After the sealing drive in Khan Market’s infamous middle lane (all you needed was three feet of vertical space and you could start a shop) quite a few little stalls found themselves out of business. The administration, in their wisdom, has decided not to sort out the manic parking, the potholed lanes or the interior roads of “India’s most expensive real estate”. Instead, they decided to wreak vengeance on a bunch of people from the lower echelons of society, who could easily be cowed down. One of these was Salim Kababs.
Salim Kababs is actually owned by a gentleman called Javaid, who promptly moved to Defence Colony Market. His little eatery has a few high tables where you can stand and eat. There are no chairs, stools or cutlery and the prices reflect that. Of course there’s the quintessentially Delhi option of sitting in your car and having the food served to you in relative comfort.
The best thing on the menu is the mutton seekh kabab (Rs 90 for 4). The mince has a definite reddish hue because of the chilli powder, but it is not as pungent as appearance would suggest. The mince is slightly textured, which is exactly as it should be: too fine and it would become a kakori kebab and too coarse and it would become a dora kebab. There’s a bit of succulence in the kebab, and it is obvious that it is from the mince itself, not from added fat or oil. The spicing is perfect: I would say that it is one of the best mutton seekh kebabs in the city. Usually, the trend is to make the kind that has chopped onion, ginger and garlic paste and coriander leaf in it. Go to a butcher’s shop and ask for ready to cook seekh kebabs, and you’ll know what I mean. These are a complete departure and only a master could get them right.
I wish I could say the same thing about the rest of the menu, but unfortunately Javaid’s staff really needs to pull up their socks. The spicing for the kakori kabab (Rs 110) was way off the mark: too few “secret spices” were used. Take away kebabchini, ittar and the rest of the melange, and it’s just a very soft kebab, without the depths of flavour. I have heard good things about the mutton tikka (Rs 90) but did not try them, choosing instead the chicken afghani with cream (Rs 150 for half). The portion size was good value for money, but in its Khan Market avatar, it used to do a far better job. The chicken I was served had been roasted and béchamel sauce was poured over it! The Afghanis would declare war if they ever encountered this travesty of their name!
Special mutton nihari suffered from the same spicing flaw as the kakoris: the clever blend of spices that go to make Mughlai food was missing. The nihari was, however, cooked in the trademark style, over slow fire, so that the bones released their gelatine and added thickness to the gravy. Eaten with the so-so bakarkhani rotis (Rs 45 each) it would make a hearty, nutirious meal for a famished soul on a shoestring budget.
Shop No 3, Defence Colony Market, Back Lane
Tel: 011-65879989, 9891519242, 9990259785
No credit cards accepted; alcohol not served
Meal for two: Rs 500
Open from 12 noon to 11 pm