Our capital city was also a centuries old Mughal capital, which is why North Indian preparations bear a strong semblance to Mughal Cuisine. While the fast living habits of New Delhi’s people led to the growth of street food culture (which is why the paranthewali gallis and lassi/chhaas outlets came about) but the Mughlai roots, to this day, still hold good in the older part of the city – Puraani Dilli. The streets of Chandani Chowk are abuzz with stalls dishing out stuff ranging from lip-smacking chaats, to delectable parathas to rich kormas to mouth watering tandoori preparations to brain-freezing rabdi faloodas.
Chef Akhilesh Pathak had exactly this in mind when he decided to tap into his Awadhi forte to come up with exclusive menu for the Chandni Chowk festival (12th to 20th March, 2016) at Evviva Sky Lounge.
The sky lounge, per se, is a great setting for hosting pretty much anything – let alone just a speciality food festival. The place is airy, inexplicably cosy (in a good way), plush, and enjoys a madd view of the vicinity.
The DJ knows his deep house/progressive house, the bartender knows his drinks and the captain knows his kitchen. Now while a lot of effort has gone into designing the menu and preparing the dishes, an abysmally low amount of effort was spent in decking the place up per the theme. Food for thought? Anywho, so I’ll cut to the chase, then.
Our evening started with –
Aam ka Jaam – an amazingly refreshing drink with the evident sharpness of raw mango, and the ground black pepper gave it that extra punch.
Mango Lassi – a novel twist to a classic favorite. This was almost halfway between a classic Mango Lassi and raw mango pulp. Sweetened with honey, as against sugar, it was healthy, even. The earthen cup was a nice touch, too.
Masala Chaas – a classic desi cooler, this – best for beating the summer heat. Not too watery, and the cumin helps digestion, too. Given how rich and heavy the rest of the meal was, for us – this really helped !
Angoor aur Pudhiney ka Sharbat – Another well balanced minty, fruity and light cooler that went down easy.
With the pleasantries out of the way, we moved on to the appetizers –
Lal Mirch ka Paneer Tikka – well grilled, succulent cottage cheese cubes marinated in a laal-mirch based almost-achaari masala. Worth calling repeats on.
Tandoori Jhinga – tiger prawns marinated in rich tandoori spices and char-grilled and served on a mini-grill. Tiger prawns aren’t like your usual bite-sized prawns where the prawns are soft and the marinade seeps well into the meat; this variety is more crunchy in texture and the marinade is more superficial. The best part was how well they had cleaned the prawns because there was no residual smell that sea prawns usually have. Absolutely loved this !
Tandoori Pomfret – Another winner, this – the distinct marinade of ajwain-garlic had found its way to the bone and the pomfret was amazingly well done. A seafood lovers’ delight – highly recommended !
Musallam Tangri Kebab – Juicy chicken drumsticks STUFFED with delicate spices and mincemeat. Meat Excess warning ! *wipes drool*
Chicken Chargha – This came closest to the traditional Tandoori Chicken, only it was very carefully grilled (no charring of meat anywhere like you typically get) and despite the meatiness of the leg piece, didn’t feel that heavy.
Mutton Nalli Nihari – If I were to describe it in one word, it would be ‘Ambrosial’. A food worthy of the Gods (if Gods are into mutton..I wouldn’t know), the meat was so tender it was falling right off the bone. I kid you not, you can eat this stuff with a knife and fork…but you wouldn’t, right? The gravy was lovely too – creamy and rich but not too thick.
Nargisi Kofta – Boiled eggs stuffed inside a shell of ground lamb meat, generously seasoned, and topped with a thick gravy. If you’re into the more traditional preparations, you’ll definitely appreciate this.
Haleem – The star of the show – wheat, barley, lentils and mutton slow cooked to a lovely blend….grainy, earthy, and well balanced…a little too balanced, I’ll say. Awadhi cuisine is characterized by the aromas and flavors of ‘khada masala’, which is something that this preparation could use just a wee bit more of. Not to say I’ve had better Haleem elsewhere, but there’s scope to make awesome even better, right?
Dhaba Daal – black and gram lentils, ghee – just like home. If you’re away from home and missing daal, this is the answer.
Aloo Paratha – Maybe it was the standards that the rest of the food had set for me, but somehow, the Paratha wasn’t as awesome as the rest of the preparations on the table. The stuffing was spot-on, but the paratha, per se was a wee bit too dough-ey for my palate.
Mix veg pulao – The khada masalas and rose flavoring were discernible in this scrumptious pulao. I was told that the good folks in the kitchen used actual rose petals et all to make this. Exquisite !
As if this much weren’t enough, we had desserts too –
Paan ice cream – honestly, I’ve never had ice cream this awesome in a long, long, long time. Perfectly creamy with every single flavor of the paan – saunf, gulkand, etc. coming out individually. Highly recommended.
Kulfi Falooda – The vermicelli was spot-on, the rabdi, even better. But the kulfi gave me a locked jaw and brainfreeze. I couldn’t get my head around an icy kulfi. Anyways, feedback was passed on, acknowledged and accepted and hopefully, the good folks in the kitchen would sort this over the week.
All in all –
Food – 4.5/5
Service – 4.5/5
Ambience – 4.5/5
Value for money – N/A (invited)
In summary, a great place to chill with your peeps and catch a well thought-through ‘Puraani Dilli da Menu’, with wind in your hair and a Puneri Panorama in the backdrop. Cheers !