This empress of Greater Kailash II periodically undergoes extensive renovation, but this time around, it has become a new restaurant altogether. The ground floor with its wood-fired oven and semi open kitchen has turned into a café, in the style of Café Diva in Greater Kailash I, N Block Market. Visibly less formal than Diva Italiano upstairs, it is open through the day, from 11 am to 11 pm, and serves a range of salads, pizzas, paninis, bruschettas and main courses. In this, it is very similar to its country cousin in N Block Market, also called Café Diva, except that the country cousin strays from a strictly Italian menu, and the one in Greater Kailash II is entirely Italian.
On the ground floor, you can have an artichoke and fig torta rs 430 that has been baked in the wood fired oven and that has, consequently a pleasantly smoky flavour to the short crust that contrasts perfectly to the minimally sweet fig. The pumpkin and eggplant salad 390 with almond flakes and sesame dressing was a great way of using two rather humble ingredients. Roast them and their surface becomes gently caramelized and the texture chewy. It is a technique that is never used in desi cooking, so the al dente joys of roasted vegetables are alien to us. There’s a subtle crab and avocado bruschetta 490 that is a great way to start a meal: a pairing of two delicate ingredients atop lightly toasted bread that has been baked in-house.
Upstairs on the first floor is where the fine dining section is, but in the years since its inception, even the parameters of the concept of fine dining have been redefined, so the starched white table linen has given way to a more contemporary look. The wine library has become more prominently displayed and the four tables by the full-height glass windows are still as sought after as before.
Prawn and Scallop skewer with green apple infusion and lemon scented fennel salad (Rs 520) had a subtle fruity zing to it, more lemon and less green apple. Two pieces of prawn and two of scallops are skewered and the dressing on the seafood combines with that of the salad. This one is light and summery, so it will be taken off the menu as soon as the cold weather sets in.
Sicilian couscous salad with crisp fish or Portobello tempura (Rs 460) is the kind of flavourful preparation that is deceptively simple. Taste it in almost every other restaurant that serves couscous and you’ll encounter a tasteless pish-pash with a slightly rancid taste. In Diva, the couscous is packed with flavour from the stock and is soft and fresh.
The other notable appetizer is Sicilian rice balls flavoured with carrot and orange with parmesan and lemon zest (Rs 410). These deep-fried morsels pack a mean punch. Crisp on the outside, with the texture of Arborio rice within, there’s a square of mozzarella in the centre that melts with the heat of the oil and forms ‘wires’ when you bite into it.
You can have a pizza from the oven downstairs: the one I tried was a four cheese pizza topped with chewy Portobello mushrooms. For dessert, there is a baked cheesecake with strawberry compote Rs 240 from the downstairs deli counter.
M 8 M Block Market, Greater Kailash II
Ph: 29215673, 41637858
Open from 11 am to 11 pm
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Meal for two: Rs 800-1500 (downstairs-upstairs)