7 October 2010

Haldiram's

What began as a humble sweet shop on the streets of Old Delhi has today metamorphosed into a veritable food giant. Haldiram’s has come a long way from being a halwai, to having outlets that offer a wide range of food items and drinks. Their flagship store in Chandni Chowk has undergone massive renovation since their installation and is quite swish by that area’s standards. They also have more ambitious food joints at Gurgaon on the Delhi-Jaipur highway, and one right in the heart of the capital, Connaught Place.

The one en route to Jaipur has a really huge dining area. Outlets serving a variety of food are arranged in an approachable row pattern. On the outside of this eating area is a small stall of pan and other variety of digestives. There is ALSO is separate room dedicated solely to fresh sweets and namkeen. This is a supremely impressive outlet, not only in terms of space, but also for the variety of foods it offers. This was also the first outlet of theirs that I had gone to.

More recently [around 8 months ago], they opened another similar outlet at New Delhi’s nerve centre. This outlet, though smaller in area, is relatively quite huge compared to other food joints in CP. It is a two-storey structure, with the upper one dedicated only to seating customers. The ground floor has managed to retain the essence of the Gurgaon outlet, but has been shrunk in size due to space constraints. Apart from one counter for billing, there is an entire row dedicated to offering food items. From left to right, they have fresh savouries, sweets, cakes and pastries, and main course food items. Sadly no pan on offer, though.
Matar Kulcha


There is also a live Pasta station and a drinks and dessert corner, offering an interesting range of mocktails and ice-cream shakes. Their menu includes the standard suspects with nothing novel, as such. There are Chaats, Sandwiches, Chhole-Bhature, Matar-Kulcha, Pav Bhaji, Biryani, South Indian Platter, and our standard North Indian Thali [fixed]. The Chaats and Sandwiches are priced between `50- ` 60. The main course food items range between around ` 100- ` 120/- each. Mocktails are all priced at `72/-. 

Two interesting items on their menu are the “One-Go-Salad” which is steamed sprouts, corn, fruits, etc. served in a platter and Pasta which is whipped up right in front of you, as per your specifications. Both of these are priced at ` 120 each. They look delicious and taste equally well.


Their normal Kachori is my favourite item on the menu. It is crisp, not oily, and the filling inside is not spicy or bland, it’s just perfect! The Dal Makhani is finger-licking good , without ANY hint of oil or unnecessary condiments  but their Biryani [`120/-] is strictly okay. They do use good quality extra-long Basmati rice, but the flavours are average with oil being slightly visible. Delhi’s favourite ‘filling’ street-food –Matar Kulcha- is offered without the unhygienic accompaniments! The Matar is comparable to “Ragda” of the Bombay streets, and has an interesting tinge of lemon to it. The flavours in the Dal Chila do not leave a taste on the tongue, as there is nothing striking about it.


 The Pav Bhaji is utterly boring for those who know how it is REALLY supposed to taste. The Bhaji here is a lousy mash of tomato and potato [with a li’l bit of carrots and peas], oil visible floating up on the sides, overpowering the [already unexciting] flavour of the veggies. To add salt to wound, the ‘pav’ has a hint of sweetness to it. The Kulfi-Falooda also tastes quite nice, priced at `70/-. Chocolate pastry was quite decent, considering bakery items are not their speciality. The pastry part of it could have been a little fluffier, though. 
Biryani [served with Dal Makhani, Raita,etc.]


 








The overall taste of their food is  quite good. Both the outlets have a self-service format. They provide an excellent option for a wholesome meal, or just some munching at reasonable rates [considering their brand value and quality]. The Chandni Chowk outlet is much smaller and perpetually crowded. It offers only all their variety of sweets, namkeen, chaats and kulfi. They have a seating area on top which is a luxury in that locality.

To conclude, apart from all of the above, their main revenue [probably] comes from sweets. Their forte includes a wide range of long-lasting as well as quick-eat traditional sweetmeats of north India and Bengal. The blogger has also been to the Haldiram’s Food Court in Nagpur and it was an excellent outlet. In Calcutta, it is spread over three-storeys, one each dedicated to sweets, chaats and a high-end supermarket on the top!

5 October 2010

HSB

Hotel Sarvana Bhavan is a “South Indian High Quality Vegetarian Restaurantchain, with outlets across South India, UK, Canada and Dubai.
In New Delhi they have two outlets, both in the upmarket Connaught Place area. Their menu has a wide range of options including the usual favourites of Idiyappams, Dosas [priced between `65- `105] Uttapams, Adai-Avial and a Rice corner [`65/-]. Paneer dosai, Vegetable Dosai, Karai dosai and Panchavarna Uttamapam have been listed as their specialty dishes. They also have a variety of “Sarvana Dairy Rich Ice Cream” [10 flavours], sweets [Adhirasam, Coconut, Ellundarai], halwa and savouries.
Sambhar-Rice
The blogger lunched their along with a dear friend, who was also a GREAT help in identifying some of the dishes, as well as dissecting them. We ordered a Fixed Thali [`130] and Sambhar-Rice. The Thali comprised of Sambhar, Rasam, Avial, Dal, Aloo ki subzi, curd and another subzi. For sweet there was Imartee and pieces of apple dipped in tamarind juice, which the waiter insisted was ‘raita’. This was served along with pooris, a big bowl of rice and papad. The friend had to settles for watermelon juice [ `70], since her original choice of lemon juice [`35] was not available.
Fixed Thali
The dishes in the Thali had a soft flavour to it and nothing was over-spiced. The dal was staid with an identifiable hint of asafetida. Honestly, there was nothing outstanding about any of components of the Thali. Presumably then, they were NOT meant to be standing out, but just providing a wholesome meal to someone who wants a taste of the most common S.Indian preparations, at one go. My companion also ordered small idlis soaked in sambhar. These were actually a delight to have, since the piping hot sambhar had seeped through the smaller spaces in the idli, making it almost melt in the mouth!
Small Idlis [14] dipped in Sambhar
Most interesting part of the entire meal was the side-serving of chilies. These were not just any chilly, ready to fire up the tongue. They were small green chilies, deep fried and salted...perugu mirapakayi. They look like they’ve been burnt, but the deep frying actually serves the purpose of taking away the fieriness of the usual chilly. So this one can be easily bitten into, without having steam blowing out of the ears!
Watermelon Juice
To wrap up, HSB offers a good range of authentic South Indian food. The ambience of these CP restaurants is quite relaxed. The waiters are attentive yet non-intrusive. Their pricing is appropriate with the service and location. Certainly worth a visit if one is in their vicinity and hunger CALLS! I am extremely grateful to my lovely friend Ashrita for accompanying me to HSB and for her indispensable inputs on South Indian food. It was for the first time that I dined at a S. Indian joint with a S. Indian friend, so the commentary was quite insightful!

21 July 2010

Karnataka Sangh

The Karnataka Sangha Canteen is located in New Delhi, right beneath the Motibagh flyover, a little beyond the junction. It offers authentic south Indian food, with minor adaptations to suit the north Indian taste-buds! They have a fairly extensive menu with the usual Idli, Upma and a range of Dosas, Uttapams and Rice. Their THALI is also quite famous, as it offers a filling meal.

The surprise package of the entire lot is their PANEER DOSA which is to-die-for! Apart from the main servings tasting good, their chutneys, sambhar and rasam are well-prepared too. There is a negligible hint of oil and the ingredients are well integrated to ring a bell on the tongue! They also have an interesting range of desserts including a variety of milk-shakes and sundaes. A dear friend of the blogger has put in a special word recommending their 'filter coffee' and fruit juices. On every visit, this blogger has been delighted by one special chutney [of different ingredients, every time] which is served apart from the usual Coconut-white one.
Paneer Dosa [right]

The place is adequately ventilated, with old-fashioned iron-bars on its high ceiling. It gets really crowded on weekends, especially for dinner. It is not open throughout the day. There are specific timings [to be added soon] for breakfast, lunch, tiffin and dinner. Dinner is served between 7pm to 11pm.


The place has also been awarded the 'Editor's Choice BEST SOUTH INDIAN RESTAURANT' in the STANDALONE category by the HT CITY EATING OUT GUIDE! This blogger, being crazy about South Indian food, is very fond of their entire spread and, well, just can’t enough of it! It’s a reasonably-priced joint [eg. Dosas between ` 60 to `80] and scores very high on ‘value-for-money’.

PS: The place has undergone renovation and the high-ceiling no more exists! The blogger has also gone on to relish their Bisi Bele Bhath, Palak Dosa, Paper Dosa and Panchtara Uttapam [5 varieties of mini-uttapam] on separate visits.

Kesar da Dhaba

The city of Amirtsar has immense historic significance associated with it. It arouses deep religious sentiments owing to the GOLDEN TEMPLE and also patriotic fervour due to the Wagah Border. And in this city, tucked deep into the bylanes is an unassuming eating joint. Established in 1916, KESAR DA DHABA stands for old-world charm and ‘proper’ food! It is slightly difficult to reach, owing to residential constructions in the past few decades. But ask any of the localites, and they’ll happily guide you to this rustic dhaba.

Once inside, you may lose a sense of time, for life moves at an easy pace here! No, the service is not slow, it’s just something in the air! The d├ęcor is utterly uncluttered and the seating arrangement is VERY spacious. They serve no fancy fare and the menu is minimal. It consists of the basic dals [lentils] like DAL TADKA, DAL MAKHANI, some varieties of breads like Tandoori Roti, Lachcha Parantha, Missi Roti, some seasonal vegetable preparations and rice.
There is, of course, the famous LASSI, served chilled, in a BIG glass [see pic] with crushed dry fruits sprinkled on top. Their food is prepared in desi ghee and has a wholesome feel to it. The Dal Makhani tasted lovely, with both Rajma and Urad standing out. It had this sense of richness, which comes only with the dal being cooked slowly, on simmering heat, to let the spices seep in and spread their flavours!

The place was fairly quiet, with no din from outside, or staff buzzing around unnecessarily. The blogger requested a peep into their kitchen, and it was readily accepted! A tour of the inside showed that they still use traditional cookware. The Tandoor [oven] was lit, though, main business hours are during evening, when the rhythmic sound of Rotis being baked constantly resonated in their wide kitchen! The dals, etc. are still prepared in old-fashioned huge copper handis. ALL of this lends a distinct authenticity to their food, which cannot be achieved with modern-day quick-fix utensils and gas cylinders!

To conclude, the restaurant offers fuss-free vegetarian food. The items are reasonably priced [eg. Lassi `40, Dal Makhani `60, etc.] and very high on their taste value. A must-visit, if you wish to savour some old-world elements to round off your trip to Amritsar!

Vistrit

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” These are words of the writer J.R.R. Tolkien. And to add delight to this Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said “There is no sincerer love than the love of food.

These famous quotes do some justice to the taste buds of those who smart under the glee of ‘good food’. Of course, there is no standard measure of what is ‘good’. One’s delicacy can be another's poison! Nevertheless, the love for food is universal, it's our common ground.

This blogger is in full agreement with Socrates when he says, “Worthless people live only to eat and drink; people of worth eat and drink only to live.” Belonging to the latter category, yours truly is an aficionado of good VEGETARIAN food. It is to celebrate the occasion of VICHAARKHAANA turning FIVE, that DESIZAIKA is being launched.

The blog is an attempt to provide feedback on eating joints [big, small, whatever!] visited by the blogger across INDIA. This country is a vegetarian’s delight. The blog will serve as a small drop in ocean to document places we’ve heard or not heard of! And it is dedicated to my favourite foodie, on this birthday of my beloved B., Mr. Nitin Chauhan!

To quote Ina Garten, in the 'The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook', Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable." This blogger will make a sincere effort to review places on the basis of their overall comfort-level. Readers may feel free to pass any sort of comments on the posts. They will all be looked upon in a positive light and taken into consideration for improving the quality of this blog.

“Forget love, I'd rather fall in chocolate!!!”