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Melting Pot: How Delhi is Home to Different Cuisines

24 Jun , 2016  

Five years ago, when Puja Sahu decided to open a restaurant in Delhi offering authentic Bihari food, the signs weren’t too encouraging. “What I was offering was a true, authentic Bihari meal experience, and what most Delhiites wanted was butter chicken and Chinjabi food. It was quite frustrating and disappointing,” recalls Sahu.

Fast forward five years, and Sahu is one happy owner. Not only does The Potbelly Rooftop Café run to full capacity most days, Sahu has also started a branch in the city’s Bihar Bhawan. “It has been slow and steady, but the last five years has definitely seen a change in Delhi’s palate. The change has been slow, but it has happened,” Sahu admits.

Slow or not, one thing is certain – there has never been a better time to be a food lover in the capital. And whether it is regional cuisine like Bihari, North Eastern, Kashmiri or Tibetan, or lesser-known exotic cuisines like Armenian or Ethiopian, Delhi now seems to have it all.

“Delhi is undoubtedly the food capital of the country in my eyes. The city has always had a history of food, but in the last few years, it has gone really experimental, both in terms of regional cuisine as well as stuff around the world. People are now looking for both novelty and  good taste in food, and anyone who can satisfy people’s palettes on both these counts has a winner on their hands,” says Chef Sabyasachi Gorai,  owner of Lavaash by Saby, the first Armenian restaurant in the country.

Devilled Eggs at Lavaash by Saby

Devilled Eggs at Lavaash by Saby


 

The Chef, who started his journey with Olive and helped devise the menu for Soda Bottle opener Wala and Guppai by Aai (a contemporary  Japanese restaurant with French influence that has more than just sushi on the menu!) says he was fairly warned by well-wishers before starting the restaurant. “My well-wishers told me it won’t work. But we have always been ahead in terms of experimentation whether it was with Olive or Guppy by Aai where we showed vegetarian Japanese food can also sell. The idea was not to be different, but to be right. We did our homework, and even though what we serve has little spice, no cheese, no cream, the restaurant is usually packed. It only reinforces my belief that Delhi is ready to try new things,” he says.

So whether it is the Prawn Tolma – a baked prawn tucked into the heart of a slow-braised blossoming onion or The Pumpkin Manti  –  a dumpling stuffed with a mildly sweet pumpkin-cinnamon filling and baked with yogurt and ripe Kalimpong cheese, everything about the food is about taste,  novelty, sophistication and balance.

Rice Tolma-LavaashbySaby

Rice Tolma-Lavaash by Saby (Image credit: Delhi Foodies’ Zone)


 

According to Mohit Sharma, the owner of Boheme, a contemporary Italian eatery focussed on providing balanced plates with great taste, the neighbouring Gurgaon also effectively compliments Delhi’s foodie scene. “The Cyber Hub is the veritable world cuisine mall in Gurgaon. From American to Japanese, African to  South American, it is like the mall of international cuisine in the city”.

The young with their improved spending capacities are also playing a major role Delhi’s burgeoning foodie scene. Says Sumit Tandon, owner of Cafeteria and Co, an eatery that prides itself in doing interesting fusion food at affordable rates, “The young no longer want Punjabi and Chinese. They want new cuisine, new tastes, things they haven’t tried before, and that is also forcing chefs to literally come up with new things”. The place, especially has some unique dishes up its sleeve. We absolutely love their Paneer Tikka Spring Rolls and Maggie Magic Masala Popcorn (Popcorn loaded with butter and sprinkled with maggie masala!).

For the uninitiated though, here is our list of the best places to grab the best of international cuisine in the capital:

  • Korean Food at Restaurant de Seoul, Ansal PlazaFine Dine Love
    Go here for some go for some exceptional Bul Gogi, Kimchi salads, Korean-style Shabu-Shabu and sushi. We love the food as well as the ambience!
  • French Cuisine at Rara Avis
    Image source: Little Black Book, Delhi

    Image source: Little Black Book, Delhi

    Sit atop the pretty rooftop and enjoy the Escalope de Poulet aux Morilles (Chicken in Morel Sauce) with some aged French wine. For the more experimental eaters, La Douzaine d’escargots (Snails in Garlic Butter) should do the trick.

  • Afghan Cuisine at Afghan Durbar, Lajpat NagarFine Dine Love
    Must visit for the hardcore meat eater. Dhaba-style Afghani fare with little spice and lots of novelty, the place does some amazing Uzbeki Pulao, Qubuli Uzbeki (pieces of lamb under a mound of seasoned Basmati rice with carrots and raisins) and Afghani rotis.
  • German cuisine at Zu TischFine Dine Love
    Schnitzel and Wurst lovers, look no further. Beer Battered Onion Rings, Chicken Keftas, German Style Hot Wings and of course great German beer, what more can one ask for?
  • British cuisine at Elma’s (reserve now)Fine Dine Love
    Not only does Elma’s do a kickass Full English Breakfast –  Two eggs, bacon, baked beans, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, the place also does a great traditional British Weekend Roast,  has an extensive tea selection and  does some delicious scones.
  • Ethiopian cuisine at Ethiopian Cultural Centre
    Injera

    Injera

    The place to go if your’re looking for an authentic Ethiopian experience. Do not miss Injera – the Ethiopian staple bread and Doro Wat, often referred to as the country’s national dish – a chicken dish full of deep, rich flavours.

So what are you waiting for? Ditch the regular fare, and go try a different international cuisine every weekend!


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Shikha Sharma

A former restaurant manager turned multimedia storyteller, Shikha is always on the lookout for a good meal and a great story. When she is not busy figuring out a story, she can be found giving unsolicited restaurant recommendations, engaged in molecular gastronomy experiments or roaming the city looking for good food.

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