Ritu Dalmia, the feisty lady behind the Diva brand in Delhi, turned 40 a few months ago. Besides the frenetic juggling that she does, between writing cookbooks, managing a fine-dining Italian restaurant and five cafes across Delhi, catering for top parties in Delhi, Mumbai, Thailand and Italy travelling across the globe like a restless ghost and hosting her own TV travel and food show, she felt a lacuna in her life. A lesser mortal would have felt the need to relax and slow down a bit. Dalmia looked out for a new frontier to cross. “Doing another Italian restaurant wouldn’t have been challenging for my brain at all, because over the years, my staff is getting progressively better and I’m becoming more and more redundant.” And because Dalmia and her travel agent partner, Gita Bhalla have holidayed in South East Asia extensively, she thought of setting up an oriental restaurant, but with inimitable Ritu Dalmia touches.
Diva Kitsch has none of the accessories that define Thai, Chinese or Vietnamese restaurants anywhere in the world. It is a bright, airy, culture-neutral space on a main road. Located above a lifestyle store called Kitsch, the newest addition to the Diva brand has a look at the food of South East Asia curated by Dalmia. Hence, there is no coconut milk in any of the curries and no fish sauce or prawn paste. It is just a peccadillo of Ritu Dalmia. There is a preponderance of Thai-inspired salads and a superb cold soup that contains the unlikely combination of avocado and wasabi. Like all the trademark Dalmia pairings, this one too is a marriage made in heaven.
“I wanted to push the envelope for this one, and I think I’ve almost reached what I wanted to do,” she says modestly.