Occasionally, you come across a restaurant that has not a trace of spark in it, yet manages to rake in the crowds. Journey of Spices in Noida’s popular Sector 18 market is such a place. Scan the menu for something approaching novelty or for some sign that the management is trying to stand up and be counted among the thousands of eateries in the city, and you’ll fail. Yet, night after night, the restaurant draws in crowds who come to partake of the conservative menu. Is it because the menu is predicated to the needs of those who live in the vicinity, with prices that are equally conservative?
You enter the restaurant by way of an elevator that takes you to the second floor of a building, from where, through the blinds, Noida transforms itself into a sophisticated metropolis. Seating at most tables is on hindolas, a novel addition to a Noida restaurant. There is no trace in the menu, however remote, of anything approaching innovation or the desire to be different. Every last tandoori tikka is a carbon copy of one that you’ll find elsewhere. I tried Murgh Malai Tikka (Rs 250) which consisted of large picattas of chicken breast lightly seasoned. There was no overpowering flavour of cheese, or indeed, any spice. It was just silken strands of chicken with a hint of cream. The best item on the menu, however, is Rajasthani Boti Kebab (Rs 290). Be warned that it is nothing that a Rajasthani would be familiar with: the name is just an excuse to pile on the red chillies. Because the chilli powder is napped in curd, the spice level does not hit you till later. The lamb is juicy and flavourful and contrasted with a healthy dose of chilli, it’s a great dish to order, especially washed down with beer.
In contrast, the curries were somewhat ordinary. The excellent staff suggested that I have Brain Curry, not on the menu but available for Rs 165 as a daily special and Shahi Paneer (Rs 215). The Brain Curry was rich and spicy with a tomato-onion based thick gravy and the pieces of brain were kept large. The Shahi Paneer was a bit of a misnomer. As smooth and creamy as the sauce in a western dish, it entirely lacked character. To make matters worse, triangles of uncooked paneer had been added at the last minute, just as they would in a roadside dhaba. The result was that the paneer was barely heated.
That apart, Journey of Spices must be doing something right: otherwise, how else can you explain the crowds?
D 2C, Sector 18, Noida
Open from 12 noon to 11.30 pm
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Average cost of a meal for two: Rs 500