Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Delhi Belly: My foodie adventures and misadventures in the capital

I came home late from work today and it was too late to cook something, But I couldn't bare the thought of not posting something for you guys to feast on. So I thought of sharing this with you. I was in Delhi last December and my trip which was primarily planned so I could catch up with friends, old and new, had soon turned into a gastronomical journey. Now, I have been to Delhi numerous times and I know all about  Moolchand's anda paratha, and paneer bhatura and parathein wali galli and mutton burra kababs, but I wanted to try out some of Delhi's fine dining destinations. The fine dining scene in Delhi has undergone a sea change in the last few years and I had to check it out, or begin to do so. I am heading to Delhi again, in a week's time and this is also an exercise of sort - revisiting the old before embarking on the new. I will be back from Delhi with new culinary tales perhaps, for now check these out.
I had been to the Indian Habitat Centre on Lodhi Road but never to eat. My friend Priyanka, a childhood buddy now settled in Delhi with her Financial analyst husband, insisted we have breakfast at the All American Diner there. Once there, I went straight for the All American Breakfast and I was happy. I could have a little of many things. The best part were the pancakes with a choice strawberry and maple syrup. I had both. The sausages with juicy but I have had better ones. The bacon however, were a fried a little too much and was somewhat least that day. The scrambled eggs melted in my mouth though I could have done with some more cheese and a little more seasoning. But that's just me. Nonetheless in the end I was a happy diner...woman..diner.

A closer look at the melt-in-the mouth scrambled egg. And that juicy tomato with that lip-smacking herbed cheese on top...absolutely cracker. And yes the pancakes, just how I like them.

I had tasted a bagel for the first time in Brighton, during my stint at the university of Sussex. My friend Leonine, she is half Greek and half Swedish, and she is now a rock-star, she always was actually, took me and Duna, a really headstrong girl from Palestine who had a way of speaking her mind, to this place en route Churchill Square (the most happening mall in Brighton) and she swore they served the best bagels. I do not remember the name of the shop though. Perhaps it was called The Bagel Shop. I had a tuna and avocado sesame bagel and I fell in love with this delightful thing, irrevocably. I hadn't eaten a bagel since my return from England and the sight of Bagel's Cafe at the Hauz Khas Village, was enough to make me stop in my tracks. I wanted a bagel and that was that. I went for a bacon and cream cheese and though I wouldn't say it is one of the best bagels I have had, this was good enough to refresh those memories.

We had a pancake too, with nutella and bananas...classic, can't go wrong. Only I love my pancakes smaller, thicker and fluffier.

At Out of the Box (Hauz Khas Village)  I ordered for a Jamaican Jerk Chicken served with a side each of fries, rice with beans and veggies tossed in butter. You don;t get to see a Jerk Chicken on the menu in too many restaurants, none in Calcutta I think. I was super excited. Many a times I have imagined devouring this  awesomeness off the streets of Jamaica. Wishful thinking. One bite and I was disappointed. this was just crumbed chicken. This was supposed to be an explosion of flavours. But what it was was a disappointment.  

I liked the rice better than the chicken. The vegetables were nicely done too. And the fries were great.

These butter flied prawns on a bed spaghetti served with a lemon butter sauce looked pretty but I am not too sure if it tasted as good, because I didn't taste it. I am allergic to prawns. My eyes turn red and pop out dangerously every time I pop a prawn. A cruel trick of the culinary gods for there was a time when I ate prawns with a vengeance. Once I had gone to Puri with my uncle and his family and I ate so much of prawns and so much rice that it has become a family joke. Every one gets to hear that story when everyone's eyes popped out at how much I could eat it. Prawns. But here I am now, even the smell makes me feel ill. Prawn lover don't hate me, or hate me.

The classic Greek Salad was good, but you can't go wrong with fresh vegetables and a lot of feta, can you?

I am a sucker for Italian food. I like how it is inherently rustic, casual and simple. I have tasted the real thing, from the the Margherita in Naples to the Florentine steak and crostini in a street cafe in Rome. And I can say that to me Italians are the best cooks in the world. Italy's Nonnas and mamas can give the best chefs a run for their money. (I am sure none of the best chefs will ever read this blog, especially the French, oh they won't). So when my friends told me that Big Chill was the place top go in Delhi for Italian grub, I had to go. Thanks to Priyanka and her husband Pranay, I didn't even have to ask. So we started what was going to be a long meal, with baked jacket-potatoes filled with chicken and topped with a generous amount of cheese and it was delicious. Though it reminded me of nothing I had had Italy but my favourite baked potatoes place in Brighton.

And while they ordered for a grilled chicken with a sauce of some kind, I went for a Carbonara. I always end up ordering a Carbonara. And I hate myself for that. Most of the time, I walk into an Italian place and after meticulously studying the menu end up ordering a Carbonara with extra bacon. The few times I will myself to order something else, I walk out with a sense of dissatisfaction, the taste of the dish notwithstanding, that lingers till the next day at least. And then I go back to the same place and order a Carbonara. This one was good. I think they used cream in the sauce, and though a purist would frown, it tasted great, though a little heavy. We had no room for dessert. I 'll make up for it this time in Delhi.

But the surprise culinary experience of my entire trip was the meal at Potbelly Rooftop restaurant in Shahpur Jaat. A specialty Bihari restaurant. When Chetna told me about this place that served Bihari food, I insisted we go. She said it was brilliant. I took her word for it and was ready for some good litti chokha. But what I was not ready for was not just the steep, oh-so-steep climb to the ROOFTOP, I was also and definitely not ready for what I saw on the menu there and what I tasted there.  I have often wondered about Bihari cuisine, and how it lacks a presence on the country's culinary map. But I didn't know what we were missing out on until I tasted Potbelly's food. I had gone there hoping for a cracker litti ( wheat balls stuffed with spiced sattu and doused in Desi ghee) chokha (usually a brinjal or potato mash flavoured with spices) but that I could have one of the best chicken dishes I have ever tasted and that litti could be paired with spicy meat  was not what I had on mind. So we ordered for Golmirch chicken, boneless chicken cubes in a creamy peppery sauce served with lacchaa paratha, tawa bhaji and sabudana pakoras which, by the way, were insane. Next came litti with a spicy chicken that set your mouth on fire but was delicious nonetheless. The customary chokha, a spicy brinjal mash and salad came as accompaniments. The best  part was that the humble accompaniements were as good as the main dish. I also ordered for Maher, Bihari-style curd rice which came with a bhaji and a pickle the very though of which still gets me drooling. This time though I have to  try the Aloo McLaloo Chop considering the timeliness of it, especially.

The result 
A happier and heavier me.


  1. ah man, this bihari thing makes me happy happy happy. I went to Big Chill, and although the food was nice, it was far from being authentic... so well, it was a disappointed me who got out (and I got the Carbonara too!! We are family.), and now I want to go to Delhi. ASAP. :D

    1. I agree absolutely with the not-authentic part, in fcat I was just reading it and thinking I should have put in a line about how it was far from authentic but sumptuous nonetheless...and Hail Carbonara!!!

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