Chow Time 

Sick of tandoori (no puns intended)? Tired of paneer tikka? All you jaded types out there, tuck into authentic Italian, Mexican and some amazing Russian

Impressive Italian

Italian is a cuisine that works. It feeds both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Diva owner Ritu Dalmia agrees. “It’s close to our tastebuds,” she says. Yet, 10 years back when she started Mezza Luna, the lone Italian joint, it shut shop after three years. She reasons the flavour was too new at that time. So now to cater to the largely vegetarian population, here’s Little Italy in Defence Colony. On weekdays, the restaurant is crowded with families who drop in for dinner and on weekends, lunching ladies place bulk order for pasta for their kitty parties.

Travertino at The Oberoi is mostly busy especially with an extensive Italian wine selection. Even La Pizza at Hyatt Regency can be found busy with customers gorging on Italian. Chef Mitelle Sbarbellini takes personal care of his “demanding Indian clients”. “They want to mix and match most of the time. For example, they want pasta with Gorgonzola cheese. When the demand is too weird, I have to go to their table and ask them if that’s what they really want?” he laughs. But he’s certainly not complaining.

New European law on Indian food 

Authorities carry out regular checks of kitchens, and these often lead to penalties or even closure of Indian restaurants. Now all British restaurants need to comply with a new European Union food legislation, which was formulated in response to a lack of regulation of takeaways and restaurant start-ups. 

The legislation stipulates that all businesses serving food in Europe must have a 'food safety management system'. The system covers all aspects of health and safety. Aston University has won a contract to help train local Asian caterers to implement the new legislation. Aston's contract, with the Birmingham City Council, will provide training for 20 caterers from the local community who may be affected by a language barrier.

More Mexican

Somehow, Mexican hasn’t really worked despite the fact that Mexican could have done well by itself. Nobody really pursued it. It could have been adapted to Indian taste, say by stuffing paneer or vegetables in the tortilla. As a back-up restaurants had Indian dishes too. Slowly people stated eating Mexican food.

Mediterranean Masala

Of late, Mediterranean seems to be the flavour. There are six countries and it depends on which one a particular joint is focusing on. Also, it’s important to know if the chef has ever tested the food. People just take a book and give a name. But it’s not the same. No wonder, many restaurants that came with a big bang made a silent exit. Take Seville in South Ex. It survived barely a year. But Shalom, at Greater Kailash and Laidbackwaters, Qutab Hotel, are always packed. Owner Dhiraj Arora attributes the success to the focus on the food. The other Greek restaurant, Odysseia at CP, is run by Margarita Pappa Parmar, the Greek woman who believes in cooking herself to ensure Delhiites get authentic Greek food.

Korean Kraze

Experts say it helps when natives open their own restaurants. Miran Lee is one such example. Her first Korean restaurant Kumgang is an example. And Lee hasn’t regretted her decision of staying back in India. On a holiday in India, her friends told her about the need for an authentic Korean restaurant. Lee felt it was a good opportunity to start one of her own since she already had experience of running a restaurant way back in Seoul. So, in 2001, Kumgang, a 48-cover joint, was started in Hauz Khas. Later, it expanded to a 78-cover joint and shifted to The Ashok. “The exciting demand for Korean food helped in making my restaurant successful,” says Lee. 

Riveting Russia

The latest to join the list is Boyarin, the Russian restaurant. It was the demand from the Russians in the capital that prompted owner Arjun Amla to open this joint. The restaurant is doing pretty well and it has two Russian chefs and singers. However, it’s too early to predict if Delhiites will really bite into a Russian meal for too long. As of now Amla seems quite confident about his venture. “You won’t even get a seat if you plan to come for dinner tonight,” he warns. But others are skeptical. When’ll people eat? Russian salad? Do they know about the specialties? But Amla is not worried. After all, tomorrow is another day.

Eating out

Castle 9, a Spartan little restaurant in Connaught Place, adjacent to Plaza cinema, has packed in the whole enchilada in terms of food assortment. Ranging from Mexican to Thai, Chinese and Continental, you name it it’s there. But you can’t write off this place too quickly. It may not be the ideal eatery to visit when you want to impress your boss at a business lunch, but for the office crowd looking for both economy and variety on a day to day basis, Castle 9 is a God sent.

March 2006

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