What makes two persons, one office-weary and the other driverless-weary to hit the 7 o’clock evening traffic on a mundane Wednesday? An opportunity to taste the new Cocktail Club menu, being introduced by Smoke House Grill, at GK II, New Delhi. Braving the mad rush of office-goers seeking the comfort of their homes, Pawan and I left the comfort of ours for this redefined watering-hole cum-culinary hot-spot.
The cuisine at Smoke House Grill needs no introduction to the NCR crowd. “The most awarded bar in Delhi”, it is celebrated for its innovative and pioneering gastronomy which attributes they were now attempting to transfer to their cocktails. We were greeted by the urbane and affable Siddharth Mathur, Director Food, who explained the novelty behind the new cocktail menu that shall be available to the patrons for their enjoyment and indulgence. He went on to draw our attention to the pricing of some of the items on the menu, two drinks for the price of one, dispelling the notion that the place smokes out the wad of GOI guaranteed printed paper from your wallet. He further elaborated on the ingredients and the mixing processes of some of the cocktails. Then, without further ado, he invited us to feel free to ask for any cocktail/s of our choice and moved on to confer his much in demand attention and hospitality to the slowly but steadily trickling in glamour crowd.
I first tried the Watermelon-vodka martini Jello, a specialty of the place upon Mr. Mathur’s recommendation. The canapé-sized fruit and alcohol-flavoured jello appealed to the non-alcoholic in me, the natural fructose teased by the mild bite of the vodka, while the citrus notes of the Mandarin-vodka jello, were refreshing. Pawan did the honours with the dark brown Maple Bourbon and the transparent Gin tonic. At Rs.1500/- the four piece sampler seemed steep but then when was alcohol, that too the better variety, cheap in our country?
I next requested for their Deconstructed Watermelon Caprioska but my request was misconstrued and as if to challenge my abysmal alcohol threshold, I was served a much stronger Burn Bourbon Burn, a concoction of cinnamon smoked bourbon, maple and bitters. The martini glass held a pale coral pink, translucent version of the prefered choice of the local populace. Whisky of any provenance, be it malt or corn is not my cup of tea! The maple could not soften the smoky sting of the bourbon and I had to leave it standing, forlorn and unfinished.
On the other hand, Pawan who had ordered the same drink seemed to savour it thoroughly. As if to show me that he is made of sterner stuff, he went on to try their Burst 52, one of the bar’s Molecular shots comprising of Baileys and Kahlua spheres in Cointreau. The B52 came in short glasses with two soft balls of the liqueurs floating inside. Reminiscent of the Lays Chips commercial, the quantum physics-tinkered drink left Pawan such a pleased man that he could not stop with just one. He requested for an Eye of the Tiger, which had Jose Cuervo, (one of the connoisseur’s choice of tequilas) Sambuca and cranberry. It definitely hit bulls-eye with Pawan.
By now the reading public must have got the flawed impression that the mission of Smoke House Grill’s that night was to see the two Indian Food Freak’s totally smashed by supplying them with endless form-twisted alcoholic drinks. It is my pleasure to clarify that there was a steady supply of tapas style snacks that made their way to our table throughout our sojourn.
The Chorizo and mushroom on a puff pastry was a clear winner. The pastry was served warm, light and flaky with fried chorizo and sautéed mushroom. Pawan and I couldn’t have enough of it. The next to troop in was Spinach tempura, crispy and wafer thin with a tangy mushroom topping. It simply melted in our mouths. That was followed by an original interpretation of the caprese salad, with the tomato and mozzarella slices mounted on a slice of toasted bread flavoured by a tiny dollop of in-house chilli jam. The flavours were undoubtedly, mediterranean. The other cold tapa that was served was the sautéed bell pepper contrasted with a small sliver of Camembert cheese on a slice of baguette. The freshly cut basil leaves garnish gave the snack a whiff of pesto without the heaviness of the sauce.
The palate-satisfying baked potato ring filled with mildly spiced mayonnaise reminded me of the popular patatas bravas of Spain. The Chicken satay was less joyful not for its taste but because it was served cold. Intrigued however, by its uncommon taste I indulged in the kindness of a friendly waiter who informed that the satay was flavoured with reshampatti, a Gujarati chilli similar to the jalapeno. It rendered an uncommon tangy taste to the satay which is usually served flavoured by East Asian spices. And the ever-helpful Google search reiterated my conclusion that it is indeed a competent substitute to the Thai chilli pepper.
IFF’s vote goes unanimously to the miniature Grilled Lamb patties served that evening. The tiny medallions of minced lamb marinated with spices were superlative. The hung curd marinade ensured that the meat remained moist while being grilled. The result was a soft but meaty, middle-eastern spiced morsel of perfect delight.
The detraction to an otherwise perfect evening was the Fried Calamari. The squid rings were soft enough and well cooked but the batter covering it had a chewy texture even when served hot. Here is something that the chef got wrong that evening. Perhaps a deconstruction or two may fix it.
Similarly, service could be tweaked too as Pawan had to repeat his request for one of the sample cocktails more than twice and they got my choice of cocktail wrong.
As the crowd got thicker and the decibel level higher, I thought it was time for Pawan and I to gather our coattails and bid adieu to the cocktail club. The cocktails were a perfect foil to an original and inventive tapas menu. With changes in the décor and lighting, and a revamped scrumptious menu satisfying both hungry mouths and parched throats, Smoke House Grill has many promises to keep.
Rating out of 5
Food: 3.5 | Drinks: 3.5 | Ambience: 4.0 | Service: 4.0 | Overall: 3.5
Meal for two: Rs. 2000| Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes | Timings: 12.00 noon -1:00 am
Address: Smoke House Grill, 2, VIPPS Centre, North Wing, LSC Masjid Moth, Greater Kailash II, New Delhi | Telephone: 011-41435531