I’m going to resist the temptation to write (yet again) about Choko la’s pastries, chocolates and chocolate drinks. They’re not only the best in the city, the chocolate drinks are more or less unique. However, I’ve always had a problem with the food that both branches of Choko la served – to me, the food menu just didn’t cut the mustard, being too much out of sync with the quality of the chocolates.
That, I am happy to report, is a thing of the past. For about six months now, I have been visiting the Khan Market branch regularly and have acquired a set of favourite dishes. First among them is the truffled scrambled eggs (Rs 120). The subtle yet unmistakable hint of truffle oil, a generous portion of mushrooms and a parmesan wafer: there’s little rocket science involved, yet nobody outside the five star brigade is doing it.
It is the simple things that define Choko la’s new approach to food: elegant, stylish and simple. The entire menu has no meat in it, yet it is not Indian – difficult to even attempt and extremely difficult to do well, yet they have started to succeed because of the recent commitment to classicism. Take the cold crecy (Rs 95) that consists of green peas flavoured lightly with mint. The flavours of the two ingredients come through, without fiddling about with flavour enhancers, cornstarch or extraneous ingredients.
Of course, it is possible to rely entirely too much on natural ingredients in their natural form. I ordered a Choko la club sandwich (Rs 175) during a formal meeting with someone I was meeting for the first time, and had the ignominy of the ingredients squelching out of control. The description on the menu sounded innocuous enough: whole wheat bread with fresh and sundried tomatoes, cucumbers and emmenthal. There were two problems: apart from the sogginess, there was little taste. No mustard – tomato ketchup doesn’t quite make the grade in my book – and the cheese lacked flavour. It didn’t even have the tell-tale holes that have made emmenthal famous.
All that recedes into the background with one bite of their bell pepper tart. In my opinion, it deserves mention as one of the city’s finest vegetarian, non-Indian offerings. A rectangle of flaky pastry has a layer of red bell-pepper paste, topped with a smidgeon of feta. On top of that, goes a layer of broad batons of red, green and yellow bell peppers and the whole thing is baked. Fabulously attractive, the miracle is that it tastes as good as it looks.
The list of elegant eats goes on and on: cream cheese tarts spiked with chives and topped with beetroot caviar must rank as a first in the world of vegetarian gastronomy.
Inner Lane, Khan Market and 61, Basant Lok, Vasant Vihar
All vegetarian menus; no alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Open from 10 am to 11 pm
Average cost of a meal for two: Rs 1,000