The Chowk is among MGF Mall’s latest crop of eateries, many of the original ones having faded away into oblivion, but then, that is the malaise that affects all of Gurgaon. This restaurant is reportedly a branch of Khaaja Chowk, in another mall down the same road. This avatar has none of the exuberance of its country cousin, but it does have a touch of kitsch and funkiness, although vastly sobered down from the riotous street art of Khaaja Chowk. What is undoubted is that The Chowk has ridiculously low prices and sky high standards, and it makes it an excellent choice for a North Indian meal with a twist, especially for those who live that side of town.
The menu is largely North Indian, but that includes a couple of Kayasth offerings and a Lucknavi kebab or two in addition to Punjabi favourites. Rara Gosht (Rs 250) was cooked the correct way, both mince and botis being sautéed in spices together. All too often, restaurants that are more bothered about the convenience of their cook rather than guests’ satisfaction, combine the two at the last minute, so that though the spices seep into the mince, the botis taste bland.
However, it was Kofta Magaz Curry (Rs 250) that was my favourite. Most restaurant preparations smash up the brain; The Chowk leaves it in chunks and combines it with a surprising element: koftas. It is the kind of dish you would expect your Kayasth friend’s mother to make at home, but it is very welcome in a restaurant menu.
Also of a high standard is the Murgh Makhani (Rs 250), to my mind, an important indicator of a restaurant’s quality. It is, after all, the single dish that gets ordered the most, after kali dal. The Chowk’s version is full-bodied, creamy and has a hint of tartness.
On the menu, (which is strongly reminiscent of the one at Bukhara!) gravy dishes appear before kebabs – a downright eccentricity. The ones I tried were Murg Pankhi Kabab (Rs 220) and Kakori Kabab (Rs 225). While Murg Pankhi Kabab was good, it didn’t quite live up to the description on the menu: flattened chicken breast marinated with yogurt, poppy seeds, green chillies ground with figs. The one disappointment was the Kakori Kabab, in which the mince was not finely ground enough, the spicing was completely off-kilter and the succulence that comes from kidney fat entirely missing.
Of the vegetarian offerings, Besan ke Nimbu (Rs 125) was the most unusual: gramflour dumplings in a gram flour gravy a la kadhi, but with the addition of fresh lemon juice. Chowgra (Rs 125) was a continuation of the same theme: mixed vegetables cooked with yogurt and spices with a hint of lemon.
However, it was the Figs with Vanilla Ice Cream (Rs 125) that gets my vote for the simplest, most elegant dessert in the entire city. Figs have been quartered and poached in red wine and combined with ice-cream along with the poaching liquid.
3rd floor, Metropolitan Mall, MG Road
Open from 11 am to 11 pm
Average cost of a meal for two: Rs 500
Credit cards accepted; alcohol licence awaited