin. I have visited all the Kareem’s and I would recommend the Jama Masjid one to be the place where you must visit to get the actual feel of Kareem’s. The real thing, the actual punch.

I would write today about the Kareem’s at Gurgaon, which is situated on the Old Delhi Gurgaon road, near Payal Cinema. If you are aware of the local roads in Gurgaon, the landmark would be the Atul Kataria Chowk. As I entered Kareem’s @ Gurgaon, the feeling was something that I have been well aware from about 10 years. The fragrance of spices, that familiar smell, when you have meat cooking in lot of spices, garlic and ginger. The fragrance itself is enough to exponentially increase your hunger. As one enters the restaurant, you would realize that there is nothing about ambience or anything. You just see multiple waiters in the Pathani suits rapidly moving across, serving, or clearing the plates.

Getting to the food part, I am just confused where to begin from. Let me tell you that I almost visit Kareem’s almost once a week when I am here in India. For sure, the two things that are invariably ordered are the Dil Pasand Seekh Kabab and the Bemisaal Shammi Kebab. What is interesting is that the kebabs which are served in Kareem’s are unique and not served any where else. If you have probably read my previous entries, there are different types of Shammi Kebabs and Seekh Kebabs that are served. To begin with Shammi Kebabs, there is one genre, which is the typical spicy kebabs which are served at almost all roadside vendor, simple mutton mince patties which are roasted on the tawa and served piping hot. This variant of the kebab is the one which is soft and spicy, usually adulterated with pulses, to substitute actual meat. Might I mention that traditionally, pulses are added onto kebabs as a biding agent, so that the meat doesn’t fall off. The other variant of the Shammi Kebab is the one which is served in Kareem’s. This variant is actually deep fried variant, which looks as if it has been coated with breadcrumbs and deep fried. The size of the patties or the kebabs are substantially bigger, almost twice the other variant I have mentioned previously. One bite into the kebab and you would realize that inside it is actually coarsely ground meat along with black pepper and other spices.

Similarly, Seekh Kebabs is one of the most commonly found starters in almost any and every restaurant, but nonetheless, I would say the most abused option. Seekh Kebabs are also of different variants. One would be the mouth melting variants, which are commonly referred to as Kakori Kebabs. The other variant is the Seekh kebab which you would get at any tom dick and harry restaurant, all across North India, which would be gorgeous red in color, and spicy hot. The third variant is the Seekh Kebabs which are served at Kareem’s, which are brown in color, soft, but not mouth meting. What sets aside this variant of Seekh kebabs at Kareem’s is the juiciness and freshness of the kebab which you would probably not find anywhere else. The tender looking kebabs with the special aroma of meat and spices is just too tempting.

Moving on from my theory and analysis on Kebabs, the other item in the menu that should be ordered is the Tandoori Chicken and the Afghani Chicken. Perfectly roasted with minimal use of artificial colors, and optimum use of spices makes it the perfect delicacy in the starters. Again, it is here id like to point out that typically, in North India, Tandoori Chicken and its other variants such as Afghani, Haryali, etc are all rampantly abused with excessive spices, artificial color and not properly cooked. But nonetheless, again at Kareem’s, the Tandoori and the Afghani are perfectly roasted that makes you relish the actual taste of what a Tandoori chicken should be.

Another item on the menu that must be tried is the Mutton Burra, (especially if you are in the Jama Masjid branch). This one is actual boned pieces of mutton, in a spicy marinade.

Coming onto the curries, the Mutton Rogan Josh, the Jehnagiri Qorma, the Badhsahi Badam Pasanda are must try items. The Mutton Rogan Josh is slightly sweet. The pasanda ‘s are boneless strips of goat meat in a thick gravy. In a place like Kareem’s, one should avoid the generic Butter Chicken, Karahi Chicken and types which you get in almost every shop in your neighborhood. What you should try here are the authentic Mughlai gravies, which one normally doesn’t get anywhere else. If you happen to venture into the restaurant on the weekend, you would be lucky enough to sample the weekend special Goat Nihari. While the curries here in Kareem’s are oily and spicy, yet each gravy has a distinct flavor that separates it from the other. In chicken gravies, the Shahjahani Murgh Masala and the Jahangiri Murgh are ones that are usually the most popular dishes. The curries are heavy and usually cooked with Dalda. If you are a health freak, you might not wish to try the curry dishes, but nonetheless, I am sure that the biggest health freaks would probably not be able to resist the temptation.

I am not a big fan of Kareem’s in terms of Biryani, and perhaps would not recommend the same.

Now I am sure that you must be confused with the innumerable dishes that I have mentioned. In fact in most occasions, when I visit Kareem’s and order both the Kebabs, there are times when the Seekh Kebabs are much tastier than the Shammi’s where as on other days, there is a role reversal. I guess as a tip or an advice, the secret to enjoying food at Kareem’s is to order just a few dishes, rather a large array of dishes. This is particularly important to be able to taste the distinct taste of each dish making it a long lasting feeling. For instance, when the kebabs are served, just have the kebabs as starters and not as main course.

A must visit place, which is all about good food with close friends or family.

Quick Facts

Kareem’s M ughlai Food

Old Delhi Road,

Opp Payal Cinema, Gurgaon

Ph: 0124-2321942, 2305739, 9810986722

Lunch: 12:00 P.M. to 3.30 P.M.

Dinner: 6:00 P.M. to 11.00 P.M.

Tuesday Closed

Must Have

Seekh & Shammi kebabs

Mutton Burra

Tandoori & Afghani Chicken

Mutton - Jehangiri Qorma, Badshahi Badam Pasanda , Firdausi Qorma (Rogan Josh)

Chicken – Jahangiri Chicken, Shahjahani Mughlai Murgh

Try and avoid

Butter Chicken, Karahi Chicken

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Love Aaj Kal

Just came back from the theater... saw Love Aaj Kal.

The scene where Rahul Khanna takes Deepika Padukone for dinner, the restraunt featured is Coriander Leaf.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Fizz



A quite getaway in the neighborhood, for that quite dinner with your loved ones, or perhaps a drink after a long day at work. The Fizz, located on Level 2 at the DLF Galleria market, DLF Phase IV. If you happen to venture into the restaurant before 8, you would be in the happy hours. Typically, you’d get 40% of on all hard drinks. The restaurant also provides a corporate discount of 20% on the food. Being on the top floor of Galleria market, if the weather is good, which is a rare phenomenon in Gurgaon, you would have the option to sit out in open air. Else, to escape from the summer heat, venture into the restaurant. While I admit that there have rare occasions when I have gone to this restaurant for food, (I think only once), predominantly, I like this place to go in for a drink with friends, or meeting that good old friend.

In my various visits, I have predominantly sampled the starters at this place. The chilli chicken is something I always order. What is distinctively different about the Chilli Chicken is that despite the usual fanfare of diced onions and capsicums, the chicken here is quite crunchy and crispy. The chilli honey potato or the Chilli Paneer is equally well cooked. The serving size is just about average, perhaps a bit less especially in the starters, but nonetheless, no complaints I’d say.

The Tandoori Chicken full is priced at Rs. 275/- , whereas the half is priced at Rs.170/-.

Chilly Chicken Rs 235.

Veg Starters

Paneer Tikkas @ Rs 195/-.

Chilly Potato @ Rs.125/-

The price and serving size is justified by the location, the service as well as the ambience. Looking into the location I’d say its probably an economical place.

This time the occasion was a quite catch up with two of my best friends, one who had come over from Chandigarh and another who had come back from work at 10 in the night and I was just looking for a place to sit and chat comfortably at 10.20 in the night, have a couple of drinks. Arriving at that time, there was no happy hours and that is perhaps when I realized that the drinks were a bit steeply priced. A regular VAT 69 large (60ml) was priced at Rs 320/-. An Indian beer like KF was priced Rs.165/-. Besides the drinks, we ordered various snacks which were just fine as I have already mentioned.

Dinner consisted of a Punjabi Murgh, Shahi Paneer along with roti’s. The shahi paneer was just too sweet, a common mistake that I came across when I was in Sydney, but was amused to find something like that in North India, the home for the butter chicken gravy. The Punjabi chicken was just about OK, nothing that I would boast about. Just meets expectation.

Conclusion:

Good ambience, location, views and service. Food is not something I’d boast about, neither would I complain. Above average in terms of food. An ideal place for drink in the evening with your friends or after a tiring day at work. Make sure you are there during the happy hours when they offer a 40% discount. Good Value for money.

Must Have:

Nothing specific, the starters, Try the chilli chicken

Must Not Have:

Nothing as such, just bear in mind that after the happy hours, the drinks are a bit steeply priced wrt to the lvel of restaurant.

Quick Facts

The Fizz

R-II, DLF Galleria, DLF Phase – IV, Gurgaon

Ph: +91-124-4051695, 4051024

The Chowk




Place: Level 3, Metropolitan Mall, Gurgaon

Occasion:

A quick lunch away from office with team mates, to

celebrate one of our colleagues who just returned from Australia. A quick brainstorming on available options, started from deciding the cuisine. For lunch in Gurgaon, at Metropolitan Mall in Indian cuisine, we figured that the options included Chor Bizzare, Bauji ka Dhaba, Moti Mahal, and The Chowk.

While we went into Bauji ka Dhaba, an obnoxious stench emanating in the restraint forced us to leave the quickly as we quickly we entered. The next stop was The Chowk.

Claim to Fame: Buffet Lunch Non Vegetarianetarian@ Rs. 175, Vegetarianetarian @Rs. 155.

As we entered, I must that the ambience is quite well suited to the cuisine, though stereotyped. As the cuisine is Indian and North West Frontier, the

ambience is typically as I would have expected. Earthenware artifacts, waiters and staff in pathani suits. One of the interesting things that I noticed was that near the bar, there was a series of bulbs suspended from the ceiling, in banta bottles. The banta lemon that we have at the road side were cut from the bottom and the bulbs were fitted in that bottle, something quite unique.

What to eat?

We started of with a non-vegetarianetarian platter. A glimpse into the menu

suggested any of the starters were 250 and above, consisting of 6 peices. The non-vegetarianetarian platter cost 450 bucks. It had 12 pieces.

Seekh kebabs were ordinary and nothing to surpass my expectation. Very ordinary and in fact, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Next item on the platter were the Chicken Banno kebabs, which were quite tasty. I am not sure if it was my excessive hunger that made it tastier, but I’d give the due credit to the Chicken Banno Kebabs. Quite soft, tender and layered texture of the meat was quite delicious.

The Haryali Chicken Tikkas were again quite average and nothing that I’d recommend.

The Tangri Kebabs looked quite delicious. It here that I would point out that the Tangri Kebabs were quite unique. Roasted chicken drumsticks were stuffed with a filling of Keema or minced meat. While the tangri were quite unique with the stuffing, the stuffing could have been tastier. The Tangri were grilled well and but somehow lacked the taste. The stuffing could have been spicier.

For main course we decided to take the buffet. The buffet spread was not very elaborate. It seemed to be the poor mans meal. The buffet can best be described as that for people who were low on budget and/or wanted to host people without incurring a big bill in good ambience. The buffet spread included

  • Steamed rice
  • Raita
  • Dal makhani
  • Mushroom matar
  • Shahi Paneer
  • Chicken Curry
  • Mutton Rogan Josh
  • Gulab jamuns
  • Tandoori roti and Naan (no butter)

The food was not so wow at all. A disappointment to be very precise. The mutton and chicken pieces were not cut properly and it seemed to be too bony, without the meat. The texture of meat for both chicken and mutton was just about average. It seemed to be just about average. As if it was a mere formality. No one seemed to have paid attention to the dishes. The non-vegetarian in particularly reminded me of the state of apathy that one faces in most north Indian marriages. Food served for the sake of it.

The service was outrageously poor. One of our colleagues asked for a bowl for raita and were told promptly told that the same is not available as part of the buffet, which was just unacceptable. The cutlery again was not of the best quality. The dishes, plates were scratched as if they have been in use since World War I.

Drinks: a bar was positioned on the right hand side of the restraint as you entered. Brands such as Glen Fiddich, Johnny Walker red and blue level, Jack Daniels amongst others featured on the display. Buy two get one featured on the drinks.

Overall remarks:

In a place like Metropolitan Mall, though the location, ambience as well as the prices on the menu card were in sync with the market average, however, the service and food quality left a lot to be desired. The Chowk is definitely one of the places that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. Being a foodie myself, I would rather not subject myself to another meal at that place. The food leaves a lot to be desired. As I mentioned previously, my thought on that place is that it is a typical poor mans place in a place like metropolitan mall. While the buffet is cheaply priced, I’d say the food and service leave a lot to be desired. Perhaps an ideal place for team lunches who are bound by budget constraints, or for college going students.

If I were to suggest, there would be lot many places like Chor Bizzare, Moti Mahal, where I would rather go and eat. Irrespective of a team lunch or a quite get together with friends, my take is to have good food at a great place rather than just go out for the sake of it and compromise.

Quick Facts

The Chowk

Level 3, Metropolitan Mall, MG Road, Gurgaon

A meal for two: (excluding drinks) Rs. 800- Rs 1000

Must Have dishes:

Chicken Banno Kebabs

Do not have:

The buffet- a strict no. Rather go for the A-la-carte, where you might be fortunate enough to savour something that might make this joint more memorable.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Coriander Leaf, Gurgaon


Coriander leaf

A busy day at the office and a awfully jammed up return. Coming back from office, I had been thinking of going out to Ambience Mall, near delhi Gurgaon border. After reaching home and as I picked up my family and headed on a drive, in a directionless way, some where I was searching for an evening that would be different. Different in a way that would not be predictable like most occasions when I eat out. Different in a way, that I wanted to eat out good food, but some how was scared of certain repetitive predicament. In the past few months since I’m back in india and indulging myself on a gastronomical journey to the seventh heaven, yet somewhere the saturation had arrived. Saturated of the pathetic service in most restaurants across the spectrum of the city, irrespective of the brand, stature, location. Saturated from the same old menu and same old taste, irrespective of the dish and irrespective of whatever unique name you might call it. When rara gosht , mutton do piazza, tawa chicken, all taste of the same gravy. Some how over a period of time, while the heart craved for a fulfilling, wholesome and sumptuous array of dishes which is subtle and yet different in taste, the mind was scared of venturing out again, to be betrayed with the same taste.
As I was driving around, I decided to give a try to this restaurant, called Coriander Leaf, which I distinctly remembered because of the distinct cuisine it proudly boasts. Indian Pakistani cuisine. Snuggled right behind DT City center on the MG Road, Coriander Leaf is situated in right at the entrance of Vatika Triangle. I must admit, as I entered the restaurant, it actually had a very chic and modern ambience. One step in, and I some how found the ambience to be the perfect blend of modern aesthetics coupled with traditional music that gave you the best of the both worlds.
The journey started with the Aam panna being served right away followed by the menu. The menu, designed in hand made paper had a wide array of exotic dishes, ranging from fish tikka, amritsari macchi, peshwari tikkas to nawabi champ and shammi kebabs at the starters. The main course had an equally impressive and exotic array which I have not seen in a very long time in most restaurants. In lamb particularly, dishes such as Nihari, rishtaa, gushtaba, haleem, banjara qorma and rajputana laal maans.
For starters, we started with a non veg platter where you could chose any three varieties of chicken or lamb. We selected peshawari kebab, mutton shaami kabab, and a chef’s recommended variant of tandoori chicken, which is marinated, boiled and then marinated gain before being grilled, giving it a much juicier and softer texture.
As the starters arrived, the aroma was intoxicating. As the entrées were served, I begun with a bite of the peshawari kebab. As the name suggests, the lamb tikkas were amazingly succulent soft and yet spicy. Being an ardent mutton lover, I always had this pre-conceived notion that mutton is usually the most abused item. I usually go by the rule, that have mutton only at trusted places. Having tasted mutton in various forms at most locations, I had safely concluded to avoid mutton at restaurant as usually it is not properly cooked, leading to it being chewy and hard. However, the peshawari tikka were awesome and simply mind blowing. The texture of the mutton was soft, and greasy, which could be easily separated layers upon layers. This was followed by the shammi kebabs which were deep fried and had a unique hint of garlic and green chillies. Again spicy and very soft, the shammi kebabs were really good. I must admit at this stage that while my experience dictates that shammi kebabs are of further different varieties, one which is similar to Tunde ke kebab at lucknow, which are the mouth melting variants, second being the Kareems shammi kebab, which is deep fried and filled up of coarsely minced mutton and the third variant being the regular shammi kebab you get at most meat shops and resteaunts, which is more of lentils used as a substitute for actual mutton.
Coming back to the shammi kebabs, I must say that, while I would still prefer having it at kareems, but nonetheless it was really spicy and quite unique and worth a one try.
Coming back to the chef’s recommended variant of chicken and also distinct. While the chicken was succulent, yet, it wouldn’t be something that I would recommend as a wow dish that you must have before you die. It was just ok ok types. The chicken was well cooked and trust me when you are hungry, the fragrance of onions and garlic is enough to aggravate the appetite beyond any limits.
But what really compelled me to write this blog is not just the shammi kebabs or the lamb tikkas. It is actually the main course which stole the show. In the main course, the Mutton Nihari was par excellence. Previously, I had heard some rumours about mutton nihari and had some qualms about how it cooked as well as related to the portion of the lamb which is used. Being apprehensive, yet nonetheless, I figured that it might be a good option to tryit once again, considering the out of the world experience I had with the starters.
Let me tell you that the Mutton Nihari was actually some thing which I would definitely recommend to any one reading this blog. The Nihari actually had soft and tender pieces of lamb shanks, cooked it desi ghee, in a spicy red gravy. As I took the first look on the dish as it was seved, I some how could distinctly get the aroma of clarified butter, , commonly referred to as desi ghee. The meat was very soft and tender, something that I have never had at very few places. The lamb shanks or commonly referred to as nalli in hindi, was cut to perfection, with each nalli having a thin slender piece of meat, along with little bit of fat. Along with the Nihari, we had tandoori naan, garlic naan. The naan’s were crisp and perfectly baked to golden colour. The Nihari was served with a small bowl of shredded ginger along with lemon wedges.
The Nihari is actually the best dish that I have savored in a long time, a must have from my experience.
All in all, Coriander Leaf is one of the best places that I have visited in a long time. It is the perfect blend of delicious food coupled with outstanding service, an exotic menu supported by a chic and modern ambience. It is expensive, let me warn you, but if you are in to pamper yourself, please do visit. Another word of advice, if you are a vegetarian, I am not sure if you would like to go to this place.
Quick Facts
Address
Vatika Triangle, Sushant lok-I, Block-A, MG Road, Gurgaon 122002
Ph: 0124-5062121,
email: Corianderleaf at vatika group dot com

A meal for two (excluding drinks) – approx Rs.1000-1500
Must have dish(es)
  • Mutton Nihari
  • Peshawari kebabs