“Where are you?” “In Daryaganj”
Atmospherics: Butter chicken, dal makhni, chicken pakoras and mutton keema kaleji have collectively been called a number of names, from Mughlai (patently inaccurate) to North Indian (far too vague). At last, in Daryaganj – which is nowhere near the eponymous street – is an accurate representation of the food that was actually eaten before Partition. Moti Mahal is commonly considered to be the repository of the food of that era. However, in time it has become so commercialized as to be unrecognizable. One of the partners of the original Moti Mahal has a grandson who has set up Daryaganj.
Table talk: Most restaurants serving Punjabi food are judged on the strength of their butter chicken alone. Daryaganj serves a different version (Rs 465) altogether. The tomatoes are chunky, the gravy is not sweet but is tangy instead and while butter, ghee and cream have been kept to a minimum, there is a gentle buzz of dairy in it. The dal makhni (Rs 365) too has a rustic appeal, almost as if it had been simmering in a cooking pot in a village field all night long. Other dishes that we ordered had the same robustness and absence of finesse, which to me is a good sign. Mutton keema kaleji (Rs 475) was hearty and full-bodied, though chicken pakodas (Rs 325) was the winner of my meal: the batter clung to the succulent chicken that was without bones. The seekh kebabs (Rs 475) were made of tender mince, perfectly grilled.
Plus and minus: Such a venerable old restaurant with a path-breaking cuisine needs old-fashioned interiors. Not only are the interiors dismayingly modern, they are far from practical to reduce the noise inherent in a public space. So, the mirrors and high ceilings obviously have not been clad with wood wool and the noise level is not conducive to a pleasant conversation. Also, it is discouraging to hear huge variations in reports about the food from trusted friends. Is it only because this style of rustic fare is not the norm in Delhi yet? Or is it because of inconsistency in the kitchen? The service is slow beyond belief; many elements have not been given due cognizance like the serving dishes that do not maintain the temperature of food because of their thinness.
Must try: saag meat; tawa fish; mutton pulao
Food: 3.50; Service: 2.75; Décor: 2.75
R-1, Lower Ground Floor, The Walk, Worldmark 1, Aerocity
Open from 12 noon – 3.30; 6.30 pm to 12.30 pm
Credit cards; alcohol licence awaited
Meal for two: Rs 1,800