Bukhara has by now become famous as the restaurant where the Clintons ate. They even used to have a Clinton platter, with all the stuff that he had relished, on the menu. Bukhara is of course always on the list of world's best restaurants and Delhi's best restaurants, so much so that one feels it has to be a red-letter day to go have a meal there.
We were there last night at an official dinner hosted by a client for us and his visitors from overseas HO. Honestly speaking the seating at Bukhara sucks. There are sofas with low backs and little room to move, and on the opposite side of the table, modahs - little round stools with no back support. It makes for a tiring evening, since meals at Bukhara tend to be long. The setting is nice otherwise, with stone-clad walls and a stone-type roof, copper glasses for water and so on. I didn't much care for the brown earthernware plates they had, though they might be traditional.
We were exhausted and hungry after a long day at work so made short work of the platters of roasted papds and mint-coriander chutney which kept appearing. Most of the papads, we realised after the edge had been taken off our hunger, were over-roasted, though the chutney was fab - zingy with lime and tongue-tinglingly right. Bukhara has a set menu of vegetarian or non-vegetarian dishes for Rs. 3500 per head + taxes (which run pretty high) or you can order a la carte. We opted for a la carte and ordered several starters. For some reason paneer was pretty prominent on the menu. Given this was meant to be frontier food, I don't know whether that was authentic or a bow to Delhi's Punjabi vegetarian cuisine.
The tandoori aloo ( potatoes) and the green, stuffed capsicum were great, though it was a little difficult to eat the capsicum sans cutlery which is verboten in this restaurant. I didn't have any of the paneer though others found it delicious. The non-vegetarian options were relished - the mutton jang ( thigh), the seekh kebabs...The main course was more of the same - along with the famous Dal Bukhara which has now been packaged by ITC Foods as Kitchens of India. The Dal comes floating with a lump of melting butter on top to testify to its richness, and tasted terrific as always. The tandoori phool ( cauliflower) was terrible - overcooked vegetable and so coated with batter that I couldn't figure out where the batter ended and the cauliflower began! Quite tasteless and disappointing. The main course meat dishes were also apparently delicious though not hugely different in taste to those that had gone before. We had the main course with pudina parathas and naans, which were both lovely - fresh and light.
We wound up with kulfi for dessert, mostly, though some people opted for gulab jamuns and the like. I find the selection of dessert very unexciting, after the supposed exoticity of a Frontier cuisine meal. I wish the restaurant could be more innovative. I'm sure there are tons of shirins and halwas which are authentically Frontier, rather than ras malai (!) and kulfi.
The meal for 17 people cost a whopping Rs. 70,000!!! As my colleague Vandy remarked later, that's a lot to pay for kebabs and dal. We hadn't even had much to drink - most people had stuck to colas or at best one glass of wine or beer. My husband recalled that he had once gone there for dinner with an office group of 11 people and the bill had come to a similar amount because they'd had a couple bottles of wine.
In my honest opinion, Bukhara is worth one visit - when someone else is paying - and then the novelty wears off. Frontier at the Ashok serves similar food including an awesome Dal that is stiff competition, and at a lot less. The Great Kebab Factory, for example is a terrific concept restaurant which is also VFM. I wish I had asked for a copy of the bill to frame and put up!
Sardar Patel Marg,