Thursday, July 23, 2009

Delhi Restaurant Recommendations

I have to help plan a foreign correspondents' tour for the company I work for that is schedule for next month. As part of that, Bridget, our PR person in the UK, asked for a list of great restaurants in the Delhi area. I contacted the Yuni-Net group and they came forward with lots of suggestions. I trust their palates - most of them are expats and local fellow foodies. Here is a compilation of their responses:

Bukhara is an overused favourite, but how "authentic" an experience do you want to give them? (NOTE: I think this place is overrated and over priced, but people swear by it.) Bukhara has a string of awards to its name, including being voted "Best Indian Restaurant in the World" and "Best Restaurant in Asia" by the Restaurant Magazine in the UK. It's known for its rustic atmosphere, unforgettable kababs, and huge family size naan bread. Be sure to make a reservation.
  • Address: ITC Maurya Sheraton Hotel, Diplomatic Enclave, Sadar Patel Marg, New Delhi. Ph: 26112233.
  • Opening Hours: 12.30 p.m. to 2.45 p.m. for lunch on weekends. 7.30 p.m. to 11.45 p.m. for dinner daily.
  • Cost: Around 4,500 rupees ($100) for two people.
  • What's Good: The Dal Bukhara (black lentils simmered overnight with tomatoes, ginger, and garlic) has achieved legendary status. Kabab lovers will also appreciate the Burrah Kabab and Murgh Malai Kabab.

Karim Restaurant in the old city is a personal favourite for visitors, but it isn't haute cuisine. There are 3 of them and my favorite one is near Jama Masjid - a real north Indian experience! I believe the one in Nizzamuddin is also great. (mainly non veg) The popular Karim Hotel is now in its fourth generation of management, having been established in its current location in 1913. The decor of this restaurant is nothing much to look at, but the food more than makes up for it. Karim Hotel offers inexpensive Mughal style cooking at its best. Its location in Old Delhi also provides a fascinating insight into a side of Delhi that many visitors don't get to see.
  • Address: 16, Gali Kebabian, Jama Masjid, Old Delhi. Ph: 23269880.
  • Opening Hours: 7 a.m. to midnight.
  • Cost: Around 500 rupees ($12) for two people.
  • What's Good: The Dil Bahaar Dopiaza Stew (mutton cooked without water in onions with curd and unground spices) and Dil Pasand (Heart's Liking) Seekh Kabab.

The Orient Express at the Taj Palace Hotel. French Cuisine. It's fine dining in a replica of the legendary train itself. Everything is served on Silverware - expensive and fabulous experience

Ai, Japanese cuisine, really exotic and amazing display of food. Have the noodle salad served in a straw basket on a block of ice. It's on the 4th floor MGF Mall, Saket, with an open air bar lounge on the terrace...

Lodhi Garden Restaurant is nice.

Magique (in Five Senses Garden) is excellent.

(close to chatarpur).

Indian Accent: It has recently been awarded best modern Indian restaurant by HT Eating out guide + it is the personal favorite of Vir Sanghvi (India's best food critic). It is slightly expensive though. About Rs. 1500-2200 per head. Located at The Manor, 77 Friends Colony (West). . 26925151

Chor Bizarre - India's Restaurant. It’s the best north Indian Restaurant in town as well as serves best Kashmiri cuisine. It has branches in Delhi, Noida & Gurgaon. Has a branch is London too. Average price will be Rs. 500 per head. Visit

Varq at Taj Man Singh (Modern Indian). at Hotel Taj Palace, Mansingh Road - Very high class Indian Mughlai

360 Degrees Restaurant at the Oberoi is excellent and a fun place for a group (NOTE – my friend is a journalist and she’d love to be taken there!) Nice sushi bar (you can't have Indian every night ...

Swagath in Defence Colony Market - South Indian Mughlai is fantastic. Not five star, and unpretentious, but a really good place to pull apart a chili seasoned crab). Go there for the best butter garlic crab this side of india. Fresh and to-die-for. Five people mentioned the crab.

For Pan-asian food, you absolutely must try Chili Seasons at Defence Colony main market. They have a Singapore food festival on at the moment - the food is sumptuous! Oh, and they also have a beer festival running. You can read what other diners have to say about the place at burrp! -

Veda on Outer Circle, Connaught Place - Indian Mughlai, hip, stylish yet Indian

Olive Bar and Kitchen
in the Hotel Ambassador Chanakyapuri - amazing place, ambiance and food are great

Olive Beach
@ Hotel Diplomat, Malcha Marg, - Italian cuisine is really good. Not the cheapest though...

on Janpath, Hotel Janpath - Italian Cuisine

Punjabi By Nature
The multi-level Punjabi By Nature is a hip and elegant place, with waiters clad in traditional Punjabi attire. It's known for its unique creation of vodka gol gappas -- fried crispy shells filled with flavored vodka and other spices. The food is excellent, servings are generous, and the atmosphere warm and inviting. There's also a bar on the upper floor. You can combine dining with shopping, as the restaurant is located in an enticing and stylish shopping complex.
  • Address: 11 PVR Priya Cinema Complex, Basant Lok, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi. Ph: 41516666.
  • Opening Hours: 12.30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Cost: Around 2000 rupees ($50) for two people, including drinks.
  • What's Good: The Raan-e-Punjab (roast leg of lamb), Naan bread, and vodka Gol Gappas.

Zest @ DLF Emporio Vasant Kunj. (A mall to be seen if you haven’t yet!) - World Cuisine [Reviews: and ]

Spectra @ The Leela Gurgaon

Azzuro - Saket near Cinema (NOTE – There’s one in Gurgaon that I frequent. It’s nice. Great mixed drinks.) - Italian/Mediterranean

- Saket in Select City Walk - Italian/Mediterranean

Tamura - Poorvi Marg - Vassant Vihar - the most terrific Japanese restaurant in Delhi but may be not recommended for vegetarians...

Cafe de Paris - GK1 N block Market – French cuisine

Naivedyam - Haus Khas village - very lovely deco and absolutely fantastic vegetarian South Indian food.

Oh Calcutta! - Super Bengali food. Near Nehru Place just after the Eros Continental in that big building facing the Satyam Cineplex.

Yum Yum Tree: Indian Fusion.

Spice Route, Imperial Hotel - excellent food.

Smoke House Grill, GK2 - bar + restaurant.

Park Balluchi is located in Green Park, Safdarjung - All the embassy people go there for dinner. Fantastic food and ambience.

Well, that's my list of restaurants I'll be visiting over the next few months, for sure. As it happens, InterNations is having a "thing" on Saturday at Park Balluchi's, so that will be the first one I check off the list. I'll let you know what I think. :-)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Welcome to India, Newbie.

I have a good online friend, a fellow blogger who chronicled her move to India and just arrived this past weekend. If you haven't had a chance to read her stuff, you're missing out:

Her latest post discusses her initial reactions to living her western lifestyle while witnessing the India around her. This is the initial reaction everyone has upon arrival. "How can I help the poor and wretched especially as I have so much?" (said with a whiny voice) I see this all the time.

First, let me say, this is my personal opinion based on years of living here in India. I am not a person of Indian origin, so my views are based on personal observation and responses to questions asked of people from here of many different backgrounds. Your background/responses to my questions may vary.

I struggled with "the poverty dilemma" many years ago on my first trip for a year in Mumbai. The family I stayed with were extremely wealthy, even by western standards. I had immaculate chappals and sandals because a family of cobblers lived just outside the walls of the family compound and I was sure to give them business as often as I could. They were raising four children on the sidewalk. One of my fellow students at Sir J.J. College of Architecture lived in the slums out near the airport, even then a formidable place. It wasn't something he was proud to tell people but he wasn't ashamed of it, either. He was studying to become an architect and lived under a tarp. He failed to see the irony.

I learned a lot about disparity but I also learned a lot about acceptance, perhaps even resignation. If people want to better their situation by whatever measurement they choose, they can, regardless of their circumstances and disabilities. This country is full of people that have bootstrapped their way to leading global companies while being barely literate. Parents really value their children's education and understand the investment they are making in their children's future. This country is full of people who have built manufacturing plants, became successful shopkeepers, movie stars... There are political leaders here from the very lowest of the castes. You can be successful here if you sincerely want to be. But it's not easy.

The situation can be partially explained in a couple of areas, one cultural, one just human. The cultural one is based on the idea that when you are born into a certain circumstance, you stay in that circumstance and if you do the best you can, perhaps in your next life, you will be born into a better circumstance. (My father upon hearing this, mused that perhaps this belief construct developed as a way of controling such a large population and waxed philosophical. It became a source for many political and religious discussions throughout the years.) It also creates pressure on sons to join the family business: "My father is a leatherworker, then I must become a leather worker, too." This is fundamental to the culture here. You'll hear this everywhere: Aunties complaining about a son that refuses to join the family business or expresses shock that son of a house servant wants to become a doctor, which to them is clearly "not their place". Not a big fan of the Auntie.

The second is the basic and fundamental human fear of change. You can't get those kids from "Slumdog Millionaire" to move from the slums of Mumbai and the western world is clearly perplexed. There's a reason for that. That's where their community is. Moving to a flat in a skyscraper does not allow them to stay connected to their own familial sense of community and personal identity. Even if you moved the whole family, the satellite persons involved intrafamily in their little world would contraindicate the move. The slums of Mumbai in particular are extremely complex cities in their own right with their own infrastructures, stores, restaurants, tea stalls, liquor stores, tailors, electricians, political machines, social programs, even quasi-health care, etc. that are entirely independent of any government programs and are completely self-funded. Numerous studies have been published as to the intricacies of this organically grown, undocumented subculture. I am not in any way defending this way of life. It is A way of life and should be accepted as the way some people choose to live.

The beggars are another known, unwelcome quantity. Never, ever give them money. As a foreigner, you've got a big target on your back and you will be contributing to the problem. The more mangled and disabled, the more money a beggar can bring in. They in turn end up giving most of that money to a Beggar Master. Babies are rented to increase your pity as well. There is an entire industry devoted to the separating of you from your rupees and every rupee you give will induce new beggar masters to lop off more hands and blind other children in their greed. They're not dirty because they haven't access to water - it's for the effect. Clean beggars won't earn as much as a dirty one. Water is available - it is finding potable, drinking water that is always an issue. They can certainly bathe and wash clothes. Another thing that I've seen in Rajasthan is using sand to clean pots and even skin (think of it like loose pumice) with a quick rinse of a mere cup or two of water. Indians, as a general rule, keep their homes and persons impeccably clean. (How they handle public spaces is an entirely different issue. LOL.)

Overall, it takes a while to even start to grasp the complexity that is India, just as it must be a challenge to all the Indians that have emigrated to the States... all that space with no one on the streets... the way people stand so far away from you (that pesky personal space issue again), the way people in America drive, stand in line, pay tips, say "Thank you" (You know who I'm talkin'bout - Bengali in da house! - long story), wash their own clothes, clean their own houses, tend their children... the lack of familial contact... It has to feel so very lonely... or liberating. :-)

I know I'm going to catch hell for this post. Again, please see my words above in bold. I'm still learning about this place and if I've made incredibly uninformed comments, please let me know - I find this puzzle called India fascinating and I'm learning as I go.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Frightening Electrical Panels in Indian Modern Homes

Okay, someone in the house wanted to document the mess that we call our electrical panel. Here's the service.

There is no cover, so it is exposed to all the elements, wind-borne dust, monsoon rains, etc. Nothing is labeled so figuring out what appliance or circuit is the problem becomes a mystery. You can't even tell which apartment is the problem.

Circuit Breaker Panel. Notice that the panel did not trip, but burned instead, in the lower right corner. The electricians come to the house and they don't even carry a screwdriver with them, let alone a tester, wire stripper, electrical tape, caps, extra wire (WTF!), etc. What kind of professional doesn''t show up with their tools? I wish I had a photo of the one electrician's drill. He had used leftover wire from previous jobs to plug it in; there had to have been three or four different wires all badly taped togther and NO PLUG! He would just stick the two wire ends into the socket... go figure. When we lived in Kolkata, there used to be a commercial that would run occasionally launching a new product line of wires "Guaranteed Not to Catch Fire". Um... shouldn't that be a given for all indoor wiring products? (WTF again.)

Closeup of the burnt wire.

Current inverter/battery setup that is connected to the grid. These two batteries power a three-family household, sometimes for a full day. Notice the layer of dust everywhere. Delhi is so very dusty,especially at this time of the year. I haven't heard back yet about the hybrid inverter system with the solar panel hookup. I'm hoping that will get sorted out as soon as possible.

BTW, if anyone knows a capable local electrician who can rewire our house to handle the electrical load we would greatly appreciate the phone number.

Cheers, Jeanne

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ode to the Tiffin

I've been reading a lot lately about the evil that plastic does. In India, there is a traditional container called a "tiffin", made of steel, typically comprising two or three, even four separate containers, that stack above each other, encased in metal springloaded arms that also feature a handle. These containers are getting used less and less as plastic, thermos-like products emerge in the local stores. The original steel containers are typically less than half the cost of the new plastic ones and extremely durable. I've seen these costing anywhere from 200 rupees (less than US$ 5.00) and up.

I like the old tiffins. I also like the steel cups and plates that are traditionally used here. Perhaps it's because plastic and glass are so prevalent in the U.S., that you can't GET them there. I've only seen decent steel cups and glasses in very high end department stores and designer showrooms at home. We also have marble floors here in India, so if you drop something made of glass, it shatters on impact, therefore, with son and dog in the house, glass products have nearly as short a shelflife as the ubiquitous Starbucks takeout coffee container.

When I go back to the States next time, I will be bringing along enough steel to set up a new home as gifts for friends and family. They can't get it, it's green, and it's fairly affordable. All good things, in my mind.