Remember the flavours from your grandmother’s kitchen – the unforgettable aroma of ground spices, desi ghee tadka on fresh dal, and those lighter-than-air phulkas?
Get your drool on and relive the experience with these Delhi restaurants. Bonus: there’s even authentic Japanese and Italian cuisine on the list.
SORRENTO (ITALIAN CUISINE)
If you want a truly authentic Italian experience in Delhi, then Sorrento, named after a charming town in south west Italy, does it for you. It’s like stepping inside the country – the palate is immediately tickled as you see an array of cheeses, pasta being rolled out right in front of your eyes in an open kitchen, a glowing wood fire in the pizza station, a stack of tomatoes brought from Italy and the herbs spreading their shoots in tiny pots.
Chef Luigi Ferraro does not just serve the recipes of the region, but makes his dishes with ingredients that travel all the way from Italy, to ensure that Delhiites don’t miss the tiniest bit of flavour of the region.
We are told this is fine dining with fun dining and we cannot agree more as we start with the fine Italian cheese platter served with truffle honey and strawberry compote and the cured meats platter. The cheese and juicy grapes make for a perfect combination. After devouring that, we were served the Mozzarella on Wheels salad, where the chef wheeled in the trolley and prepared it in front of us.
The Stozzapreti Italian sausage pasta came in a shape we had never seen before because the chef told us they create their own. A traditional, Neapolitan pizza is part of the experience. Made with hand kneaded dough, rolled out and stretched in traditional style, our Buffalo mozzarella, Parma ham and rocket leaves pizza was simply the best we ever had. For the main course, don’t skip the Black cod fish – its light, delicate and comes with rolled donuts and mushrooms. Tiramisu is a no-brainer and must be ordered along with Mount Vesuvius, perfect for chocoholics with rich chocolate and hazelnuts with raspberry sauce.
Address: Lobby Level, Shangri – La’s – Eros Hotel, 19 Ashoka Road, Connaught Place; tel: 011- 41191040
DELHI CLUB HOUSE (INDIAN AND CONTINENTAL CUISINE)
Trust Marut Sikka to bring back your childhood to you. He went across prestigious colonial-era clubs across the country like Calcutta’s Tollygunge club, Royal Bombay Yatch club and Madras Club to pick out the most popular dishes and brought them all to Delhi Club House. As he says the Delhi Club House “reminisces an era gone by, a culture gone by.” He’s also introduced a few signature dishes in his typical style.
For drinks we started with East India – vodka with orange, chilli and lemon – and went onto try Colonial – vodka, yellow peppers and passion fruit. Tasty, indeed. No prizes for guessing what you munch with these – good old masala peanuts, Fish Finger Orly from Bengal Club and crunchy prawn cutlets that reminded me of some childhood evenings at Tolly Club. I had heard a lot about Byculla Club’s Cheese Souffle and it lived up to my expectations, absolutely soft and delicious and oh so cheesy. The Railway mutton curry and Prawn masala are also loaded with nostalgia and so are desserts like caramel custard.
Address: Sangam Courtyard, Major Somnath Marg; tel: 9717535533
INDUS EXPRESS (INDIAN CUISINE)
At Indus Express the menu takes you through the food in the region where the Indus River flows – Pothovar, Rawalpindi, Amritsar, Khyber and Lahore. Try the Ajwanai Jhinga, a dish with soft, fresh prawns that burst with flavours; the lotus stems with prunes are crunchy and delicious, and something you may not have tried before.
Each dish is prepared patiently on low flames to keep the flavours intact. For instance, Raan e Khyber with its succulent pieces of mutton; Baingan mijaz with its smoky flavour; Dal Balti meat, and a special dal (a mix of different pulses like rajma, mot, black lentil, soya bean, black masoor, urad and fresh tadka), will keep you coming back for more.
Finish off with the legendary phirni and anjeer ice cream. At the end of the meal that satisfies every traditional bone in you, you will go home acknowledging that our ancestors were no strangers to fine dining!
Address: Vivanta by Taj, Dwarka, Sector 21, Dwarka, Metro Station Complex; tel: 011-66003000
LAKHORI (INDIAN CUISINE)
Ever thought you could have a fine-dining experience in the packed alleys of Chandni Chowk? Yes you can, at Lakhori, Haveli Dharampura’s restaurant. Dating back to 1887, this haveli has been restored by Rajya Sabha member Vijay Goel, but still retains its original Mughal touches. The Lakhori restaurant here serves a mix of Mughlai and traditional Chandni Chowk dishes. The menu changes each month and is a set meal of various delicacies.
We start with Jahan Ara, a refreshing but spicy khas-based mocktail thanks to the infused green chillies. The Paan Banarasi was actually like liquid meetha paan in your mouth – thick, heavy and sweet. I quite liked the dahi puri that came with shot glasses of saunth and jaljeera paani and the famous galouti kebab simply melted in the mouth. The crisp Palak Patta Chaat was bursting with flavours.
In the main course I really enjoyed the Kofta Dogala which came with two delicious curries – tomato and malai – and besides the dish itself, the presentation was fantastic. The tanginess of the tomato gravy was offset perfectly by the subtle yet thick, rich and creamy malai. The Mutton Korma was spicy yet full of flavour. We rounded off the meal with a delicious kulfi.
Address: 2293, Gali Guliyan, Dharampura; tel: 011-23261000
EN – THE JAPANESE RESTAURANT (JAPANESE CUISINE)
If you’re a fan of Japanese food, don’t miss En in Mehrauli where the food is good and the ambience excellent. If you’re here for lunch, grab the table with the view of Qutub Minar.
Along with watermelon martini, go for the delicious Tuna Tataki En Style, thin slivers of delicately flavoured tuna that was slightly sweet. The crunch comes from the prawn tempura. The best dish I had at the restaurant was the En Special Sushi Platter with nigari, Aburi Salmon Special Roll which had baked salmon and asparagus roll with egg and the Rainbow Roll which was squid and tuna with avocado.
The Buta-Kakuni, which is braised for more than 28 hours, was the most lip-smacking pork belly I had ever tasted. The sweet and spicy sea bass was also packed with flavours and we had delicious egg fried rice to go with it.
Address: Ambawatta One Complex, H-5/1, Kalkadas Marg; tel: 8826297103