The brand that keeps reinventing itself
Atmospherics: The best decision that Punjab Grill made was to open a branch in Khan Market. Small and beautifully designed, with wallpaper that has a Jacobean appeal and tableware made of bell-metal, it is the only entirely Indian restaurant in the market. As a result, foreigners outnumber Indians 3 to 1 at any given time. You do have to negotiate the none-too-salubrious environs of the middle lane, with its famously uneven pavement tiles and carelessly thrown garbage. Once you climb the stairs, though, you are in another world. It helps that much of the food is completely traditional and authentic, but it is far from formulaic. I was handed two menus, one being a brand new one featuring street food of Old Delhi, the other one being the regular menu. The street food had, in some instances, been left sacrosanct or had been given a nouvelle spin, but as I like my street food the old-fashioned way, I forbore from ordering such preparations as the crab and avocado chaat, and stuck to the old favourites.
Table talk: Tamatar chaat (Rs 425) that originated in the bylanes of Banaras and is making its way steadily into wedding caterers’ repertoires. For its success, it depends on the juxtaposition of tanginess and spiciness of the tomatoes and the contrast with tiny squares of namakparas that add crunch. Punjab Grill’s version was quite close to the original. What was the best dish of my meal was the kachalu sabzi, puri, achar (Rs 460) that could have been cooked by some khandani caterer in Purani Dilli and delivered to the refined precincts of Khan Market, so authentic were all the components. This was one of the few dishes of my meal where no nouvelle touch had been administered in the interests of catering to a mixed clientele. A very close second was the fruit kuliya chaat (Rs 425) that included ‘cups’ made of mango, guava and kiwi: a world away from Sadar Bazar where it is served in cucumber and watermelon cups. The mango was surprisingly good, though the kuliyas could have done with an extra dollop of masala and smaller chanas. The sigdi kukkad (Rs 625) with a topping of moth ki dal was a delightful mix of succulent meat and dal ‘crust’.
Plus and minus: The room freshener is way too strong and cannot be turned off, apparently.
Must try: Bheja masala, Arbi Amritsari, Old Monk Mutton Botis
70, Khan Market, Middle Lane,
Open from 12 noon to 11.30 pm
Alcohol served; credit cards
Meal for two: Rs 2,500