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#WhatsCooking: Delhi Eateries Give Indian Food a Slick Makeover

16 May , 2016  

When street food goes hipster (read, vada pav served tapas style) and Bihari food goes American (read, Bihari nuggets), you know there is an important culinary shift happening in Delhi’s food scene.

Foreign restaurant chains like Burger King, Nando’s and Carl Jr may have successfully entered the Indian market, but Indian cuisine(s) in exciting new formats still seems to be the proverbial hot bun in the capital. The mantra seems to be simple — developing new-age inventive desi chic menus that go miles beyond experimental, while making sure they taste good — offering the millennial generation some familiarity in terms of flavours, with a cool twist.

Indian Accent at The Manor was probably the first restaurant in the city to recognize the appeal of a well-crafted Indian fusion menu. The success of restaurants such as SodaBottleOpenerwalla, Monkey Bar, Farzi Café and The Potbelly Rooftop Café has only validated our belief in the idea of slickly repackaging wholesome Indian food with western influences and serving it up with a side of nostalgia.

Making Indian food cool - Indian Accent's Roast Scallops Balchao with Saboodana papad, Kokum powder

Making Indian food cool – Indian Accent’s Roast Scallops Balchao with Saboodana papad, Kokum powder

 

According to Pooja Sahu, owner of The Potbelly Rooftop Café, a restaurant that serves authentic Bihari cuisine, Delhi’s palate seems to have evolved over the course of the last two years. “I remember a time when people would come to the restaurant and ask if we had chilli chicken or paneer.  It used to be quite annoying sometimes. There is now a definitely a clamour for different tastes and cuisines and I find more people are willing to try and appreciate what we serve,” Sahu adds.

Pot Belly's menu serves up Bihari classics in a city that was erstwhile obsessed with all things tandoori

Potbelly Café’s menu serves up Bihari classics in a city that was erstwhile obsessed with all things tandoori

 

Regional cuisine and street food, therefore, are getting their day in the sun, a far cry from times when the ‘cool kids’ would scrunch their noses at the same. So, we have a Palak Patta Chaat from the ghaats of Benaras that sits prettily in Cafe Lota’s menu or the ubiquitous Mumbai vada pav in fanciful adaptations and versions adorning the menus of many a restaurant in the capital. Spaces like Farzi Café, serve vada pav tapas style with the pav filled inside the vada and garnished with garlic chutney, Social in Defence Colony gives Mumbai’s favourite street delicacy a Pan-Asian twist and serves it up in a fluffy Bao.

Farzi Café turns the Mumbai street food staple on its head by stuffing the pav inside the vada

Farzi Café turns the Mumbai street food staple on its head by stuffing the pav inside the vada (Image credits: Indian Food Freak)

 

Monkey Bar too, is gravitating to our rich culinary roots and reinventing some classic Indian dishes with a modern flair. “Regional food is the main focus at Monkey Bar and traditional desi dishes have been adapted, tweaked, made hugely playful and placed comfortably in a setting at the gastro-pub that immediately puts customers at ease. The idea is to create an interest in the wide variety of regional cuisine and make it more popular with the young generation,” says Chef Manu Chandra, Executive Chef at The Monkey Bar. The Laal Maas Phulka Tacos here brilliantly marry Rajasthani sensibilities with a Mexican flair while the Sindhi Dal Pakwan gets a bite-sized makeover on the eclectic menu. In fact, lesser explored regional cuisine seems to be the new flavour of the town with places like The Potbelly Rooftop Café (Bihari nuggets), SodaBottleOpenerWala (Irani culture), Rustom’s (Parsi cuisine – check it here) and Yeti (the Himalayan Kitchen that serves up food from Nepali, Tibetan, Bhutanese and the North Eastern frontier) dishing up quirky flavours in creative and exciting ways.

Laal Maas Phulka Tacos Monkey Bar (Image Courtesy Sanjay Ramachandran)

Laal Maas Phulka Tacos Monkey Bar (Image Courtesy Sanjay Ramachandran)

 

The innovation though doesn’t seem to be only limited to food. Flavours of childhood compete for attention in the cocktail bars of most restaurants, with mixers experimenting with classic delights like Aam Panna and Banta. So while Monkey Bar’s Maanga (Aam Panna+Vodka) is a wonderful version of Aam Panna cocktail, Farzi Cafe has a section entirely dedicated to Banta cocktails and gleeful chuskis.

Banta cocktail at Farzi Café (Image credit: Indian Food Freak)

Banta cocktail at Farzi Café (Image credit: Indian Food Freak)

 

It is not easy to determine just how long a trend lasts, but with more and more restaurants stepping on the bandwagon, it seems that Delhi is only just getting started on the journey.


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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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