Delhi Restaurants -Ambiance, Price & Food: getting the right mix?!?

Delhi now has a range of eating options – Fast Food, Casual Dining, Pub- Cafés, Fine Dining and the it’s many variations – Bakeries, Coffee houses, Dhabas, Buffets and thousands more. What differentiates them is primarily,  Food preparation style, Service (speed, quality and self/full), Ambiance and Pricing.

The top of the list is the Fine dining restaurant. They offer their diners the finest in food, service and atmosphere: hence the exorbitant prices.

My question is- Although, most average sized restaurants in Delhi call themselves Fine Dining, yet why can one never be sure of what one will finally experience?

In the last few months I have noticed that most restaurants in Delhi are a bit confused about their identity or they are just trying too hard to make a niche for themselves. Now, I agree, that it’s difficult to pinpoint what level of service and ambiance will justify the tag  of fine dining, BUT if the rating on 3 out of the 4 factors is not up to the mark then getting full marks on Pricing cannot be the ONLY factor to be a FINE DINING Restaurant.

What I basically want to say is, on an average, a meal for two excluding drinks and including taxes is about Rs. 1000, no matter what you eat – Thai, Chinese, Indian, Italian- whatever!

Actually, I don’t mind paying the thousand bucks also, as long as I am happy with what I have paid for. You can never be certain about – how good/authentic the meal will be? What quantity will be served to you? How  your overall experience will rate?

Try this simple test. Have a ‘Chicken Penne Arrabiata’ or a similar pasta at Big Chill (INR 375), Mrs Kaurs (INR 365) , Route 4(INR 325), The Kitchen (INR 300), Amici (INR 320), Café OZ (INR 350) and Urban Café (INR 350). Notice, they are all in Khan Market and within the same price range. Now compare the quantity, quality of the food and the overall experience in service, décor etc.

Or is it that the restaurants in Delhi have become so expensive that at 500 rs per head all you get is the bare minimum?

Another discussion I have had many a times is – The Food vs. Ambiance debate.

I have thought long and hard about this, for me, if the food is terrific, the place is good. Sounds oblivious enough!

But this is not true for everyone and they do have a good point. People go to restaurants – especially high end ones – for the whole experience. I have actually heard people say the place is so great but the food is ok!

To be blunt I could care less if a place is trendy. If the food isn’t good I don’t want to pay an arm and leg for it.

Take for instance the restaurant Gunpowder (22, Hauz Khas Village). It’s difficult to reach the restaurant on your own, especially the first time (including the four flight of stairs). The ambiance is average at best. The food however, is authentic and tasty.

But if you search for the review of the restaurant you shall find these as the top two reviews.  Anoothi Vishal at India food and Travel Guide starts her review by saying “It’s not a place that the average Dilliwallah”. And Chefatlarge gave it a rating of 2/5.

To each his own I guess!

All I really want is to find a restaurant with a perfect balance of Taste, Ambiance and Price and if it is close to where I live, that will be the cherry on top.


Khan ka Khaana : Eating out at Khan Market

So you are in Khan Market, on a bright sunny day or late in the evening and wondering – where do you go? 

This market has consistently ranked as one of the costliest high end streets. In fact in 2010, it was rated as the world’s 21st most expensive retail high street by real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield. It’s the newest hangout market, a place to be seen. With limitless options, Khan Market does not disappoint. Just be prepared to spend the moollah.

 A new restaurant opens and closes every month here and it surely is the survival of the fittest, so the old favorites like Chonas or Big Chill are forever favourites, but these days the choices have truly increased! Let me list out some options-

The Fine Dining Experience: Even casual dining restaurants tend to be fine dining in this market, if you know what I mean!!

Big Chill – Continental, Italian, Desserts, Avg Cost/dish INR 400. One of the oldest most famous ones, there are two outlets in Khan Market itself. I feel that the hype is a bit more than it deserves, don’t get me wrong it used to be awesome once upon a time.

Blanco– European, Japanese, Thai, Avg Cost/dish INR 400. Food is good; they also have a happy hour. They have Meats outlet as well, some really good stuff. Every thursday is women’s night with free mojitos… so enjoy ladies!

The Kitchen – Asian, European, Japanese, Thai. Avg Cost/dish INR 350. The food is really good, it’s a small place but worth the wait for the table. Definitely try their Khao Suey and notice the number go up on their Khao Suey meter!

Mamagoto –Asian, Avg Cost/dish INR 350. Best known for their wok & curries, it’s a must try. Go for their Meal in a bowl choices, its filling and tastes good!

Chonas -Chinese, European, North Indian, Avg Cost/dish INR 250. It has been around for 20+ years and is famous for their Happy Hours and only the Happy Hours. Some people have recommended the sizzlers.

Side Wok – Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Avg Cost/dish INR 350. Great Thai food! The prawn red-curry was excellent, and to top it all they have an online reservation system. How cool is that?

China Fare– Chinese, Avg Cost/dish INR 300. It’s been the only Chinese restaurant in Khan for some time, and the food is good. But now that they have competition, we’ll just have to wait and watch. I always notice the cat sitting outside the door, see if you can spot her.

Watermelon – Health food, Avg Cost/dish INR 350. It has a relaxed lounge-like atmosphere, segmented into multiple rooms that provide some privacy, I guess?! With a limited menu and average dishes, avoid it if you are particular about your food.

Amici – Continental, Italian, Others, Avg Cost/dish INR 350.Best known for their oven fresh pizzas, they have some good days and bad days. I went on a bad day!! But have heard really great stuff about the place too.

Mrs Kaurs Crepes and More -American, Fast Food, Desserts, Others, Avg Cost/dish INR 300. Best known for their breakfast menu, they have light meals to enjoy all day too. The portions could be a little larger but that’s gives you an excuse to order some sweet-something.

Ginger Moon– Chinese, Avg Cost/dish INR 400. On my ‘To-Try’ list.

Khan Chacha Kabab Corner– Rolls & North Indian, Avg Cost/dish INR 200. Yes, the famous Khan Chacha is now a restaurant on the first floor, but the real fun of the place was the ‘street-food’ so to say atmosphere that is now lost. For the loyalist this remains the only place for kathi rolls.

The QSR (Quick Service Restaurants): by which I mean stand and eat type of places, they are certainly quick and seem to have a lot of fan following too. So don’t get discouraged by the crowds.

Hotdog Factory– American, Fast Food, Avg Cost/dish INR 100.

Chicago Pizza – American, Fast Food, Pizza, Avg Cost/dish INR 200. Their pepperoni slice is nice.

Al Bake– Fast Food, Lebanese, Avg Cost/dish INR 75. an offshoot of the NFC outlets, this one is better than the original.

Salim Kababs – Kababs & Rolls , Avg Cost/dish INR 150. Haven’t tried it yet.

Aap Ki Khatir– Rolls & Mughlai, Avg Cost/dish INR 150. This one is definitely recommended and the rolls are better than some of its counterparts in the same market.

Mrs Kaurs Premium Cookies – Bakery, Avg Cost/dish INR 75.

The Kathis – Rolls & North Indian, Avg Cost/dish INR 150.

Cocoberry- Desserts, Avg Cost/dish INR 150.

The Cafés and Pubs: for some informal, laze around type of an environment step into one of the many café’s at Khan. Some of these turn into a party zone with loud music and beer as the sun sets.

Latitude – American, Continental, Italian, Avg Cost/dish INR 450. The latest eatery to set up shop in Khan Market is Latitude 28, a café by The Good Earth, which has its kitchen supervised by chef Ritu Dalmia.

Cafe Turtle – Cafe, Continental, Italian, Others, Avg Cost/dish INR 150. An old haunt for most, it’s great to have some ice-tea and slice of freshly backed cake while you are immersed in the book you are reading.

Sugar N Spice – Bakery, Avg Cost/dish INR 75. Like any other of their outlets, breads and pastries are good.

Market Café – Bakery, Avg Cost/dish INR 200. One of the many specialties of this place is the wi-fi facility. It also has a Sheesha place on its second floor. The one thing you will find about this cafe’ at any given time is that you can actually ‘have a conversation’ without screaming your lungs out like in regular places. Quiet, comfortable and open, its a nice place if you want to really “catch up” with friends.

Route 04– American, Avg Cost/dish INR 300. You’ll find a lot of young kids, music is all American and by the end of the evening everyone is singing. Route 04 run by the owners of Turquoise Cottage and enjoys the same loyalty. Try their burgers, and head there during happy hours, they even have pitchers of LIIT as 1+1, a challenge to finish!

Cafe Oz & Bar – Continental, Avg Cost/dish INR 350. Nice beer & burgers. My fav is the lime & mint spritzer. I love the balance of café and pub that that Cafe Oz has.

Urban Café – Chinese, Continental, North Indian, Italian, Avg Cost/dish INR 600. Drinks are bit on the expensive side and so is food, when you look at the quantity. It has a nice ambience for some club/pub atmosphere with more well traveled diners. (And not just screaming teenagers, that you see in most pubs)

For the lets-stick-to-the-basics diners, there is a McDonalds, Subway, CCD Lounge, Barista Lavazza and the others thrown in for good measure. Hope you enjoy your trip to the mighty Khan and find your calling in one of the three lanes – outer, inner & middle.

Bon appétit!!

Ordering In @ Marathahalli Bangalore

With busy schedules and 9-5 jobs that never get over at 5, home-delivery or ordering in most homes like ours is a common phenomenon. If you are lucky and live in Koramangala or Indranagar, the food hubs of Bangalore, you’ll have plenty to choose from. But for the unlucky ones like us who live in Marathahalli, the choices are somewhat restricted. Of course we have Dominos and Subway but some times you need more than just junk food.

A good place to start is Mast Kalandar, especially if you have some company. Order the Family packs of Dal Makhani and Sinful Punjabi Panner. Make some Rice, Roti and Raita at home and you have a perfect meal. Just remember that they take more that 45 minutes to deliver so order early.  Eating alone try the Sinful Punjabi Paneer combo (served with daal makhani and 2 butter naans) or The Great Indian Maha Combo (served with paneer curry, daal makhani, veggies, rice, 2 lachcha parranthas and patiala chaas / coca cola).
If vegetarian food is not what you crave for then – Pattaka Singh is a great option.  Especially if you like Punjabi food like we do. Some of you’ll enjoy the hard core Punjabi accent more than the food.  The chicken dishes were very good, although a little on the spicy side.
If you feel like having some ‘spicly sambhar and rice’ – the tiffin meals at Andra Spice are a good option, but remember a single meal can feed more that one or two. In one tiffin meal you’ll get sambhar, palak dal, rasam, one dry veg, papad, chutney and almost a kilo of steamed rice. I would however, not recommend ordering in the thali, its much more fun if you have them serve to your requirements at the restaurant.
How can one be in Bangalore and not talk about Biryani? Biryani seems to ‘HIT’ in Bangalore, no matter which part of the city you reside in. There are a few options for ordering in your biryani – Andhra Spice, Bhagini, Ammis Biryani etc. All are good, but my favorite is Hyderabad Biryani House (HBH) where the rice and meat are cooked to perfection and the aroma is heavenly.
I have to mention Treat, Spice Garden and the kathi rolls of Golconda Chimney as they are the oldest take away joints in the area, they have fed us long before any of the others came marching in. The best way to order is definitely Hungary Bangalore.
For something light like dosa & chat – Dosa Corner/ Corner House is next door and the best part is the big scoop of Rocky Road or Death by chocolate after the meal.
These were a few of our tried and tested order-ins, let us know yours. Hungry Kya?

Soo Ra Sung – Korean – Bangalore

Chinese, Thai and even Japanese, we all know and have been to restaurants that specialize in these. But how many of us have tried an authentic Korean meal?

Well, I’ll forever be thankful to a friend of mine who introduced me two awesome things that are Korean.

The first is the movie My Sassy Girl…

Sassy literally means Bizarre, is a South Korean romantic comedy film directed by Kwak Jae-yong, in which the lead protagonist’s chance meeting with a drunk girl on the train changes his life. It is based on the true story told in a series of love letters written by Kim Ho-sik, a man who initially posted them on the Internet and later adapted them into a novel. I will definitely recommend anyone who like romantic-comedies to watch it.

…And the other is the restaurant in Bangalore – Soo Ra Sung.

I was fortunate enough to try out this place before I left Bangalore and it will be on my itinerary when I visit Bangalore again. Soo Ra Sung is an authentic Korean restaurant on Wind tunnel Road near the HAL Airport. How do I know it is authentic? Well, for one it is owned and run by a Korean Lady and also, of the 6 tables occupied on the day I had dinner there we were the only non-koreans.

When had made reservations to ensure we get a place, as it does get crowded on weekends. The owner is a warm & friendly lady that makes your ordering easy and experience enjoyable.

One of the highlights is the barbecue meal that is done right at the table. All dishes on the menu are complete meals. They are served with a delicious assortment of small side dishes and condiments. Everything was cooked to perfection.

Korean food stands out from other cuisines mainly because of the banchan (side dishes) that are served during meals in small bowls, and can be anything from vegetables to meat to seafood. These are served with the main dish, and there are no separate courses. So when you eat at a Korean restaurant do not over order.

Koreans have perfected the art of preserving food over thousands of years, so many of the side dishes are pickled, salted, or fermented. Some are spicy and the others sweet & salty. Kimchi, Korea’s famous spicy cabbage, has over a hundred varieties with different vegetables, including some non-spicy types. You may be given a pair of scissors to cut the kimchi. Rice is the backbone of almost every Korean meal, and all the dishes will be served with some sticky rice.

You’ll also be served Soo Jeong Gwa (Sweet Cinnamon Punch). A traditional brown-colored Korean drink, consisting of cinnamon, water, sugar, dried persimmon, and ginger. It was a light and refreshing end to a great meal. Sojo (Korean wine) and beer is also available on request. Manuscrypts has given a great description of what one can expect in Soo Ra Sung.

One thing that caught my eye was the tiny notes on the lift. The restaurant is on the fourth floor, above a guesthouse. One has to enter a tiny lift that has precise instructions on when to open and close the lift.

The roof top location gives a wonderful view of Bangalore, making a trip to Soo Ra Sung well worth the effort.

Here’s to Good Food and Great Friends!!

My top 5 @ Road Trip – Bangalore

Roadtrip is fast becoming our favorite restaurant in Bangalore. The comfortable surroundings,  the casual setting, the awesome food and the fact that they now serve beer are all great reasons to go there.

The food is always good, in fact on our last trip someone said “I’d like to know what they don’t make well” that says a lot for any place. We have tried most of the things on the limited menu and some on the ‘Today’s special’.  Apart for the Bacon Quiche, I don’t remember anything that I haven’t liked. On the Quiche, I’ll give them the benefit of doubt, though – it was probably just a bad day.

Grilled Fish with Mustard
Here are some of my recommendations of what to eat at RoadTrip.

Tangy Prawns

A light and tasty starter, where coral pink prawns are sautéed in garlic infused butter, then some fresh coriander is folded in. It is served with a crunch salad in a vinegar dressing. One portion of Tangy Prawn (Rs. 200) is a great starter  for about 4 people.

Ham & Cheese Pizza

Rarely have I eaten a cracker-thin-crust Pizza that comes close to the freshness and lightness of ingredients and texture that you’ll get at Roadtrip. The menu has something called the Ham & Cheese Pizza (Rs. 275)  with whole-wheat or normal base options. Of course you can ask to customize the toppings to your liking. I like to add the sundried tomatoes & mushrooms to the ham, cheese & basil toppings.

ravioli
Chicken Ravioli

Ravioli is a type of pasta that looks like little packets of seets. It is basically a filling sealed between two layers of thin pasta dough. The Chicken Ravioli (Rs. 250) in white sauce with some sundried tomatoes is divine at road trip. Again the ‘Custom Made’ option is available at no extra cost. This one needs to be eaten to understand how good this really is!

Pasta in Arrabiata sauce with Broccoli

Don’t you think anyone can make good pasta in white-cheesy sauce? I mean if it has cheese and some chicken & herbs, not much can go wrong.

It is the arrabiata sauce that is the real test. Arrabbiata is a Roman sauce of garlic, tomatoes, basil and red chili cooked in olive oil. You know what all’ arrabbiata means? It means “angry style”, named as such due to the heat of the peppers.
Road trip has a great arrabiata recipe, even the veg with just some broccoli tastes smashing. So if you find yourself in Road trip on a day you need to eat only vegetarian, try this one.

Straganoff
Stroganoff

The next thing on my list is the Beef Stroganoff.

This is originally a Russian dish of sautéed pieces of beef served in a sauce with sour cream. From its origins in 19th-century Russia, it has become popular in much of Iran, Europe, North America, Australia, South Africa, Lebanon and Brazil, with considerable variation in the actual recipe.

The tender juicy meat was somewhat unexpected at first glance but it was marvelous till the last bite.

These are just a handful of things we have tried and liked. Do try the other Italian and Continental dishes on their menu and let us know your favorites. Road Trip is open from noon till Bangalore closes, seven days a week.

Bon Appetite!

Bangalore’s BJN Escapades

BJN

Let’s have a pop quiz. Think of 5 fine dining restaurants in Bangalore.

DONE ?

I can bet at least one (or more) of them are courtesy the BJN group. The BJN group boasts of having about 19 brands & 40 restaurants in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Gurgaon, Pune and Mumbai. They also run the boutique hotel, Museum Inn, in Bangalore.

Bangalore may not be the epitome of a ‘foodie’s paradise’ or claim to have their own unique cuisine, but has adapted brilliantly to the multicultural population that resides in it. BJN has done its bid by having restaurants & bars serving a variety of cuisines and incorporating diverse themes. Whatever mood you’re in, chances are there will be a BJN joint to cure your mood swings.

In the mood for some good Chinese ? Aromas of China may be the answer. We had a buffet lunch on a Sunday afternoon and were delighted with the service and the assortment of food.

The décor of the place is very oriental with beautiful Statues of Lord Buddha. For lunch there were dim-sums, freshly made at a counter and served with spicy sauces. In the non-veg section, mouthwatering prawns, fish, lamb and chicken dishes were on the menu. In the veg section there were some dishes but with so much more around, I didn’t ever bother.

cfond

Desert was a no brainer, honey crispy wontons and ice-cream. Would you have given a second thought? There was a couple of pastries, soufflé and of course, the chocolate fondue to experiment with (p.s. Have you noticed the chocolate fondue seems to be a trademark of sorts in all BJN buffets ?) At Rs. 400 per head the buffet included a soft drink, soup, a couple of starters, main course & desert, it’s a great way to spend a lazy Sunday.

We chanced upon Aromas of China, as the restaurant next to it Café Masala was full. I’m a bit disappointed because this is almost always the case (mental note: make reservation next time). It has an Indian barbeque buffet and I’ve heard it is much better than the current fav of Bangalore, BBQ Nation.

Vaayu is the third of BJN’s restaurant at Eva mall. Vaayu is the sky lounge with a stunning view of the stars or so they say, I’ll have to try this one sometime.

vayu

Bamboo Shoots’ is another place where authentic Chinese, Thai, Malay, Korean and Singaporean fare comes alive. It has won the H&F S National Award for Excellence in Oriental Cuisine  (which they advertise enough) It is situated in BJN’s Museum Inn, along with Angeethi & Tavern at the Inn.

Tavern and Firangi Pani have an ‘English Pub’ feel to them. The large kegs turned into tables, leather upholstered chairs, rich-dark wood furniture and large beer mugs complete the look. It’s a great place to unwind or chill out before catching a move at PVR Forum.

Sahib Sindh Sultan is the restaurant next to Firangi Paani. It’s one of our ‘let’s indulge’ places, not so much for the prices but for the amount of desi ghee they put in the food.

The cuisine served at Samarkhand comes from the North West Frontier region of Pakistan/Afghanistan. So you can expect lot of Tandoori and Mughlai dishes. A bit over priced but I guess when one says fine dining they mean ‘expensive’.

samarkhand menu

BJN Group’s new offering to add to their already impressive list of North India cuisine is Khansama. Khansama follows the “Royal Indian Theme” located on Concorde Block, UB City, Vittal Mallya Road.

Dilli ki chatt & Bengal ka puchkka, that you wouldn’t have expected from BJN ? But you’ll be surprised at the variety at Bombay House. Not to confuse with- Bombay Post this attempts to recreate the magic and romance of Bollywood of the sixties and seventies. All I can say is its’ thoda hatt key’.

ub city

Hypnos is a Mediterranean Lounge, which serves Greek, Lebanese and Spanish Food, and cool cocktails, that is typical of the Mediterranean or so I hear, never actually having been there.

Where I have been a couple of times is Indijoe Resto Bar. Go there for their afternoon buffet – at 350/- it’s not too bad. They serve a mix of Italian, salads, Thai food and Biryani. The desert section has the chocolate fondue obviously.

The other choice is to spend the evening drinking & talking with some beer and good company. The last time we went there we had some Tortia Chips with Cheese Sauce (Rs 150), non-veg combo (Rs 285), Garlic Toast (Rs 95) along with a couple of Pitchers of Draught (Rs 475).

All in all BJN has been able to add a unique dining experience by creating themes of the English pub, Palace on wheels or rustic charms of a dhaba and fine dining oriental flavors or the delights of the northern frontier, while never taking away the taste and quality of the food. Their restaurants are a bit expensive, for sure, but it lives up to its motto is `Khao, Piyo, Jiyo’ !

Bonsai – Connaught Place, New Delhi

On our last trip to Delhi, we went for drinks to Bonsai. Bonsai, one of the more recent additions to Delhi’s burgeoning list of Oriental restaurants, has a menu with an eclectic mix of Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Indonesian cuisines.

Located in the inner circle of Connaught Place, just above Café Coffee Day, it looks deceptively small from the outside, but is nice and roomy once you step in. There is an open-air extension, but we decided to sit inside because of Delhi’s humidity. The ambience and decor was pleasant. The restaurant was well lit and the lemon grass fragrance in the air gave it an oriental feel.

Aside from the Beer being served only in pint size (which doesn’t have the same appeal to a pitcher/ draught), the cocktails were superb. We had a couple of starters of which the Prawn Tempura (395) is worth a mention.

The one good thing about Bonsai – the helpings are anything but miniature. Our experience however was of a mixed platter, with some great items and some that were eminently forgettable. It is the kind of place where you can really talk over a couple of drinks.

Rodeo – Connaught Place, New Delhi

Located in the A block, inner circle of Connaught Place, Rodeo can be classified as an authentic Mexican restaurant, or atleast as authentic a mexican restaurant can be in Punjabi food infested Delhi. With a relaxed, comfy and cozy atmosphere, it is an old favourite with the veterans of Delhi’s pub scene.

The bar has a ’wild west’ theme and though the restaurant just got a make over, it still retains the feel of an old saloon. The waiters in the restaurant are dressed as cowboys and the service is quite average. If you need some head-banging music to go with a beer in your hand, this isn’t the place for you. We have been going there for years & the ambience, quality of food, waiters, music haven’t changed a bit and that is what I like best about it !

With their speciality in Mexican and Italian cuisine, they also serve Draught beer. We ordered the Nachos platter (150-250) which is unquestioningly the best dish there, along with Fajitas for starters. Our main course was the POLLO AL GREQUE, a chicken dish (375) which to our dissatisfaction was very dry. There is a buffet from Monday to Friday at RODEO (C.P.) and Friday to Sunday at RODEO (Gurgaon). The buffet is a great opportunity to get those flavours at a down to earth cost.

Overall, Rodeo is a quaint little place which offers clean good food for those who just like to unwind with a good drink.

Quick and Cheap North Indian Lunch

Tasty doesn’t mean Expensive

One of my favourite things to have for lunch is Chole-Kulchey and if you haven’t stayed in Delhi/Amritsar, in all likelihood, you haven’t tasted the real thing. Sweet…chilly…tangy… utterly delicious food. Do not ever do the mistake of eating this dish anywhere except the North. South/West/East Indians just can’t make it the way its supposed to be.

In the inner circle of Cannaught Place one can see vendors with hand pulled carts with Shiny Big brass vessels filled with the cholley (channa/matter) & a small burner heating the kulchey AND if one misses that the smell of the mouth-watering channa will anyway guide you to the right place.

It takes less than 5 min for the guy to mix the chickpea with spices, lemon, chopped tomatoes, onions & chillies and serve it on a leaf plate … all for Rs. 10/- (in budget and for the cal conscious LOW CAL).

The hot spots other than CP for this delectable dish are Chandini Chowk, Shankar Market, Green Park (basically everywhere) , although my absolute favorite is Nathu’s at Defence Colony (Def Col. for the uninitiated).

So if you are lucky enough to be in DefCol right now …Go to Nathu’s and have the meal of your lifetime.

PS: This post has been written after an utterly disgusting and tasteless food at the company cafeteria.