You can tell the sincerity of a restaurant by the quality of the freebies it serves. Zaffrani Zaika won’t give you store-bought papad. Instead, it makes a sort of baked matthi and serves that with three dips, all made in house. And here’s one place you needn’t be afraid of over-ordering: the waiters will tell you when you’ve ordered too much. Because of their large portion size, it is easy to order more than necessary.
The menu travels between Lucknow and Hyderabad and glories in the textures of lamb and chicken as few other restaurants do. Murgh Parcha kebabs (Rs 375) are slices of chicken marinated with almond paste, shahi zeera and saffron. They are grilled so that the grainy texture of the chicken is apparent. Zaffrani murgh malai kebab (Rs 350) is taken from the leg of the bird, so that the texture is smooth and velvet.
Seekh-boti kebab (Rs 375) is a rather unusual dhaba-style tandoori dish that you’ll see nowhere else in Delhi. The moist botis contrast with the texture of the seekh with their slightly coarse texture, and both of them are a marvelous counterpoint to the Shahjehani shikampur (Rs 350) with the mince ground into forcemeat. Don’t miss this one. The delicate whiff of smoked meat is what lifts it out of the ordinary.
The one disappointment of the meal was the Hyderabadi Gosht biryani (Rs 475). Why call it Hyderabadi when it is not kachche gosht biryani? This one certainly wasn’t; neither was the talent in the kitchen up to cooking the exacting Hyderabad recipe. What appeared had too little aroma of lamb stock and too much of browned onions. It was full-bodied rather than being subtle, but the restaurant certainly recommended it strongly.
Let it be said that vegetarian food is not the glory of Zaffrani Zaika. Paneer makhni (Rs 350) and paneer khurchan (Rs 350) hardly are adequate compensation for the cashew nut-enriched Dilli ka korma (Rs 425) or Gosht Beli Ram (Rs 425). The khubani bhare kofte (Rs 375) didn’t have, as I anticipated, a tangy note in the koftas to contrast with the natural sweetness of a cream-thickened gravy. Instead, there was a brown onion gravy that looked as if was expecting to do double duty in another couple of dishes if need be. Daal Zaffrani Zaika (Rs 275) consisted of whole green moong – a nice touch instead of the interminable black dal one encounters everywhere else.
Zaffrani phirni (Rs 150) is recommended. It is not too sweet, it is served in clay pots that have obviously been made to order, and being made in-house, it isn’t dry and almost solid the way it often is elsewhere.
1st floor, next to Bikanervala, Yashwant Place, Chanakyapuri
Ph: 24121520-21, 9717176552-53
Open from 12 noon to 11.30 pm
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Meal for two: Rs 1,200