Hilton Janakpuri has a brand new Indian restaurant, Zune. The colours in Zune (which means moon in Kashmiri) include turquoise and copper, and the combination is an extremely refreshing one: it is a pleasure just being in the restaurant. It is entirely a bonus that the food is as good as it is. The hotel appears to be keen that nothing follows the clichéd route, so they’ve not gone the Punjabi way. There seem to be three fluid divisions within the menu: Punjabi, Old Delhi and Kashmiri (hence the name).
It is notoriously difficult to sell Kashmiri food in Delhi and even more difficult to obtain it in the first place. Zune has a couple of Kashmiri cooks in the kitchen, itself a unique feat, and it is they who handle the wazwan dishes on the menu. On the day of my visit, I learnt that Chef Iqbal Ahamad had joined as head of the restaurant a week prior! In that short space of time, he had trained the staff to cook to his specifications and his section of the menu is the most exciting and the one to watch out for.
I confess I did not get around to ordering the Butter Chicken or the Dal Makhni on the front page of the menu, both billed as house specials. What I did try were a couple of kebabs. Salim Raan (Rs 1550) was the most spectacular of them. Roasted in an oven (not a tandoor) and then sautéed gently with a spice blend and the most finely chopped and fried onions you could ever hope to find, Salim Raan depends for its success on its meltingly tender texture.
Barrah Kebab (Rs 850) was almost as good. Expertly trimmed chops had the taste and texture of New Zealand lamb but were sourced locally. The marinade did not include great gobs of curd nor roasted gram flour – commonly used ingredients that spoil the texture of kebabs in several restaurants across the city. I didn’t order Murgh Malai Tikka (Rs 750) but Harre Shami Kebab (Rs 400) that unfortunately did have roasted gram flour powder in all its grainy glory. On the plus side, it is Chef Iqbal’s first week. After a month or so, I expect that this and similar glitches will be ironed out.
Dhunye ka Gosht (Rs 850) as it appears on the menu and refers in fact to Dhuwan ka Ghosht, does have a very mild, smoky flavour in its curd and brown onion gravy. It is a good dish to order. My quibble is with the Kashmiri section, which I’m sure will be ironed out once the chef (who has worked for many years in London) gets his bearings. When you only have three Kashmiri main courses on the menu, why have two of them with curd-based gravies? Gustaba (sic) costs Rs 850 and ought to have been spelled Gushtaba! That was perfect and the highlight of the main courses, but the Dhaniwal Korma (Rs 800), also curd-based, had too much turmeric and too little stock, so it was far more intense than it should have been!
The Ruwangan Chaaman (Rs 700), consisting of large chunks of fried paneer in a tomato gravy, was a good option for vegetarians. Desserts are the most unexciting part of the Zune menu.
District Centre, Janakpuri
Open from 12.30 to 3 pm and 7.30 to 11.45 pm
Meal for two: Rs 4,500
Credit cards accepted; alcohol served