Sunday, July 29, 2007

Restaurant Reviews

It has been a while since I had time to blog. However, in the last ten days, I've been out to lunch at 3 restaurants and thought I'd review all three of them in one post.

Kwality is one of Delhi's landmarks. The restaurant has been around sicne the 1950's and serves north indian cuisine, including, I am sure, butter chicken and tandoori chicken and various kinds of paneer. My best friend and I used to regularly have lunch at Kwality when both of us worked in Connaught Place, but since shifting to gurgaon, I hadn't been there in years. I and a colleague were in CP for a meeting a couple of weeks ago around lunchtime so I decided to take my out-of-town colleague there.

The restaurant looked the same as ever, mirrored walls, somewhat over-the-top Punjabi Baroque decor with its serving staff in maroon uniforms. As always, it was somewhat dimly lit inside. I decided to let desire score over discipline and ordered the chole bhature - the restaurant specialty and my colleague's favourite dish - along with a serving of Stuffed potatoes ina tomato gravy - Bharwan Aloo. I asked for 2 plates of Chole bhature, but the waiter convinced me to order one bhatura each and re-order if we wanted. We also wanted Jaljeera to combat the heat and humidity outside.

The order arrived in about 10 minutes, and looked delicious. The bhature were huge - each a perfect circle, about the size of a steel thali, crunchy on top, soft on the bottom. I was thankful the waiter had advised caution. We dug into the chole - pindi style, i.e. without gravy but with a mix of spices including black rock salt etc ( I have a pet recipe that I will blog about some other time) - and the aloo. the chole was amongst the best I've ever had, soft but not mushy and bursting with flavour. The Bharwan aloo was a little hard to cut through, despite being fully cooked, but tasted great - stuffed with spiced paneer and soaked in a light, non-spicy tomato-onion gravy. By the time each of us had finished our bhaturas we were stuffed, much like the aloo! The service was perfect - unobtrusive but highly attentive and tuned into what we wanted rather than what they could sell. All in all a terrific experience, and we rued having to work the rest of the afternoon as we rolled on out of the restaurant. Kwality restaurant, Sansad Marg, CP.

Later, I took my colleague to Wenger's - another Delhi landmark. This bakery has been around since 1926 and is amongst the best bakeries anywhere in the world. They refuse to franchise or have more branches for fear of reducing the quality they are famous for. You get an unbeatable selection of pastries, breads and more here, some varieties which one never sees anywhere else. They still import their flour from Austria, and use potato flour for various tarts and cakes to ensure the recipes followed are authentic. I love their French hearts, Chocolate Japs and mousses. At one time, my husband and I couldn't go to Wenger's and not have their chocolate eclairs, filled with whipped cream instead of custard - delicious. Their Shammi kebab and paneer rolls are excellent too, and amongst the most popular items ordered by regulars. My favourite from their menu is their fresh fruit cakes - mango or strawberry, in season. These are heavenly - absolutely heavenly! Wenger's, Block A, CP Inner Circle.

In Bangalore a week later, my boss took us all out to Sunny's, an italian restaurant walking distance from office. There is a story behind this restaurant - apparently the owner is gay and outed himself many years ago when India was much more conservative. He was working at a restaurant at the time and suffered a huge backlash and couldn't find a job anywhere for a while. he later opened his own restaurant which eventually turned into Sunny's and hires mostly gay men. A good place to hang out and watch some of the most handsome hunks - especially if you don't want any trouble to go with that! We sat outside to enjoy the grey, rain-filled clouds, and were even hit by a drizzle but it added to the charm.

Sunny's used to import many of the ingredients in its search for authenticity, until recently. We ordered the black pepper wild mushroom fettucine with sundried tomatoes and cream, spaghetti with saffroned onions, a lasagna with spinach and a chicken fettucine. They served restaurant-baked bread and sage butter for starters. Their bread was amazing - crusty on top and soft inside, and went really well with the fresh sage butter. The wild mushroom fettucine was one of the best I've ever had, full of the delicate flavour of the mushrooms, punctured by the piquant chunks of sundried tomatoes. The saffroned-onion spaghetti didn't work so well, as the flavours didn't meld together, and the dish tasted mostly of spaghetti itself. The lasagna was excellent though, with its spicy sauce of tomatoes perking up the bland creaminess of cheese and spinach. Their lemonade with mint and ginger was also pronounced excellent.

Service was a bit patchy - the waiter got the drinks mixed up all around and served everybody the wrong thing. It also took a while for them to serve the starters, though the food came pretty quickly. All in all, an experience well-worth repeating, if only to ensure that I have space for their Philadelphia cheesecake next time, which my colleagues assured me was worth breaking all diets for. Sunny's, Vittal Mallya road, Bangalore.

Lastly, as you may know, Delhi has taken to Italian like maa ki daal and Italian restaurants abound. One of the newer entrants to the scene is Baci, in Sundar Nagar market. We had heard a mix of reviews and finally decided to drop in on Saturday after errands in CP. Baci is in the main market of Sundar Nagar, a market dominated by antique stores. The shops carry an amazing array of products ranging from authentic brass urlis to inlaid vases and plates to lifesize brass stags, furniture, art and silver and brass figurines.

Baci has a narrow and non-descript exterior - we would have missed it if we hadn't been looking. There is seating on 2 levels, and the style is modern-minimalistic. The ceiling was chocolate brown, while the tables were dark wood, as was the floor. The walls were white with a collage of colourful kisses on beige fabric, and the lighting was rather dim. We had opted for the ground floor, and later my husband told me the first floor was better lit and brighter. It is the kind of place that makes you very sleepy - as proved by our skippng the art exhibit we had planned to visit post lunch, in favour of a snooze. They have a nice selection of magazines and books, including Jamie Oliver's Italy, and newspapers if you are interested.

We ordered one amaretto, a rocket salad with mango and feta cheese in raspberry vinaigrette, white onion soup, gnocchi in a tomato basil sauce and mushroom fettucine.

The onion soup was ok - a bit bland for my tastes. I have a great recipe for onion soup which I make in winter and will blog about some day - this was no match. The gnocchi was excellent, very light and encased in a lovely sauce. I found the mushroom fettucine a bit dry, especially in comparison to the one at Sunny's but it was tasty. We actually decided to splurge more calories on dessert as well. A and I shared a hazelnut gelato while our son opted for a coffee semifreddo. The Gelato was a bit too sweet for our taste but the Semifreddo was awesome. Tasted like a Tiramisu minus the liquor.

The meal came to about Rs. 2000 which isn't very expensive given that we had a 4 course meal. On the other hand, there are much better restaurants for Italian food in Delhi - including Flavours - which come a lot cheaper. So all in all, worth one visit, not more. Baci, Sundar Nagar Market, New Delhi.

PS. I do have photos which I will upload one of these days!


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