One of the greatest ironies of our times is that more often than not, mediocrity is celebrated and excellence is condemned. And the gastronomic world is no exception. Through my long epicurean journey, I have come to understand that there is no replacement for putting your own senses to the test. Here I have endeavoured to review some of the best and the worst I have tasted at different eateries.
I have considered the standalone restaurants and delivery outlets only which are not too heavy on the middle classes’ pockets. Therefore, the five-star hotels do not qualify for this review.
1. Pa Pa Ya- Select Citywalk Mall, Saket, New Delhi–
There are very few restaurants in Delhi that serve modern Asian as well as Pa Pa Ya. When it opened its doors under “The Dome” in Select Citywalk Mall, it immediately became the talk of the town. With a huge setup of more than a hundred covers, cheerful modern décor, outstanding service by knowledgeable staff and under the guidance of the extremely gifted Zorawar Kalra, Pa Pa Ya became an immediate success story.
Alas, post-pandemic, it is now only a faint shadow of its former glorious self. Gone are the flamboyance, the cheerfulness of the place and the amazing array of dishes on the menu. However, the quality of the food on the truncated menu and the chef’s talent still remain unmatched. Some items to look out for are:
- Lamb Rendang Curry
- Shitake & Burrata Croquetas
- Curry Leaf Peppered Calamari
- Rock Shrimp Tempura
- Kurabata Pork Spareribs
- Shanghainese Style Pork Belly
- An awesome collection of delicate Dim sums.
2. Smokehouse Deli- multiple outlets in Delhi-
This is a gem serving great European and American food at extremely competitive prices and portion sizes so huge that they can give the Americans a serious run for their money. Smokehouse had been serving consistently good food and I never had a bad meal, not even once.
At the Saket outlet, they have shifted from their old location in DLF Avenue Mall to a new one in the same mall. This is one of the very few restaurants which has renovated, restructured and resurrected itself with a vengeance after the pandemic.
Everything has changed for the better in the new setup. Service has become more attentive and efficient with a new look menu cooked and presented perfectly and with great care. Also came to know that they are sourcing most of the ingredients locally which I always encourage. I have had a flawless Fillet Mignon made with grass-fed buff meat (that I came to know later) grilled to a perfect medium-rare. SHD also has a dedicated healthy food section (whatever that means) in their menu describing them with such jargon as “Keto friendly”. Healthy or unhealthy, some of the items to die for are:
- Truffled Mac & Cheese
- Charcuterie Platter
- Steak n Chips
- Fillet Mignon
- Eggs Benedict
- SHD Boss Club Sandwich
- Classic Spanish Omelette
- Smoked Lamb Shanks
3. Yum Yum Cha- multiple outlets in Delhi-
This pan-Asian bistro serves delightful oriental food. The outlet that I most frequent is the one at Select Citywalk Mall in Saket. This is a small joint of about forty covers, but the sheer volume of its loyalists speaks volumes of its success. Chances are you will need to wait for 15 to 20 minutes to get a table during lunch or dinner even on weekdays but it is worth the wait. It is a bistro concept with artful origami décor. Service is fast and efficient coupled with an innovative menu and excellent food.
Some of their most enticing fares are:
- Modern sushi and sashimi (do not expect authentic Japanese as these are more attuned to Indian taste)24
- Japanese pizza
- Dim sums and dumplings
- Some great starters like Tenderloin Bulgogi
- Sizzling stone bowls.
Do not miss the stone bowls as the server finishes the cooking in style in sizzling stone bowls in front of you with a lot of showmanship. The result is an extremely flavourful dish rich in colour, texture and mouthfeel.
Varun Tuli, the owner of Yum Yum Cha also runs a cloud kitchen named Noshi with more or less the same menu with a few exceptions that are not suitable for delivery. Noshi has set such a high standard of packaging of finished food that others can only aspire for. No other restaurant in Delhi, in my experience has achieved such high standards of delivery as Noshi.
4. Biryani Times- Delivery-
Biryani is one of the most loved dishes across the length and breadth of India. Every region has its own variation and the Biryani Wars show no signs of abating. As we fight for dominance, the biryani eateries, both the awesome and the awful ones are laughing all the way to the bank.
After reading rave reviews about some of them like Biryani by Kilo, Biryani Blues, and Behrouz Biryani, I have tasted each one of them and frankly, I have been completely disillusioned. All of them were horrid! So, when Biryani Times opened, I just ignored it. Out of dire need, I once ordered Kolkata-style biryani from Biryani Times and I was floored.
I have had the Kolkata biryani number of times from a few Bengali restaurants in Delhi; some of them were very good. But, Biryani Times, beyond my expectation has beaten them hands down. Since then, I have tasted all their variations:
- Awadhi Biryani
- Kolkata-style Biryani
- Hyderabadi Biryani
Each of them came with its own distinct character. Perfectly cooked rice and meat cooked in “Dum” style in individual earthen pots served with raita, salan and lachha onions. I hope they maintain the standard that they have created.
5. Chimney Sizzlers- Yashwant Place Food Court, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi-
Yashwant Place in Chanakyapuri is synonymous with Indo-Tibetan food. There are a number of spartan eateries that serve sumptuous momos, thukpa, and Indianised Chinese food which are immensely popular with Delhiites including a large section of Tibetans who have made Delhi their home. Chimney Sizzlers is undoubtedly the best among them. They serve the juiciest and the most flavourful momos accompanied by a fiery chutney. My standard order has been a plateful of steamed pork momos. A heavenly filling covered in paper-thin skin of flour dough, steamed to perfection that oozes out the melted pork fat with every bite. None of the fancy eateries come even close.
1. Wow Momo- multiple outlets in Delhi-
I first tasted momos from Wow Momo during one of my visits to Kolkata. The hype generated by the media about the story of Wow Momo was hard to ignore. I ordered. The momos came in nice packing. But that was all that was. Far from my expectations, they were a complete dud; in fact, I can safely say, I had had the worst momos of my life. Thick chewy shells filled with flavourless dry rock-hard fillings which did not have an iota of moisture.
I gave them the benefit of doubt that day thinking, that probably the chef had a bad fight with his wife. So, I ordered again, this time in Delhi. I had no choice but to conclude that Wow Momo did not have the slightest idea of what they were doing. It was worse than that of Kolkata. It annoys me no end that they have become so fat with cash by dishing out such trash. Wow Momo is a classic example of mediocrity being rewarded.
2. The Tangra Project- DLF Avenue, Saket, New Delhi-
The Tangra Project was one restaurant I was waiting for after reading teaser campaigns in the media and also high recommendations from some very renowned food columnists, a few of them I genuinely respect. It was a venture by one of the fellow Bongs, Chef Vikramjit Roy which intrigued me. Instead of dining in, I intentionally chose to get the food delivered to check how they met the challenges of delivery. To my surprise, they failed on every front.
Mind you, it was not a roadside eatery. It is located inside a posh mall and prices are not cheap where a portion of Phuchka (Pani Puri/Gol Gappa) costs Rs 275/- and a Mutton Kathi Roll Rs 565/- plus GST. Hence, I was definitely not indulging in over-expectation. I ordered Chicken a la Kyiv, Mutton Ishtu and Sourdough Toasties made with Haleem and pickled shallots.
Everything was wrong that could go wrong:
- The packaging was no better than that of a roadside eatery; packed in small plastic containers which I doubt if they were food grade.
- The portion size was shamefully small for such prices.
- Taste and flavour were nothing to write about.
- The Chicken a la Kyiv was made and packed so bad that the thin crumb coating became soaked and soggy from moisture when it reached us.
If they could not maintain the texture, what was the need to include it in the delivery menu? I have vowed never to ever go back to The Tangra Project. The Tangra Project is another instance of how glossy marketing fools us and takes us for a ride.
It is pertinent to mention that food reviews are the personal opinions of reviewers. One man’s meat can be another man’s poison or the other way round. However, reviews in general offer only a guide but are not necessarily an exact science.
I shall come up with more reviews on different eateries in other cities in my coming posts.