Waves serves interesting, hearty food, more in the style of mainstream America than that of its westernmost state. It’s a large, airy, good-looking restaurant whose focus is a grill. The streak of brilliance in the vegetarian section is herb-grilled sweet potato with Cajun mayo.
DELHI IS diametrically opposite California, geographically and gastronomically. Where Californian wines have become a worldwide presence to reckon with, we have to make do with Riviera or, worse, French plonk. Where their cuisine has evolved (thanks to Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck and others) around their superior produce, our national emblem is the butter chicken. When I heard, therefore, that a Californian grill and lounge had set up shop in our city I was intrigued.
The bad news is that Waves has none of the mix of Western, Mexican and Asian cuisines and fruit sauces that is the hallmark of Californian cuisine. Given the quality of produce in Delhi, there’s none of the light, summery approach to cooking, with a preponderance of fruit and vegetables.
The good news is that in spite of everything, Waves serves interesting, hearty food, more in the style of mainstream America than that of its westernmost state. It’s a large, airy, good-looking restaurant whose focus is a grill.
Both the soups we sampled – tomato and basil with herb croutons and American chicken and corn chowder – were good. But it’s the range of starters – available by the dozen and half-dozen – that go down the best. Skewered meatballs with Jack Daniel’s sauce are highly recommended: when the restaurant gets its bar license in a week or two, I’m betting that this will be their signature dish and the tangy barbecue sauce will be the ‘inspiration’ for other menus across the city: The new potato and sausage salad comes with an interesting honey-mustard sauce, and for ad-venturous palates, Crab Louie is a mix-it-yourself salad featuring steamed and shelled crab, lettuce leaves and Thousand Island dressing.
What is apparent is that the distinctive flavours and tangy sauces will complement the drinks menu perfectly. Indeed, one-third of the restaurant has lounge seating, the rest being conventional dining. You can ask for your entire meal to be served in the lounge area, because most starters have been conceived as neat-to-eat finger foods. That’s what we did, and made a huge mess of the Crab Louie.
Waves is a decidedly non-vegetarian restaurant: vegetarians are fobbed off with mozzarella and leek pizzettes and a couple of offerings on the main course, leaving them in no doubt that they’re poor country cousins. The only streak of brilliance in the vegetarian section is herb-grilled sweet potato with Cajun mayo.
Both main courses we ordered were grilled; so, I suspect, are most of them. Stuffed breast of chicken with beer and garlic sauce was unusual, but the clear winner was the grilled prawns with chilli and wasabi. Delhiites are obsessed with the size of prawns: they’ll be delighted here, because the prawns are huge. It’s the marinade, however, that spikes it just enough, retaining the obvious freshness of the prawns, yet imbuing them with Asian flavours – the embodiment of Californian cuisine. Good value for money at Rs 450 for three large prawns.
Leave some space for one of the finest chocolate desserts the city has to offer: chocolate nirvana is a quick trip to heaven.
A-4, Sarvodaya Enclave (Opposite NCERT Gate), Aurobindo Marg
Open from: 12 noon to 3:30 pm; 7 pm to 11:30 pm
Average cost of a meal for two: Rs.700/- (excluding seafood)
Alcohol license expected shortly; mastercard and visa cards accepted