The first family of Lucknavi food open a restaurant,
Atmospherics: an open kitchen, well-appointed if compact eatery that is packed to the gills every day at meal-time. With Imtiyaz Qureshi’s sons running Namak Mandi, (the name of a popular Lahore market), the food is a no-brainer. However, there’s a rider: the vegetarian options are not of the same level as the meat options. On the other hand, the meat options are so fabulous that few other restaurants in the NCR can offer the same quality.
Table talk: Seekh kebab Imtiazi (Rs 555) is the finest seekh kebab you can have anywhere. The mutton is coarsely chopped intentionally, so that the kebab has a bite to it. Through the pleasant buzz of the chilli powder, you can taste the cinnamon and mace distinctly. Quite remarkable, that one. Passing up the opportunity to have a mutton galawati kebab (Rs 555), I intentionally ordered a subz galawati (Rs 395). I was pleased to see that it was a firm, substantial vegetable and chana dal patty with the trademark spice blend. In this one dish, vegetarians have been given a treat in a cuisine that has few star dishes for them. Gosht nihari (Rs 595) is a recipe that the Qureshi brothers have probably eaten from their early childhood and can make in their sleep. This one is the highlight of a meal in Namak Mandi and a must have: the decorative metal serving dish, the nihari with its tell-tale trace of glueyness that comes from bone marrow and the subtle, beautifully balanced spices are all easily Qureshi trademarks. The gravy is smooth, and the mutton is meltingly tender. The other masterpiece is the dum Nakhlavi (Rs 625), the most flavourful, moist, fragrant biryani you will find this side of paradise. It is served with a cover of pastry atop the serving dish and upon opening it, a cloud of fragrance is released. The rice and meat are cooked together in a combination of steam and stock, which accounts for its moistness.
Plus and minus: Dahi Kandhari kebab (Rs 435) was a dry, crumbly disaster, with neither texture, nor richness nor even spicing to redeem it. A few more star dishes are required on the menu! As the restaurant is perpetually crowded, do make a reservation.
Must try: murgh khushk pardah, mirch baigan ka saalan, mandi ki daal.
DLF Promenade, 2nd floor, Nelson Mandela Marg, Vasant Kunj
Alcohol license awaited; credit cards accepted
Open from 11.30 am to 11.30 pm
Meal for two: Rs 2,500 plus taxes