Crowne Plaza Brunch

brunch

About

Ever wished you could spend Sunday sitting in the sun, sipping champagne and sampling from a selection of world foods, while somebody else takes care of the children. Now, with The Crowne Plaza Guragon’s fixed price brunch (Rs. 2,450), you can do just that.

Rather than produce extravagant new dishes, Head Chef Jai seeks to serve simple, recognisable items of an exceptional standard. Also, unlike many buffets where food is left standing for hours, Jai says the dishes are cooked continuously to ensure ‘absolute freshness’.

The seafood on offer is incredibly fresh, flown in the same morning from South India. “Most important about my brunch is my seafood,” say Jai proudly. This is justified by huge, wonderfully succulent prawns that taste like they’ve been caught only moments ago. The salmon is cured instead of smoked, leaving it refreshingly full of flavour. The nigiri sushi is thankfully not overwhelmed by the wasabi.

Jai stresses that he doesn’t make salads, saying antipasti and tapas offer infinitely more delight. The intense flavour of the Parma ham and butternut squash lightly crisped by the grill, both support this claim. Slender asparagus, cooked so that they still have a nice bite, are also very satisfying.

Indian dishes are expectedly excellent with a subtly spiced biryani and a rich saag dish. The Chinese dim sum has disappointingly chewy rice wrappers, the other Chinese dishes also look uninspiring. The choice of European dishes is more enticing, with French style cornfed chicken and slow roasted pork. The bangers and mash offer hearty comfort food, its sausage stuffed with herbs and oozing rich sauce.

The brunch’s choice of desserts is equally sumptuous, from European cakes, to crepes, to a chocolate fountain. The chocolate and pecan tarte match those found in French patisseries, with dark rich chocolate and a nice crisp crust. The pineapple strudel has a dense filling, but lacksthe light, flaky pastry that can be a delight.

Overall, the quality of the ingredients and preparation here is astounding. And if you have children, they too can enjoy a brunch more tailored to their own tastes (Under fives — free, six to twelve — at half price), together with a magic show, movie screening, and game consoles.

Directions

 Site 2,Sector 29, NH 8, Gurgaon,Haryana, India

Fire Restaurant @ Park Hotel

About

If you’re looking for something to ignite your palate this winter, then Park Hotel’s restaurant Fire is the place. They’ve launched a new menu that seeks to introduce authentic regional dishes. The new menu succeeds in getting bac k to something elemental in eating — the pleasure of a particular texture or the joy of a certain taste.

The appetizers are small parcels packed with flavour. The parda paneer (Rs.525) nicely combines supple cottage cheese with a firmer, flaky saffron bread wrapper. The spongy cottage cheese soaks up the strong saffron juices to give each bite a really intense flavour. The gilawti kababs (Rs.625) are made with meat passed through the mincer nine times to produce a deliciously dense, paste-like texture and a rich taste laden with nuts and spice.

The main course shows similar attention to sensual detail. Tandoori pomfret (Rs.975) has been carefully prepared to preserve some of the fish’s own delicate flavour, the wonderfully soft white flesh just lightly tinged by the tandoor’s smoke and spice. Khichda (Rs.1275) has a really hearty balance of softened lentil sauce and slightly tougher pieces of slow cooked pork. A delightful, zesty freshness is added by the ginger and lemon juice mixed in at the last minute. The Naga chilli garlic pork (Rs.825) showcases the diversity of Indian food. Its unadorned meat is slow simmered until sumptuously soft. As each piece melts in the mouth, it gradually releases the distinctive, lip-tingling spice of the potent raja chilli.

Equally enjoyable is the masala fried quail, which has rust red skin beautifully crisp. It is satisfying to tear through the crisp coating to reach the soft, succulent white flesh beneath. Many menus run out of steam by the time it comes to the dessert, but Fire manages to keep burning. The sangom kheer (Rs.425) uses special Manipuri black rice with an intriguing nutty flavour, drowned in a buttery milk sauce with just a teasing hint of spice. Pan ki rasmalai (Rs.475) contrasts a rich, bready texture with a creamy outer coating. Betel nut at the centre produces the palate cleansing, menthol taste commonly found in paan.

If you have a gourmet within you, then Fire’s new menu will leave you delighted. Even if you don’t care about the spices , or the way your meat has been cooked, Fire’s menu gives the pleasure of eating exceptionally prepared food.

Directions

The Park Hotel

15, Parliament Street, New Delhi 110 001 
T: + 911 2374 3000
F: + 911 2374 4000 

 

Mainland China

A claypot from Mainland China

About

 

When people think of Chinese food, they tend to think of diced meat and vegetables fried in an oily wok over a roaring flame. But Mainland China’s the recent Clay Pot Festival drew on Chef Ram’s knowledge to introduce a very different kind of Chinese cooking. Legend has it that dishes cooked slowly in clay pots were invented to restore the appetite of one of China’s early emperors. The cooking technique is healthier than frying, using much less oil, and allows the different aromas of the dishes to remain intact.

The braised chicken with orange and black bean at the festival which ended this past Sunday, showcased the cooking method’s potential to produce tender meat saturated with flavour. The sauce beautifully balanced the pungent black beans with the sweetness of orange. It was the slight, tingling spice from chillies that carried the sauce beyond the usual ‘sweet and sour’ combinations.

A pot of Hunan chilli prawns (Rs. 495) was a little less exhilarating. The prawns were nice and plump but they didn’t really combine with the sauce all that effectively. Although this sauce had the earthy brown colour characteristic of dishes from China’s Hunan region, it lacked that tantalising spiciness which also makes them so distinctive.

However, this was more than made up for by the drunken chicken, a legendary Chinese dish that’s virtually impossible to find elsewhere in India. It is prepared by soaking small cubes of chicken for over four hours in Chinese wine so that their toughness breaks down and they emerge meltingly tender and full of the wine’s potent fruity flavours. The dish was a good example of how Chinese food can also offer some very subtle flavours, alongside radiant sweet and sour and sizzling chilli.

Besides, the two vegetable pots were also satisfying accompaniments. The exotic vegetables in chilli basil sauce had baby corn cooked al-dente to hold their freshness. The dish was made more interesting than the standard Chinese vegetable dishes by the liberal use of fresh basil which gave its sauce an earthy texture. Similarly, the other dish, Yuling’s hot and numbing vegetables, gained added piquancy from the numbing spice of Sichuan peppercorns.

Overall, the clay pot dishes offered further proof that Mainland China, at Greater Kailash Part II, can produce some of the most interesting Chinese food in India. The restaurant’s décor matched the restrained interpretation of Chinese style shown in the food, with simple paper lanterns and smoked glass screens.
 

Tibetan Food

 

Chili Beef, Tingmo, and Tibetan Tea at Tee Dee's

Chili Beef, Tingmo, and Tibetan Tea at Tee Dee's

 

About 

Settled by Tibetan’s who fled their country after it was occupied by the Chinese, Delhi’s Tibetan Colony is a pocket of Tibetan culture in India. There’s a sense that the people here cling particularly tightly to their culture and traditions in an attempt to preserve their identity despite displacement. One important part of that culture is the food and the colony offers the chance to try some really exiting Tibetan dishes.

Searching around on the web, it seemed like Tee Dee’s restaurant was the place to go. I wandered around the maze of alleys for a while trying to find this place, asking different people who recognised the name but could only give me vague directions. Finally, more by chance than anything, I managed to track it down. Clambering up the stairs, I entered into gloomy interior that had a vaguely spiritual atmospher, the people were murmuring softly in the dim light. A group of monks dressed in rich red robes sat around the table in the corner, slurping at bowls of noodles.

Almost everyone I knew who’d been to the north east of India had raved about the momo (R 50) dumplings you could get, so I was expecially eager to try these here. They didn’t dissapoint. Despite being large dumplings, stuffed full of pork, they didn’t taste heavy at all. The wrapper was perfectly soft, with none of that chewiness some dumpling suffer from. The meat was also really soft, with a butterness to it which made each dumpling melt in the mouth. 

I also had the chili beef (R 60) which I’d read was a typical Tibetan dish. Taking the waiters advice, I chose the dry version, which reminded me a lot of some of the beef dishes in China but had less onion mixed in with the meat and overall tasted heavier. It felt particularly hearty with quite tough, slightly fatty pieces of beef fried with garlic and a nicely fiery scattering of chili. I could sense people up in the mountains eating this to fill them up. It had a slightly crude, yet very wholesome flavour that I enjoyed a lot.

With this, I got the tingmo, which is a dense steamed bread, twisted so that you can tear of different spongy strands. The bread was nicely soft and tasted freshly steamed – it would have been perfect to eat with the gravy version of the chili beef, but with the dry version was a bit redundant and added to the almost overwhelming heaviness of the meal.  

I also had the Tibetan tea, which was very soft and milky, adding to the overall feeling of eating very wholesome filling food. Eating and drinking all of this, I really felt transported to somewhere in the Tibetan plateau where life was rustic and food needed to be substantial and filling, just piqued a little by garlic and chili. 

Directions

The easiest way to get to the Tibetan Colony (Majnu Ka Tilla) is to take the yellow line metro to the final stop Vishwavidiyala. You can then walk to the colony in about 15 minutes, or take a rickshaw. To walk, turn left when you come out of the metro and walk along Mall Road, crossing the perpendicular roads Brig SK Mazumdar, Lucknow road, and Timarpur road. Then take the fourth left onto the slightly dusty Magazine roads, which winds round to the left a little and then to the right. Follow the road to its end and in front you will see the Majnu Ka Tilla Sihk temple which has a big white dome. Cross over to the temple side of the road, and facing the temple turn left. Keep walking along here for about 5 minutes and you will see the Tibetan colony on your right. It has a gate marked ‘Tibetan Colony’.

Because the alleys of the Tibetan colony are such a maze, its hard to give exact directions to the restaurant. The best thing to do is go there, make your way towards the centre of the colony and then ask people in the shops for Tee Dee’s. It’s described as behind the Tibetan School, but that may not be so helpful. Its on one of the larger streets, possibly the one leading off the main square, and is upstairs with a large flight of stairs leading up towards it.

Cost 

Dishes between R 50 and 70

Sitaram Dewen Chand – Chole Bhature

 

Chole Bhature from Sitaram Dewan Chand

Chole Bhature from Sitaram Dewan Chand

About 

Chole Bhature is probably the best of all the street foods I found in Delhi. Rather than something really fancy, this is  hearty food for the ‘common man’ – eaten by people across India. But its subtle taste really can carry it above this staple dish and make it something quite special. The chole is a stew made primarily of chick peas softened until they are just breaking apart and sunk into a thick sauce which is full of spices. Some raw onion is often scattered on top to add a bit of crunch to it all. Although to my knowledge there’s no meat in the dish, the hearty sauce and the chick peas have a really satisfying meatiness about them, tasting very earthy and substantial in flavour.

The stew is eaten using bhature – breads made out of maida flour. These have two layers pressed together, so that when they are fried the air in the middle expands and inflates them into a hollow ball. When you get them you press this flat like deflating a beach ball. The result is a really light, slightly spongy bread. It’s floury, fine layers are perfect for scooping up the chole, the dark sauce of which soaks into the softness.

The best place I found for Chole Bhature was Sitaram Dewan Chand a stall in Paharganj that was recommended to me by the Eating Out in Delhi blog.  Every time I went to this stall, the counter was crowded with people all jostling to get to the front, elbowing each other out of the way, and snaking their arms into any space possible in an attempt to give their money to the guy. As though there was not rush at all, the old guy would just sit their, casually taking money from each person and passing out a little plastic disk. Behind him the other staff were bustling away, ladling chole into little dishes and laying a few onion and a carrot piece on top, heating up the bhature on a bit hot plate, then passing out both to the clamouring crowds.

To me what made the dish so good at this place was the sublety of the spices in the chole. I also had chole at a few other places, and while it was hearty it didn’t really have the strong, dinstinctive flavour that this one had. In each bite you could really taste the balance of the different ingredients giving it an earthy, yet strong flavour. A green spicy sauce was just lightly mixed in, adding an extra layer to the taste. And with the heartiness of the chickpeas and the sauce, there was also this slightly more spicy kick which slowly built in the mouth.  The meaty sauce here goes perfectly with the softness of the bread, which were made really well at this stall so that they felt spongy as you tore each piece off.  The layers of the bread had a few herbs sunk into them, adding an extra dimension to their taste.

Directions

From the Rama Krishna METRO – Exit on the Rama Krishna side and walk along the street past the front of the Rama Krishna Mission. At the end of this road, turn right onto Main Bazaar and walk a little way along, passing the Metropolis Hotel on your left. Just afte the hotel, the road curves round to the left, with the Main Bazaar continuing straight on. Follow the road round to the left, passing the Imperial cinema on your right. Keep walking about 100m, looking out for the stall on the left hand side of the road. It has a plastic covering outside and is normall pretty crowded with people. 

The address is 2246, Chuna Mandi, Paharganj. This road is often called “Rajguru Marg” and runs between the Main Bazaar and the Desh Bandhu Gupta Road. The restaurant is on the ground floor of the building with Hotel Chanakya in, so look out for this sign.


Jalebi Walla


Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside - freshly fried jalebi

Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside - freshly fried jalebi

Jalebi 

Jalebi are a delicious kind of India sweet that you see being made at street stalls all accross Delhi in the evenings. Strands of dough made using maida flour are poured down onto the surface of a wok full of oil in a pretzel. The oil bubbles around the dough, turning its outside beautifully golden and crisp, while leaving the inside much softer. The twisted strands are then soaked in a syrup, so that the spongy dough at the centre can absorb this sweetness. 

Its an amazing treat to buy these freshly made on the street, with the dough still warm and the sticky syrup dripping out of it onto your fingers. Biting in, you break through the crisp shell and into the spongy centre that is overloaded with sweet syruppy sauce. It reminds a little bit of the contrast in textures which chinese fritters have, with the soft fruit inside and the crispy shell.

Jalebi frying in a wok

Jalebi frying in a wok

Jalebi Wallas in Paharganj

Jalebi Wallas in Paharganj

Where

The place I would always return to for these was the street sellers about half way down the Main Bazaar in Paharganj. They sit, hunched beneath the hard light of a single bulb, frying up stacks of Jalebi which they pile up glossily on the trays in front. I never really understood why there were two stalls here, right next to each other, both making exactly the same thing. They seemed to do almost equal business, although I would always go for whichever one looked the freshest when I arrived.

For foreigners, they charge R5 for a Jalebi, but I noticed that locals usually seem to pay a lot less. They also sell Emerti for R5 a slightly more densely twisted sweet that lacks the crispness of the Jalebi but is equally tasty. 

There’s plenty of other places around the city for getting Jalebi too. At the far end of Main Bazaar, near the turning for the metro, another guy had a cart making Jelebi, but these weren’t nearly as good as those from the above stalls. They were very thin, lacking the chewy, spongy-sweet centre.

If you walk along Chadni Chowk on the right hand side, heading towards the Red Fort, then you will pass a famous Jalebi Shop which has been there a long time (I think its on the corner of Chandi Chowk and Dariba Kalan Road but I’m not sure) – It has a big black and silver sign and also does samosas and other snacks.

Dokebi Nara

About

Wonderful Korean restaurant hidden away in a back alley of Paharganj. After a while eating cheaper India food gets a little tiring, especially the limited selection which is available within walking distance of Paharganj. It was searching online for a bit of relief that I stumbled across the address for this place. Tempted by images of clean white rice, fried pork, and fresh vegetables I scrawled down the address. 

It’s quite a mission to find this restaurant. You pass through another, tattered restaurant where a few ragged looking, hippy travelers are always sat around. Last time I went there, this French girl tried to sell me the sheep’s brain she had mistakenly bought from the market. Holding it out in a white plastic bag. I apologised and said I couldn’t really use it for anything. Anyway, passing through here you reach a dingy corridor, the blue paint peeling off the walls like the bark a silver birch, the floor coated with dust, and tools and junk stacked up in piles. Climb up the ragged, half lit staircase, passing the open doors of rooms with beds unmade, their TV’s flickering and Indian’s staring out with weary eyes. Then at the top , through all this drabness, is the bright haven of the restaurant. 

In an article for Lonely Planet’s blog, the Dehliwalla describes this place as ‘a smuggler’s den’ full of the ‘fetid air’ of the street and ‘hostile eyes’. Either he went somewhere different, or the restaurant has seriously changed since then, because I found it a really calming and comfortable place to go to escape from Paharganj’s bustle. It was great to watch of exhuberant sociability of the big groups of Korean’s always gathered there as they drank bottle after bottle of Korean wine, toasting each other loudly and laughing and joking. The boy who always served me was efficient and friendly.

He and two other boys appeared to cook all the food as well. There is a neatness to Korean cooking, an attention to the way something is sliced or prepared, which is very different to Indian food. The Korean’s seem to share with the Japanese an interest in using very simple ingredients almost in their pure form to give subtle flavours. Its often the pairing of different things that is important – the crisp cool cabbage and the chilli sauce of Kimchee for example. Eating the food here, I sense the pride Koreans take in their food, the exacting standards they apply to it even when abroad.

Food

The dishes at Dokebi Nara made a fair attempt at being authentic and were a refreshing change from the pseudo-Chinese or Japanese food a lot of places try to pass off. I’ve had a bit of Korean food in Hong Kong and tend to compare what I eat elsewhere to that experience. The Korean at Dokebi Nara wasn’t quite as good, in terms of ingredients or preparation, but it wasn’t hugely dissapointing either. 

The ‘bibimbap’ – meaning stirred or mixed dish – came in a large bowl with really generous piles of pleasingly fresh tasting vegetables around the sides of rice that had just been made and didn’t taste dried out at all. Rather than just carrot and cucumber, the dish had mushrooms and other more specialised korean vegetables which added to the sense of authenticity. When mixed together with the rice and sauce, the dish here felt nicely balanced.

The sauce was basically just very rich tomato paste, whereas I think other places probably use something more subtle. Swati, friend of Eating Out in Delhi blog, corrected me on this, stating that” the disturbing part about the first review is that they described the sauce for the bibimbap at Dokebi Nara as a tomato based sauce. I really, really hope that this is a mistake by the blogger, because I cannot imagine a Korean committing the blasphemy of serving a tomato based sauce for the bibimbap. The sauce served with bibimbap is based on gochujang, which is a paste made mostly with crushed red peppers rice powder (or wheat or barley) and fermented soyabean paste. For making the sauce, this gochujang is thinned with vinegar, and sugar, sesame seeds and sesame oil are added.”

It should be noted that I wrote this review a considerable time after visiting the restaurant and my memory may not have held too well. However, the sauce I tasted, expecially once mixed into the dishes other ingredient, really had little to distinguish it in my mind from a tomato paste. I couldn’t taste the red peppers, or the bean paste. This is perhaps a mark of the overall quality of the food on offer at Dokebi Nara – and would be picked up by people more attuned to Korean food immediately, or perhaps it is just as sign of the fact that I’m a layman to this type of cuisine. However, I stand by my original comment that the sauce ‘did well enough to make the dish quite satistfying’.  

The boiled down pork dish is also good, with very succulent pieces of pork sunk in a quite gloopy and slighly sweet tasting sauce. It’s hard to say how authentic this sauce is because I haven’t had anything that  similar elsewhere, but the sweetness of the sauce has much more balance than that in many poorly done Chinese sweet and sour dishes. This is a real comfort dish to eat – with the fluffy white rice soaking up the meat juice and the sauce and holding its flavours nicely.

The spicy korean noodles were a bit dissapointing. It had the right clear noodles, which have a really good cool, smooth texture which contrasts with the fieryness of the broth. But the problem here was that while the broth was seriously spicy from the chili oil used, it was also very watery and didn’t have any other flavours to balance this spice. The result was just an overwhelming chili taste that wasn’t that pleasant. A few bits of egg floated around in the broth, but these didn’t contribute much at all. 

As is typical in Korean dishes, these dishes came with a whole array of side dishes spread accross the table. The kim chi was really good, with cool fresh cabbage given a good fiery kick by the red sauce which stained it. All these side dishes, whilst not that remarkable in themselves, added to the overally experience. The restaurant is also one of the few places in Paharganj to serve beer, at R60 for a small can. This definitely goes with the food well and makes it a good place to come to chill for a while. 

I’m yet to try the ‘liquor dishes’ – the meats cooked on a hot plate which are a vital part of Korean cusine. These are relatively quite expensive, presumeably because of the extra work involved setting up the hot plate and things. But watching the other Korean groups have them, and the Korean sushi, I would say that both are likely to be really enjoyable.  

Second Opinion – Hemanshu, author of Eating Out in Delhi, wrote the following about the food at Dokebi Nara

“I must admit upfront that the sum total of my prior experience of Korean food is from one EOiD trip to “Gung” in Green Park and one to Soo Ra Sang in Bangalore. The cost of our meal at Dokebi Nara worked out to less than Rs. 300 per head. That puts it at about half what a meal at Soo Ra Sang would cost and perhaps 1/4th to 1/5th of what you pay at Gung.

However, from this first visit to Dokebi Nara, I would put the taste also at a fraction of what you can enjoy at the other two places. The menu itself is very limited, as are the linguistic abilities of the owner. As a result, while I had every intention of ordering a beef dish, I didn’t even end up finding out if they serve beef, let alone ordering a beef dish. Their ability to serve a full restaurant is also seriously lacking — there was a group of about a dozen foreigners at a table behind us, and thanks to that, we were served a good one hour after we placed the order (no kidding!). We ordered the bibimbap, which was served as a vegetarian dish (not counting the fried egg), some kimchi soup, a pork dish from their “liquor foods” list, an egg-roll, and some “soju”, or Korean wine. None of it left much of an impression, though the pork was not bad. The rest were bland, perhaps to some extent because we asked for them to be “medium spicy”.  The side-dishes, unlimited in true Korean tradition, were few in variety and uninspiring, comprising spiced-up cabbage, potatoes, seaweed and (I think) radish.”

Directions

About halfway down its lenght Paharganj’s Main Bazaar opens out into a triangular space. Walk along Main Bazaar to the end of this open space furthest from the railway station, on one side are men selling pakoras and on the other people frying the twisted jalebi sweet in woks. Turn down the alley that is just to the station side of the jalebi sellers. Walk down narrow alley, when you get to a small square turn hard left, and you should come to the Navrang Guesthouse. Don’t confuse the downstairs restaurant which also sells some (bad) japanese food. Go through reception and up stairs to second floor. There are little painted figures on the walls to guide you.

Address: Navrang Guesthouse, Paharganj. Θ Ramakrishna Mission or New Delhi Railway Station.  Ask for “6 – Chhe – Tooti Gali”.

Cost

The main dishes like bibombop cost around R 150-180. The barbeque ‘liquor dishes’ cost about R 300-400. Beer is R 60 for a small can of Kingfisher.

Notes

For more on Korean food in Delhi click here.

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