Ritu Dalmia hits the bull’s eye
Atmospherics: Up a flight of stairs, beautifully decorated with wall-paper, Diva Spiced has moved some distance from its previous home in Mehar Chand Market to the far more accessible N Block Market (also known as the Fabindia Market!) Even in its former avatar, the brand was never about straight ‘authentic’ South East Asian flavours, but Dalmia’s own favourite flavours, juxtaposed cleverly in a manner that would evoke surprise in Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and Malaysia – the countries through which the menu travels. The restaurant gives the impression of spaciousness, being done up in a sparse (yet comfortable) manner with plenty of natural light and light colours. Not surprisingly, it is always crowded for lunch. One of the advantages of having worked in the Dalmia stable is that service never falls below a fairly high standard: polite but never obsequious, knowledgeable yet never condescending.
Table talk: Every dish on the menu has a different proportion of authenticity, but you are not visiting Diva Spiced for authenticity anyway. The prawn and kasundi dimsum (Rs 495 for 6) are expertly made, can easily be eaten with chopsticks and do not need any of the sauces on the table, for fear of missing the fairly subtle kasundi flavour that goes wonderfully with the chopped prawns. Chicken cotoletta bao with wasabi mayo (Rs 475) was brilliant: the soft-as-a-cloud bao was filled with a thick chunk of chicken breast, beaten till the texture became smooth, whereupon it was pan roasted. Paired with wasabi that packed a powerful punch, it was one of the aces of the menu. The menu is all about pairing ingredients and flavours that are present in South East Asia, though perhaps not in the same conjunction that they appear in the original. So, charred prawns, caramelized pineapple, spicy lemon sauce (Rs 645) featured prawns cooked perfectly, the char on them contrasting with the tangy pineapple and lemony sauce. However, it was the Malayali prawn and mango curry with ginger rice that was the high point of my meal. Creamy coconut gravy spiked with mouth-puckeringly sour mango plus fish tamarind (a vegetarian ingredients, despite the name, that is used in Central Kerala) contrasted with sweet, crunchy-fresh prawns.
Plus and minus: Elegant and fuss-free, the kind of eatery you find in the west.
Must try: Bawmra’s tomato salad, revisited; Ubud-style papaya and lychee curry; coconut and lemongrass pannacotta
Food: 4; Service: 3.50; Décor: 3.50
N-6, first floor, Greater Kailash N Block Market
Tel: 45020964, 9999026765
Open from 11.30 am to 11.30 pm
Alcohol, credit cards
Meal for two: Rs 2,500