Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Seven things you should probably try out- Delhi

Another collaborative post with @MyOwnKryptonite, for BLAH.
Find the original piece here.

The Iced Tea at Cha Bar
Tragically, this haven for any tea-loving bookworm, as part of the Oxford Bookstore, is being shifted out of its famed location at the Statesman House (at least, we hope it is, it’d be a damn shame if it shut down). A few months ago, however, Cha Bar served, without a doubt, one of the best Iced Teas in the Capital. Offering a variety of choices (Strawberry, Passion Fruit, Orange, Mint, what-have-you), this freshly brewed glass of absolute joy, topped with a generous helping of ice, was just what any Delhiite would need in the scorching heat of the city’s summer.
What makes it delicious is the perfect balance the brewers (who, as far as we’re concerned, are geniuses who eat sunshine and excrete rainbows) manage to create between the bitterness of a fresh brew of tea (not the packaged powder kinds) and the sweetness required in a cool drink. Not many fresh-brewed iced teas in the city can do that.
Conveniently enough, the Bar is located within the Oxford Bookstore, which only adds to its already astounding amount of charm. Bring a friend, grab a table, order a couple of Iced Teas, perhaps a snack or two (try the quiches) and you’re good for the next couple of hours.
Veracruz Fish at Sanchos
The sad thing about Sanchos is that it is probably the best place to get Mexican food in and around Delhi, or at least in the top five, but due to the ungodly construction in Connaught Place happening right outside its entrance for a good semi-year, the first few crucial months of Sancho’s operation were clouded in empty tables and low-customer rates. From what we’ve heard, though, Sancho’s really stepped up right after the completion of the construction which finally allowed people to enter it without having to rummage their way through several metres of mud and grime. In any case, I wish them all the very best.
Getting to the point, the food. Once you’re done with the complimentary drink they offer to every customer (it changes everyday, we were served a chilled tomato juice with some tabasco, herbs and a very nutty flavour provided by the cucumber and dry fruits put into it), go ahead and order the Veracruz Fish. The whole set-up is only enough for one person (though we’ve been known for pretty much ignoring the gluttony part of the deadly sins, so it may be two), and comprises the fish, grilled to perfection with JUST the right mixture of herbs and spices to make your mouth water just from the brilliant aroma, Mexican rice with refried beans, a variety of sauces and dips and a corn-on-the-cob. The whole platter pretty much adds up to one of the most satisfying meals you’ve ever had. If the dryness of it doesn’t appeal to you, pair it with a Kiwi Martini and the masterpiece is complete.
The whole place is a little much on the budget front but its worth every penny.
Karims-Nayaab Maghz Masala/Shahi Tukra
Karim’s being on the list of things to try out in Delhi is no surprise. Whatever you read, whoever you ask, this will always be one of the top recommendations for Mughlai food. You probably might not like to visit it if you’re vegetarian . Though not the classiest ambiance or the most polite staff, Karims manages to be a huge crowd puller.
You will, of course try the usual Mutton Burra, Raan, Tikkas and the likes, but what you might not have tried is the Nayaab Maghz Masala. In simpler words, brain curry. Agreed, it doesn’t sound very appetizing and we were hesitant enough to try it out ourselves, but it is addictive. It is soft. tender and leaves a delicate, warm flavour that makes you want to not stop eating it. Try it with the butter naan;they go well together. It is an absolute treat for your taste buds, not in the ‘explosion of spices in my mouth’ kind of way, but in the ‘I don’t want to stop eating this heavenly thing’ way. Even if the thought of sheep brain rumbling in your tummy is disturbing, believe us it is worth a try.
The Shahi Tukra is a simple bread pudding which,more often than not, isn’t well prepared. On the day’s that it is, the delicious crispiness of the bread blends with the creamy flavour and the nuts on top. If you manage to savour the bites before gobbling up the whole thing, it has an aromatic milky flavour that teases your mouth; very subtly sweet and very delightfully royal.
Karim’s is always a double thumbs up, although you might want to stick to the better branches: Jama Masjid, Nizamuddin and Noida, we’d say. If you’re an early riser the Nahari and Paaya (trotters),served at the Jama Masjid outlet in the mornings, are to die for. Happy, spicy, mutton binging to you.
Pastries at Wengers
Again, we probably don’t need to tell you about this because if you’ve lived in Delhi, you would have heard of the absolute delight that is this grand old pastry shop in Connaught Place. Try the Shami Kebab, it is legen-wait for it-DAIRY. (Get it? Because they have dairy based products. What? Yes, we know the Kebab has no dairy in it. Alright, never mind.)
Our recommendation is you go for the Beehive Bun. Excessively creamy, cinnamon-y, and a disastrous mess as you eat, it is worth every blob of cream smeared across your face. The soft, sweet flavour and the feathery texture of the dessert will make you smack yourself for not having tried it before. You could indulge yourself in their range of Mousses, ranging from Chocolate to Strawberry to Passion Fruit. Try their Lemon Tarts, they do not disappoint. If you’re not one for experimentation, though, even a simple chocolate eclair pastry seems twice as nice if made at that magical fun-factory of bliss.
What we wouldn’t recommend is trying to finish their big cup-of-chocolate-pudding, not unless you’re in a group of four people or more. It looks tempting, but trust us, that is a LOT of chocolate, even for hogs like us. (To give you a scale of reference, we once almost finished the Waffle challenge at Mrs. Kaur’s in Khan Market, but more on that in another review)
But all deliciousness aside, go to Wenger’s because, after 80 years of existence, the shop manages to retain the aura of the old days. It’s like a wonderful time machine, except the time machine is now filled with sugar and chocolate and delicious food.
We fail to see the downside.
The Chicken Dum Biryani at Max Mueller Bhavan:
The walk down Haley Road, from the Barakhamba Road metro station to K.G. Marg (where Max Mueller Bhavan is located), transports you to a different era. Colonial style houses and old high rise buildings, give out the hauntingly nostalgic feel that surrounds Connaught Place and around. In summers, the brilliant yellow Amaltas trees just add to the ambience. You cannot help but slip into a reverie.
Max Mueller Bhavan is a German cultural institution and that is probably the extent of my knowledge about its workings. What I do know very well is the menu at the tiny little Café Goethe.
It’s a bunch of picnic tables put together and looks like any regular cafeteria, none too fancy, often without a working fan. But the food. Oh the food.
Take our word for it, and before anything else order yourself a tall glass of their ice tea. At 25 bucks a glass, it’s the cheapest, most refreshing drink this summer. Not your regular Nestea, this is brewed to perfection with just the perfect blend of bitter sweet and garnished with mint.
At a place like this, a biryani won’t be your instant choice, but try it out. The spicy mix is not like the other biryani’s you would have eaten. To be honest, it’s nothing like any biryani I’ve ever eaten but it is downright delicious. It has a wholesome, melt in your mouth feel to it and coupled with the ice tea, you have what constitutes a meal that makes your taste buds tingle thinking of it.
Go for the lovely walk, the quiet chatter and the thoughtfulness that surrounds but mostly go for the cheap food. You will fall in love.
Pav Bhaji at Mayur Vihar, Phase-II
Tucked away in an inconspicuous corner on backside of the very popular Phase II market, this may not be the most hygienic of places but the lip smacking food makes up for it. The perfect hurried meal, it is spicy, buttery and the pavs are soft and delectable. The spicy aroma from the huge tava, while the man cooks it, tingles your taste buds. The anticipation makes you salivate. When you finally get to eat the butter laden dish, it does not disappoint. Two rickety tables out in the open make up this joint but evenings in the neighbourhood would be a lot less satiating without it. If you don’t believe us, try going to the shop anytime after 7. A neighbourhood favorite, the brilliance of this place is impossible to access except at odd timings.
At 35 bucks a plate, it makes for a pretty wholesome meal, and a very delicious one at that.
We’ll make it as simple as possible, you haven’t had South Indian food till you’ve had their Sea Food. And in Delhi, you haven’t had South Indian food till you’ve had it Swagath. It’s all over the place, Noida, Malviya Nagar, GK (from what we know, look it up).
We’ll cut to the very delicious chase.
Walk straight in and order the Prawn Gassi with Appam. The gassi, essentially, is a coconut curry spiced to perfection, so the prawn gassi, in essence, is prawn in coconut curry. But then, food isn’t just its ingredients, is it? The brilliant flavor of this dish is anything from ordinary. Its only the best thing to happen to the South Indian food scene in Delhi since we discovered the Paper Dosa (don’t smirk, you’ve been there with your family patting your own backs for stumbling upon that thin, paper-like rice dish of magical awesomeness).
Of course, the best thing you can possibly order with the Gassi is a plate of Appams or Idiyappams. The Appam is a soft, water based rice pancake that seems to disappear into nothingness inside your stomach, so you can have as much of it as you want and never get full. The Idiyappam has a similar effect, except the pancake is in the form of a bunch of water-based rice noodles pressed together. Coupled with the Prawn Gassi, these make for, dare I say it, the perfect meal.
But that’s not all. Top your meal off with a tall, chilled glass oof Sol Kadi, a remarkably delicious Kokam based coconut drink enriched with only the best spices the south has to offer. Mustard seeds, chilli, you-name-it.
Once again, Swagath isn’t all that light on your wallet, but its twice as light on your stomach and fifty-magical-ka-unicorn-zillion times better on your taste-buds than most other things you’ll eat in the city. We’d say go for it. Now. NOW!

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