Sleek and glossy, Auma is the country cousin of interior store Oma next door, having the same owner. Quite as glamorous as Set’z, which has been, so far, the only restaurant in DLF Emporio. Auma may not have the grand scale of Set’z, but it does have classy interiors and surprisingly good food. It also has an open kitchen and a powerful chimney that obviates the need of glass, so you are far more connected to the kitchen than is usual in most restaurants. And it has one shining star, and that is the Thai chef from Chiang Mai. He is hugely talented, so don’t miss the opportunity to taste some absolutely stunning Thai food. In fact, the choice is made easier for you: the food is either western or Thai. No Chinese, no Indian. What appealed to me best of all was the choice of music. Retro, of the era of Tom Jones and Barry White, it made a statement unlike the amorphous instrumental music that is becoming the depressing norm.
The finest appetizer on this – or indeed any other – menu is Philadelphia chili cheesecake, jalapeno cheddar fritters and chutney (Rs 425). I just loved the idea of inverting a dessert into a savoury treat: it works supremely well and on the day of my visit the cheesecake was obviously fresh – an extra draw. The one appetizer that I immediately ordered was chicken liver parfait (Rs 375). I have a weakness for chicken liver pate, and when it is good, it is very very good. This one wasn’t sadly. It was made with an inexpert hand, seasoned with insufficient pepper and had no discernible double cream or brandy. Its texture was runny rather than silky and the Melba toast that accompanied it was as hard as rock.
It was all uphill from there. The Thai Yam Makrua Yao (Rs 400) was a steal at the price: the little platter was filled to capacity with the most tender prawns and scored squid, while the sliced aubergine lined the salad, the better to absorb the chili seafood sauce. And the bai kraphow (Rs 500) – a mild, minced chicken preparation – managed to have a multitude of subtle flavours. It was served with a generous portion of jasmine rice and a tiny raw papaya salad.
The menu lists sandwiches, pizzas and pasta, perhaps because the hours just before and after lunch are the busiest times in the restaurant, appropriate for a filling snack rather than a full meal, but I didn’t try them. Instead, I sampled a stylishly presented gremolata coated Scottish salmon, papardelle of zucchini and carrot with beurre blanc. The salmon was flavourful and cooked to rare perfection, with a dot of gremolata atop it. The gremolata – a tangy ‘chutney’ of parsley, lemon and garlic added an acidic note to the fatty fish. It was the accompanying vegetables that were eye-catching. Carrots and zucchini were cut to resemble the shape and size of papardelle, and were sautéed in white butter. Visually appealing, pleasing to the palate and a vast difference from the usually steamed vegetables that are the usual accompaniment in many restaurants.
Service is efficient and when there is no pressure to turn tables rapidly, you can sit in the dimly lit restaurant and nurse a coffee for upwards of an hour.
246A DLF Emporio, Vasant Kunj
Open from 12 noon to 12 midnight
Credit cards accepted; alcohol served
Meal for two: Rs 2,500