After the Rain / Khirkee Street View, Khirkee Extension, New Delhi, 22.08.2012

After the Rain / Khirkee Street View, Khirkee Extension, New Delhi, 22.08.2012

Room with a View, Khrikee Extension, New Delhi, 22.08.2012

Room with a View, Khrikee Extension, New Delhi, 22.08.2012

No.

A couple of days ago, three avid ex-New Yorker foodies, excited by the prospect of a good French restaurant in the vicinity of our homes, decided to go to the much talked about Chez Nini, or rather – Chez NO NO, as it shall be called henceforth.

I’m one of those people who is obnoxiously in love with all things French, so I, personally was extremely hopeful. 

We walked in at around 8:30PM to a restaurant with no reservation and five empty tables. We were denied seating. When I pointed out that there were FIVE EMPTY TABLES, the maître d’ told us that we could wait and maybe around 11PM we might get a table. After a couple of minutes of argument to no avail, I walked out, peeved and feeling self conscious in my salwaar kameez, thinking perhaps we had been victim to one of those “rights of admission reserved” policies. After dilly-dallying outside for five minutes, a waiter came and said, Ma’am, we can give you a table provided you finish your meal by 10/10:30. We walked in grumbling about the time limit and out of sheer indecision; no place that makes you feel inadequate should profit from your pocket. But why not, we thought. Silly us.

We were seated underneath a giant bird’s nest. Menus were brought. We ordered the following dishes with even higher expectations than what word of mouth had built now that such a song and dance had been made about seating us.

Crispy Soft Poached Egg

Zucchini and Gouda Croquette

Country Style Lamb Meatloaf

Spice Rubbed Chicken ‘Coq au Vin’ 

While we waited – and boy, did we wait (what happened to the time limit?), I had a chance to look around and absorb the ambience. At first glance, the place seems nice enough. The fairy lights outside are cute, the tree and the bird’s nest could be called whimsical I guess, the distressed mirrors are kind of cool. Then you look a little closer and you see oriental looking cut out wooden panels covering the air conditioners, a similar panel covering something else in the corner near the loo. There’s a coat hanger or some sort of art piece, which has antler like protrusions on it hanging on one wall. There are a couple of photographs of similar looking contraptions on another. You think about all these things for a second and try to find some kind of cohesiveness, and perhaps it escaped me so feel free to connect the dots and correct me, but I was a little confused. But this was before the food arrived and I realized that the arbitrary décor was the least of all the evils that were to befall us that evening.

The poached egg and croquette came first. The egg was cooked well, some simple salt and pepper in the batter would have been nice. The potato salad was good, a tad too mustardy for my companions, but I didn’t mind it. The fried flowered capers were delicious. Some green and white asparaguses lay on top of the salad. I adore white asparagus, but I’m fairly sure these were the kind that came out of a tall glass bottle with a metal cap, often found in slightly fancy grocery stores. The overly vinegary taste is a give away, and it was unnecessary on an otherwise good plate of food.

The croquette. Salty salty salty. The tamarind sauce and ponzu mayo were nice, but salty with salty makes Jack a boy with high blood pressure and no remaining taste buds. And really, how hard is it to make a good cheese pakora? 

But again, I am being nit picky.

The Coq au Vin was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish (not that we reached the end, it was inedible). The presentation was sloppy, the salad had wilted due to its placement on top of hot food. India accounts for approximately 10% of total arms sales in the world, and is apparently spending some 6000 crores on South Korean warships. The spiced croutons are a cheaper alternative. I think chicken cooked with skin works only if the skin has become beautifully crispy. This poor chicken was covered with some slimy skin and once you dug deep enough you could find some signs of former life in the bloody veins near the bone. How you can make simple braised potatoes, onions and mushrooms taste sour and slightly rotten must have taken some significant effort. The sauce, the sauce. The sauce was a strange combination of sour and bitter and bland and unpleasant – I can come up with an arsenal of similar vague adjectives to fully articulate how terrible this sauce was, but you get the idea.

The meatloaf, a step up from the Coq au Vin, inspired a great joke from one of my companions. Meat ka jawaab patthar se! she exclaimed after her first bite. It’s our fault to be honest. We should have guessed that the meatloaf would have the consistency of a brick when they served it with their sharpest steak knife.

After much deliberation, we decided to order dessert and some coffee. I will give credit where it’s due, and the Chocolate Caramel Tart was quite delicious. I love sweet and salty, and the sea salt provided some relief from the decadent chocolate ganache and caramel (although it tasted more like toffee, much to my delight).

This would have been a nice point to end the evening, politely pay the bill and walk out, but the waiter came and asked us how the food was. I couldn’t stop myself. I really believe that honest feedback on a meal will make the next one better, and from what I hear, chefs value it. When I told him about the sauce, he interrupted me to inform me that wine had been used in the Coq au Vin and I had to refrain from applauding him for such a stellar comment. I know I’m being a snob, but waiters should be educated on what they are serving, it makes a difference.

The whole experience was unpleasant. I moved from New York to Bombay and then to Delhi and the food and fine dining scene here is emerging at best. It is the unanimous complaint about this city. So when new restaurants open up, especially if they serve European cuisine, I am always excited and hopeful.

Dining, I believe, comes under the hospitality industry and there was nothing hospitable about this restaurant.  Had the staff been even remotely gracious through the evening, informed the chef that we’d complained, perhaps if she’d taken the time out to come and talk to us and apologize like she did with the expats seated next to us, we would have been kinder in the comment book they gave us with the bill and might have considered coming back. Try less, do more is what my companion wrote in the little leather book. The chef should take note. 

I’ve been ranting about this meal for the last couple of days and a lot of people are surprised by my story. Try the Duck Confit! Try the cheesecake! (Don’t try the French Onion Soup – much to my amusement)! Sorry folks. In the words of the lovely David Foster Wallace, No, not ever again.

cameralens:

Kevin Frayer/AP Photo
Indian schoolgirls ride on a bicycle rickshaw during a break in the monsoon rains near the Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi, India, Friday, Aug. 5, 2011.

cameralens:

Kevin Frayer/AP Photo

Indian schoolgirls ride on a bicycle rickshaw during a break in the monsoon rains near the Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi, India, Friday, Aug. 5, 2011.

Hauz Khas village was one of the first places I discovered when I came back to Delhi last year, and I very quickly decided that I was going to spend all my free time walking through its alleys, eating in its restaurants and hanging out in its art galleries, all while looking and feeling really smug, awesome and “with it”. By the fourth or fifth time I visited, however, I decided that I had overdosed on the pretentious, arty cool that had so intoxicated me originally. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great little oasis in largely art-space starved Delhi, and I always have a lot of fun when I go there (which is now basically once a month), but (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) there have been more than a few times when I just can’t help feel as if the whole place is some sort of weird, Indian, New Delhi version of gentrified Brooklyn. All of it follows that familar pattern of “creative entrepreneur moves in because the rent is cheap and the place has-a “village”y raw atmosphere. Soon, similar minded artists and artistically inclined people move in, and before you know it, the people who once lived there are totally displaced, every vestige of their presence (except the actual buildings they lived in) is scrubbed away, giving the whole place a shabby chic air.”

I guess there is nothing essentially wrong with this whole process (economics, life blah blah blah), but it definitely makes me feel nicely uncomfortable, given that I spent more than a year and a half in college learning about gentrification.

All that said, this article nicely outlines all the awesome stuff to do at Hauz Khas village. I am especially glad the article shouted out The People’s Project and the Greenhouse, two art and new media organizations that I think actually do new, art education oriented, interesting stuff in New Delhi. 

So to end this weirdly contradictory little rant/praise for Hauz Khas village/the article in question: Hauz Khas village is fun, forward thinking and pretty revolutionary for New Delhi. You do meet incredibly interesting people there and the place really is a hub for creative and art entrepreneurs. But when you do visit, don’t take it to seriously. I feel like there are too many people who already do.

I’m a bit sad that I’m missing this since I will not be in town. Looks like it’s going to be fun!

I’m a bit sad that I’m missing this since I will not be in town. Looks like it’s going to be fun!

Dualist Inquiry - Gravitat

Yesterday, some friends and I went to Olive for Delhi electronica artist, Dualist Inquiry's EP launch party. I've been meaning to go to one of his gigs for a while and I have to say that I really enjoyed myself. He played an excellent set and the crowd was refreshingly different from the usual Delhi bunch that I unwittingly find myself amongst, and all of it (coupled with some Old Monk rum) made for an exceptionally good night. He released this video, his first, at the party yesterday and I thought it was really fun, so I decided to share. (As a side note, I know Tara was there when the video was shot and even though I couldn't see her in the video, she's in the crowd somewhere.)

If you like chill electronica, with minimal vocal, Dualist Inquiry might just be your cup of tea! Here are links to his facebook, myspace and to the EP on beatport, in case you feel like supporting him and buying his music. 

butiliketurtles:

Balloons by Johannes Jansson on Flickr.

Interesting new website I stumbled across. I guess the project’s still kind of new (so far there’s only 3 stories on there), so I’m not sure how the whole thing is going to unfold but I definitely like what they’re saying they’re trying to do and so far all of it looks promising:

"The aim is to showcase progressive Indian culture and professionals experimenting across mediums and put them all on a common platform."

It’s piqued my interest. I will stay tuned for more.

Lodi Gardens, New Delhi, 14.3.11

Lodi Gardens, New Delhi, 14.3.11

Lodi Gardens, New Delhi, 14.3.11

The view from my grandparents’ house in New Delhi, 18.4.11

The view from my grandparents’ house in New Delhi, 18.4.11

Just had my first breakdown in an autorickshaw

I really hate crying. But I really hate crying in public more. I think the driver was really worried. Eff.

salon der alchemisten / delhi edition [India 2011]
I stumbled across this on facebook by accident and I am so going. Music + art + food? How can I not!

salon der alchemisten / delhi edition [India 2011]

I stumbled across this on facebook by accident and I am so going. Music + art + food? How can I not!

Yesterday, I made a trip back to Gunpowder, one of my favourite restaurants in Delhi. The food is great, the view is amazing, the service is decent and the best part is that it’s no-fuss, which can be a huge rarity in Delhi, the city of pomp, shine and excess. 
I think my favourite part about Gunpowder is that it’s hidden. It’s mostly unmarked and finding it requires extensive navigating through Hauz Khas village. It’s like a glorious treasure hunt. And at the end of the treasure hunt (and four or five flights of stairs) is some of the most delicious South Indian food I have ever eaten. Especially their pumpkin. Eaten with their hopper. Oh man! Their pumpkin is friggin delicious. There’s nothing better than sitting back in their wicker chairs, eating their pumpkin, drinking some chilled Kingfisher and looking out into Deer Park and the Hauz Khas tank.
If there was ever a place I’d take someone visiting my city, this would be it.

Yesterday, I made a trip back to Gunpowder, one of my favourite restaurants in Delhi. The food is great, the view is amazing, the service is decent and the best part is that it’s no-fuss, which can be a huge rarity in Delhi, the city of pomp, shine and excess. 

I think my favourite part about Gunpowder is that it’s hidden. It’s mostly unmarked and finding it requires extensive navigating through Hauz Khas village. It’s like a glorious treasure hunt. And at the end of the treasure hunt (and four or five flights of stairs) is some of the most delicious South Indian food I have ever eaten. Especially their pumpkin. Eaten with their hopper. Oh man! Their pumpkin is friggin delicious. There’s nothing better than sitting back in their wicker chairs, eating their pumpkin, drinking some chilled Kingfisher and looking out into Deer Park and the Hauz Khas tank.

If there was ever a place I’d take someone visiting my city, this would be it.