Monday, August 10, 2009

Food of India


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

Monday, August 3, 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.

Sunday, August 2, 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.
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
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.