A modern take on soul food
Modern Indian cuisine
Atmospherics: Quite the largest restaurant, that too, on a single floor in the Sector 29 market, if not in the whole of Gurgaon. The theme is back to college, so the entire space has been broken up into verandahs and terraces, canteens and laboratories, class-rooms and even a hilarious hostel, complete with bunk beds, graffiti on the walls and clothes suspended from light bulbs to dry them. Everything is witty, especially the verandah with a row of parked scooters for seats next to a Chinese van that actually does produce van Chinese food, just as it would be in a college! Nothing is particularly well-appointed or plush: exposed concrete ceilings and clunky fans are just as we remember from our college days. Even the seats are built for nostalgia, rather than comfort. The trouble is that the food is as sophisticated as the finest in the city (the chef, Harangad Singh, is from Tresind, Dubai via Varq, Taj) and consequently, there’s a glaring mismatch between the interiors and the food. If you don’t believe me, just try the Litchi Tikka (Rs 245) a luscious juicy whole litchi lightly grilled in the tandoor and paired with cheese to cut out the sweetness. If that is not a sublime morsel, what is!
Table talk: blindly point out to any five dishes on the menu for your meal, and they will be uniformly excellent. The best part? Not a single cliché or ‘inspiration’ from other modern Indian restaurants in Delhi. The amuse bouche is a spherified globule of tart, spicy, sweet pani from a gol-guppa. Sambhar cappuccino with dosa crisp (Rs 149) has a glug of coconut cream which takes away from the authenticity but adds richness to the soup. It is in the small plates (vegetarian) section that the brilliance of the kitchen shines forth. Nitro cooked dahi bhalla, -20⁰ papdi (Rs 245) is a savoury ice-cream that has the exact flavour of dahi bhalla, surrounded by crunchy wafers of roomali shavings. Kaayasth gaati with chole and tamarind air (Rs 225) features spiced sattu filled into a dough ball and fried, then served on a bed of small chole: quintessential street food. TT Lamb chops (Rs 445) is a melt in the mouth dish served with Kashmiri style onion lachchas made tart with vinegar. Do not miss the Rampuri ghosht with reshampatti shine (Rs 425) or the murgh palang todh (Rs 395) which have been slow-cooked to perfection. There is nothing molecular about either: they’re just good old traditional desi cooking. The one unmissable vegetarian main course is Ghutwa Palak with Cumin Wadi (Rs 345). Do not miss the seemingly old-fashioned pineapple pastry, that is actually a look-alike of the light-weight classic, but topped with rich cream and pineapple-flavoured cream between the layers.
Plus and minus: Equal weightage has been given to the vegetarian and non-vegetarian sections, so that nobody need feel neglected. Prices are unbelievably low. On the minus side, takers of fine food will probably not feel comfortable in the collegiate surroundings.
Must try: any of the fattayers (Middle Eastern pizzas), the Indimomos, and the Goan fish curry.
Food: 3.50, Service: 3.50; Décor: 3.00
8-9-10, Sector 29 Main Market, Gurgaon
Open from 12 noon to 12 midnight
Meal for two: Rs 1500
Credit cards, alcohol served