Capital treat

Last Updated: Fri, May 25, 2012 19:22 hrs

For a salesman, time is money, so meals are meant to be had on the move. Experienced salesman Samil Malhotra goes back to basics and identifies eight eateries in Delhi where a sales professional can pause to refuel. His aim is to eat well, and well within his budget of Rs 100

Sitaram Dewan Chand
Yes, I went to Paharganj, not for the muesli and banana lassi/bacon-and-eggs breakfast, or the minute steak and beer at Metropolis (a 75-year-old restaurant with Continental food), not to eat exotic Korean food or even to smoke the peace pipe, or even to hire a Royal Enfield motorcycle. I have to confess I went there to eat the humble chana-bhatura at Sitaram Dewan Chand — a 60-odd-year-old establishment near Imperial Cinema, Chuna Mandi. Sitaram started a pushcart at DAV School in the late 1940s, and later acquired a shop with Dewan Chand. Now it has been passed on to Pawan Kohli and his rotund son, the cashier. One can say a lot about the lovely chana-bhaturas. The chanas are nice, deep dark, flavourful. The bhaturas are good, travel easily and don’t go bad or soggy. Even at the restaurant, they served pre-made bhaturas (sacrilege in other places, here no one seems to mind). We ask for freshly-made bhaturas and get them. The add-on of aloo subzi is nice and the accompaniments — raw mango pickle, masala green chili and onions — are great. A great combination for Rs 28 for the chana-bhatura and about Rs 12 for the aloo-subzi. And you’re ready to run cool on heavy fuel.

I ask Kohli where to get a good lassi, and he says, avoid it. Honestly, a cold lassi after greasy food turns it into sludge. Well, we’re ready to take the risk. The lassi shop below Metropolis Restaurant has a heavy Israeli influence. It sells sweet lassi, mango lassi, apple lassi, banana lassi, pineapple lassi, apricot lassi and many more. We have sweet lassi for Rs 15 each, nice and frothy. That makes lunch for five for Rs 140 (with complementary aloo subzi) and lassi for five for Rs 90. In all, that’s Rs 230 for a meal for five people.

The holy trinity
Like the Hindu holy trinity (of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva), I draw an analogy of the three canteens in and around the journalists’ precinct — the canteens at the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), United News of India (UNI) and Press Trust of India (PTI).

INS: The Sri Krishna Caterers at the INS are a breakaway or splinter group of the caterers at Andhra Bhawan. We — there are three of us — have a hot, quick, standing breakfast of soft and succulent idlis (two plates), hot and steaming upma (two plates), a plate of vada and perhaps a coffee each. The idlis and upma are nice, the vada forgettable. All we pay is Rs 80.

UNI: A true heavyweight in terms of a canteen, it has been around since 1961. Earlier, the South Indian Swamis ran it but the management has changed several times since. Our experience is quick and hurried. It’s an outdoor dining with a shed for a kitchen. The quantities being cooked are enormous. We have upma, a plate of vada and two coffees at a handsome amount of Rs 37. The vadas are really nice, fresh and piping hot. The upma is a little flat.

PTI: The cafeteria is a gloomy tube-lit affair. It’s 5 pm and we decide to check out nearly everything on offer. Here goes: three samosas, bread and butter, one aloo bonda and a pakora followed by a made-in-Kashmir litchi drink — all for Rs 50. The experience was just about average. Perhaps lunch is a better time to be here.

This completes my tour of the Holy Trinity in and around Rafi Marg.

Parsi Anjuman
I, with two friends, get into the clean and serene Parsi Anjuman next to Delhi Gate, exchange pleasantries with Dhun Bagli, the manager, and sit down in the dining hall. It has half a dozen tables for six people each, a fireplace and mantelpiece with black-and-white photos in old frames.

We ask for a meal for three. The waiter comes and places a large platter of brown, caramelised rice or pulao, garnished with eight potato dumplings, a plate of banana leaf-wrapped fish (I guess it is river sole) — the Parsi patra ni machi. Then come three portions of chicken dhansak. Strangely, all the portions on every table have only chicken legs. It is good, homemade Parsi food, wholesome, not too spicy and delicately flavoured. Enjoyable. Magically, three portions of the dessert, lagan nu custard (caramel custard, crusted with resins), appear.

We polish off everything. The bill mentions three lunches for Rs 450. Oops, we have broken the Rs 100 limit!

Malabar Restaurant, Sarai Julena
I love Bengali and Malayali food. This evening, eight of us are at Sarai Julena, near Escorts Hospital. The order for eight burly guys is: beef chilly fry, beef masala, beef curry, chicken chilly/pepper, chicken masala, chicken curry, beef biryani, chicken biryani, a single mackerel fried and 36 porrotas. Rudimentary flavours (could be better), value for money, slow service (they can handle twosomes and threesomes, not eightsomes). The place is in a lane going inside Sarai Julena where you first see a restaurant called Joy’s then a video sale/rental and a jewellery store. Turn right and climb a few stairs into the tubelit Malabar Restaurant with steel-backed chairs. The meal cost us Rs 650 for eight people. That’s well below Rs 100 for local or near-local exotica. Actually, it’s Rs 81.25 per person.

Wish sandwich
The place, Novelty Dairy and Store on Birbal Road in Jangpura, also known as Hawkers House, has nice sandwiches. As you enter, you walk past the store and the passage leads to a long hall with 20 ft bar tables (got from The Oberoi down the road). With six bar stools, this must be one of the only sandwich bars which looks like a bar.

This was once a bar, until the laws changed. It goes back 53 years to when Shanti Swarup, the founder and Partition refugee, set up this place. It was passed on to his son Sidharth in September 2008.

You get sandwiches which are delicate, soft and tasty. We buy two ham (Rs 50), one chicken (Rs 45) and one set of tuna sandwiches (Rs 55). They are all good. The ham is cut in slivers on slightly buttered bread and spread with homemade mayonnaise. The chicken is more like a chicken ham with the rest done like the ham. A set of four triangle sandwiches comes with mint chutney and tomato ketchup.

Food of the Mughals
Apart from Karim’s, the famous nahari joints in the walled city are Haji Noora, Sarabati, Kallu Nahari and Siddique. I join a group of enthusiasts from a community called Eating Out In Delhi. We meet at 7 am at the Pul Bangash Metro station, take a short trek to the Bara Hindu Rao area, to Haji Noora.

He is known as the high priest of nahari and has been around for three or four decades. We step into Haji Noora’s cook house-and-eatery, remove our shoes and settle in with a melee of morning breakfasters, ranging from tourists to beggars, chowkidars, shopkeepers, labourers and enthusiasts. The head of the nahari service, Shaifuddin, asks, “With ghee or without?” We say without; it’s already swimming in fat. The head of rotis regards us with circumspection, then serves rotis as they come out of the tandoor. For six naharis and rotis the bill is a princely Rs 144.

The nahari is, at its best, a spicy and flavourful gravy with a tender paste of pulverised meat and marrow. It is served in a chipped white enamel bowl with maida rotis. They have run out of nalli nahari and are soon running out of nahari. And it is only 7.45 am. We walk out and have some sweet suji (semolina) halwa with a massive puri: Rs 10 per person. For nearly Rs 210, six people eat well.

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