There’s a certain X factor at work in restaurants. Some restaurants try hard and never achieve it; others are blessed with it from the day they open their doors. Set’z is an example of the latter category. It has good to great food, depending what cuisine you choose, it has good service and the décor is excellent. However, what draws the crowds is the buzz or the X factor, call it what you like. It is greater than the sum of its parts: food, service and décor. The profile of the average customer is a component, but it’s not the only one: many hangouts of the smart set conspicuously lack the X factor.
You can vary your Set’z experience every time and keep boredom at bay. You can sit in a quiet corner and be invisible to all save a couple of busy chefs; you can dine in the middle of the restaurant and be in full public glare, opt for the cocoon-like bar or party outside on the terrace with the soothing waterfall. Then, you can choose one cuisine: Indian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese and European or mix and match and never repeat a menu over several visits. That’s more than you can say for most other restaurants in the city.
The strength of Set’z is its extraordinary Indian menu. There are no clichés here and the quality is excellent. Not only have I never tasted Charoli Kebab (Rs 525) before, I have never heard of charoli, but it turned out to be a fresh nut, not unlike a cross between a green almond and a green cashew, which is pounded and formed into a patty with a delicate taste. I’d rate it as one of the best vegetarian dishes in the city. Sigri ki Seekh (Rs 500) is the finest, most juicy and flavourful seekh kebab I’ve tasted and Hyderabadi Gosht Biryani (Rs 650) is kachhe gosht biryani, cooked with raw rice and uncooked lamb, where the art lies in cooking both so that each is optimally cooked. In the hands of a lesser mortal, you’d land up with soggy rice and/or tough mutton, but the chef at Set’z serves up an earthernware bowl with a seal of dough on it, where the rice is perfectly cooked and the lamb tender.
There is a section in the Indian kitchen that serves coastal Indian food. Murgh Ghee Roast (Rs 495) is a rich curry smeared with pure ghee. This Mangalore special is not served anywhere else in the city, but is a brilliant addition to the menu. Tandoori Crab (Rs 250 for 100 grams) is optimally cooked crab whose dry masalas serve to highlight the sweetness of the crab. With aprons and crab picks it is a messy but satisfying course – our crab weighed 800 grams and was brought to the table neatly segmented.
If the Indian section is the best, Thai is a close second. The explosion of flavours that typifies Thai food makes its presence felt. The sushi counter does experimental sushi: uramaki with avocado and cream cheese for example. The Chinese section needs plenty of tweaking before it reaches the quality of the rest of the menu. Don’t leave Set’z without trying their desserts. Even their sugar-free options are head and shoulders above what the competition dishes out.
3rd floor, DLF Emporio, Nelson Mandela Marg, Vasant Kunj Phase II
Open from 12 noon to 12 midnight
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Meal for two: Rs 2,000