I took my Mum here for her final meal when she came to stay with me for a few months. She wanted a snazzy high end last meal and I had heard that this place had an interesting menu.
It was worryingly deserted when we arrived, but the menu looked good. It had a number of regional and non-standard dishes on it. After a free shot of masala buttermilk (not bad), we sipped on a blueberry based mocktail whilst waiting for our food, and it was quite nice. Then another freebie came - cinnamon naan with raw mango chutney. The naan were inoffensive but the chutney was terrible - what a crime to make something so awful out of lovely kache aam! Too sweet, no chilli at all and no mango or spice flavour either. We took one bite and then left it.
To start I had the chhena galawati (sorry I am not getting the names exactly as they were written on the menu, because I don't have a copy with me and it isn't online) - their vegetarian version of galawati kebab, made with chhena (the unpressed version of paneer). It had a pleasant heat to it but no aromatic flavour from the spices at all. As a vegetarian I cannot compare it to the real thing, but basically I was expecting flavour from various garam masala spices (cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, mace, etc.) and other aromatics to be there, but it was not. My Mum had their subzi and aloo bukhara seekh, a vegetarian version of seekh kebab. She enjoyed it. The bit I tasted was ok, but I never really go for vegetarian seekh kebabs anyway as they are always so dry and crusty looking. One very annoying thing was that they assumed we wanted to share our starters and so started to serve both of us from each of the plates. The green chutney served with these was ok, but severely lacking in chilli.
After that we had a selection of mains. We had their gatte ka pulao as a rice dish - this is a pulao with gatte in it, which are bits of gram flour paste. It smelt appetisingly of ghee when it came. It was very lightly spiced but otherwise well prepared. With that we had Hyderabadi khatti dal, achari lauki in a roasted tomato gravy and a dry gajar-matar sabzi. We also had a mixed veg raita. The dal had no tang to it at all and was barely spiced. When the chef came around to ask how everything was, I asked him why the dal was not khatti (sour) or spicy, and he said that customers didn't like it when it was! The lauki dish was nice - whole, tender rings of lauki (with some stuffing inside) in an intensely tomato-y gravy. It had a bit more spice to it, but not in terms of chilli, which was a shame. The carrot and pea sabzi was very mild. It was supposed to have lots of ginger and onion, but it didn't really. It would have been really good with more ginger and some chilli in it. The raita was plain but fresh. I asked for some pickles and they brought chilli, lime and gongura. The chilli pickle was quite tasty but mild, the lime was aromatic but had no heat and the gongura (which did not go with the meal at all in terms of region!) was bizarrely sweet-ish and not very good.
Overall we thought the food was fresh and clearly prepared with care, but very very held back. The spicing needed to be increased as none of the dishes were exciting enough. My guess is that they mostly have foreign customers who are staying in the hotel and go there to dine, and that these customers are a bit delicate in taste. But what a shame when you can't even make khatti dal properly because the guests "don't like it"! The only other guests in the restaurant during our meal were two foreign ladies, and they could be heard to gush excitedly about the food to the chefs.
Feeling rather let down, we prepared to cheer up with dessert. We shared their signature dish of paan rasmalai. The name is misleading. The paan bit comes from the fact that there are a few slivers of betel leaf as a garnish, and some gulkhand underneath. Other than that, it was just an oversized rasmalai with an odd presentation. You see, instead of being allowed to swim happily in the malai, it was actually just barely "painted" in a layer of malai so that there was none on the plate. It was actually quite a well made rasmalai with a good texture, but I was expecting an exciting and novel version of rasmalai with hints of supari, fennel, coconut, cardamom, camphor rose and so on, like a meetha paan. I didn't want a huge great plain rasmalai. It was just too big in the end, and not good enough to eat all of it.
Most annoyingly of all, when it came it appeared that there was saffron decorating the plate. My Mum even pointed out that at least we were getting our moneys worth there! But actually if you looked twice it was clear it wasn't real saffron, and if you weren't sure you could just pick it up - it was very very stiff and there was no kesar smell at all. Closer inspection revealed it to most probably be coloured vermicelli. A stupid deception - if you can't afford to put saffron on your desserts, just don't. DON'T fake it. When I called the waiter out on it he stuttered something about it being nuts or something which was clearly a lame excuse in the face of being found out.
Oh, and Mum had a coffee which she said was ok.
When the bill came it was very very high, as we knew it would be. And I have to say, it wasn't worth it. The ambiance was rubbish as there was a big party going on in the function page and it was very loud. The service was simpering and invasive (always grabbing at the water jug to pour more, rushing forwards to pull chairs out and push them in again, etc.) and the staff didn't know much about the dishes. The food was not exactly terrible and clearly fresh, but did not have enough flavour. Either the chef does not know how to work with spices, or he is constantly cooking for foreigners and is to afraid to make the real stuff anymore.
If this place would only be brave and make the dishes on their menu as they should be, it would be worth going here. But as it is now, it is too expensive to bother with when there is so much amazing food in Delhi for a fraction of the price. No wonder the place was basically empty the whole time we were there.
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