It’s neither hot nor happening, but Frontier at The Ashok has something that few other Indian restaurants in the city can boast of: a signature menu with dishes that have been more or less invented in its kitchens and served nowhere else for decades now. Like its distant country cousin, Bukhara, most of the food at Frontier is cooked in the tandoor: dal and one or two curries are on offer in the gravy section. The nicest aspect of the restaurant is the ‘tree’ at each table where you can hang your bag or coat. It’s a feature that other restaurants should think of plagiarizing.
There are a few hot favourites, and all are marked on the menu. Pathar Kabab (Rs 650) is the best of these: large slices of lamb cut across the grain, marinated and cooked on a hot stone. The lamb is melt-in-the-mouth but the concept and execution are what makes it one of the best kebabs in the capital. I haven’t had the signature Raan Aleeshan (Rs 900) that is twice as large as the other starters, but Kabab-e-Bannu (Rs 650) is fairly close to the Iranian original, with tender morsels of chicken wrapped in a fine parcel of egg and flour. Sakhat Kabab (Rs 600) is another Frontier invention featuring a seekh kebab cooked in the tandoor, stuffed with Amul cheese, spring onion and green chilli, wrapped in a layer of cornflour and deep fried. It’s like a cross between a kebab and a pakoda.
However, I found that the Sakhat Kabab as well as Murgh Daraanpur (Rs 600) which is an Indian-western fusion had a rather thick layer of flour coating it. A dash of rice flour and a thinner batter would add immensely to the texture. Murgh Daraanpur is not one of Frontier’s best-sellers, but I like the old-fashioned appeal of the recipe and think that Frontier, itself no spring chicken, is the perfect showcase for a Chicken a La Kiev-like offering.
Frontier is not foolhardy to leave out butter chicken, so it’s there on the menu, but predictably in an avatar that you won’t find elsewhere: an assertively spiced tomato gravy with flecks of dried methi leaves and just enough cream to save it from being unpleasantly tart.
The Moti-e-Zameen (Rs 400) hardly sounds exciting: tandoori salad: onions, capsicum, tomato, pineapple and cottage cheese on a seekh but it has one of the most distinctive spice mixes of anything on the menu; spicy and tangy highlights on crunchy vegetables. Highly recommended. Don’t miss the Dal Dera Ismail Khan (Rs 275) – an intensely flavourful creation that gives the competition a run for its money. Eaten with Kulachi Naan (Rs 95) it is an unbeatable combination.
Where Frontier will have to buck up is their desserts. You just cannot finish a one-of-a-kind meal with plain old gulab jamun or phirni!
Diplomatic Enclave, 50B Chanakyapuri
Tel: 26116161, ext 3840
Average cost of meal for two: Rs 2,000
Credit cards accepted; alcohol served
Open from 12.30 pm to 3 pm and 7.30 pm to 11.30 pm