The time is not far off when Khan Market will be crammed end-to-end with restaurants and cafes. Sidewok is the latest to join the band-wagon, but there are others still waiting in the queue. So, how does the latest kid on the block fare? As far as décor and service goes, it is the most chic and sophisticated in Khan Market, but the food could do with some tweaking.
Side Wok serves the food of South East Asia. The menu is extremely ambitious and has obviously been put together by someone with a feel not only of the region, but of the Delhi palate too: cliches make their appearance. The problem is the woeful mismatch between planning and execution. Happily, every problem has a solution, and Sidewok should be able to iron out the glitches, or re-jig their menu to be in line with what their staff can handle.
Harkao, the Chinese prawn dumplings were good: the prawns were crunchy and cooked for just the right time; Chicken Bao was a masterful attempt at doing to chicken what the Chinese do to pork: barbecue it and chop it coarsely and Lemper from Indonesia was a novel and welcome twist on mushrooms and sticky rice steamed in a lotus leaf: this was chicken and sticky rice steamed in a banana leaf. Fat Horses from Thailand (with a name like that, I couldn’t resist it!) was the chicken version of Hormok: minced chicken napped with coconut cream and steamed in tiny tea cups. The dud was Money Bags: deep-fried with oil oozing out, and filled with minced chicken with rather too much cabbage. You would be outraged if you got that from a roadside van.
The starters include Rempah Rempah from Indonesia that turned out to be meatballs fried almost crisp on the outside, and moist and tender inside, and the atrocious Chicken Aniseed, supposedly from China, which combined chicken breast grossly overspiced with Sichuan peppers and red chillies, garnished with deep-fried spinach. The chef has obviously never been exposed to Sichuan peppers in his life, because unlike ghee in an Indian kitchen, more is not necessarily better.
The single best dish in the entire meal was Soto Ayam, or chicken soup, from Malaysia. Sour, spicy and full of subtle flavours, it was redolent with the slices of lime that lurked in its depth.
Among the main courses, I picked Pla Prio Wan from Thailand. The fried mackerel with tamarind sauce conforms to international logic: a fatty fish served with a sour sauce. Pleasant enough without hitting the culinary jackpot. Pad Ho-Ra-Pa Kub Kai was, without doubt, the worst dish on the menu, which is why I say that there is a mis-match between writing the menu and executing it. It had barely steamed pieces of half-raw chicken plunged into a ladle-full of hot water with two basil leaves as garnish.
It is my feeling that Side Wok will improve over time. They will probably figure out that their menu is too long anyway, and do something about it. And even if they don’t, there’s always the great ambience.
45 Khan Market
Tel: 43587122, 33
Open from 12 noon to 11.30 pm
Credit cards accepted; no alcohol served
Average cost of a meal for two: Rs 1,200