One of the rare landmark restaurants in Noida
Atmospherics: Twenty years ago, when I first started visiting Noida, there was just one full-service restaurant and that was Samarkand in a ‘fauji’ market. There were a few others, but they have all fallen by the wayside, since then. Two years ago, a bright young spark from the food and beverage industry took over the running of Samarkand, and from then on, it has just been improving steadily. The market is one of the old-style ones in Noida: just a row of services with no pretty gift shops and boutiques, and Samarkand and its newly-minted country cousin, Wok Art are the only eateries in the area. It works well though: both restaurants have always been full to capacity, partly because of the value for money they offer and partly because of the lack of real competition for miles around. If you do not have a reservation, do visit by 7.30; an hour later and it will be full.
Table talk: there is a ghazal singer and his troupe who performs here six evenings a week and has a fanatical following hereabouts. There is little about Samarkand that screams ‘modern’. The lighting is low, true, but the font of the menu is comfortably large and if the tables are placed in monotonous rows, the seats are very comfortable. Though the menu does not say so, there are two Kashmiri dishes on the menu: dum aloo (Rs 335) and roghan josh (Rs 445), both cooked in the Pandit style, with mustard oil and the trademark heavy use of spices. Put it down to sheer prejudice, but they are the finest items on the menu. Other dishes that are well worth ordering include Kakori kebab (Rs 455) that are visibly different in appearance from their Lucknavi counterparts yet retain the signature taste and texture. Other good options to order include zaffrani nalli nihari (Rs 445) and rara gosht (Rs 445), both of which have the spices and style of preparation of a restaurant of yesteryear: comforting or old-fashioned, depending on your age and point of view. Any attempt to cook food that is more in keeping with current trends will be met with cries of horror from the regulars.
Plus and minus: old-style service is warm and charming, but more exciting vegetarian choices would be welcome.
Must try: Murgh hariyali tikka; murgh makhni; Awadhi biryani
Food: 3.50; Service: 3.50; Décor: 3.25
R 292, Ganga Shopping Complex, Sector 29, Noida
Open from 12 noon to 12 midnight
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Meal for two: Rs 1,500