Year 2016 held a lot of significance for the restaurant community in India. It saw so many new concepts coming up which swerved away from the beaten path – restaurants serving gluten-free food, trying to go from farm to fork, going organic, attempting to recreate nostalgia etc. etc. while not missing out on the focus on creating an ambience and atmosphere that goes with the food and gives value to the diner instead of burning a hole in her/his pocket. All this when customers are getting more and more demanding! The year also saw a “Made in India” restaurant opening an outlet overseas for the first time ever – I will not be surprised if the Chef Manish Mehrotra led Indian Accent in New York becomes the first restaurant originating from India to get a Michelin star.
I have been lucky to experience this food evolution (so to say) during the year which has made me greedily look forward to more culinary adventures in the coming New Year. But, for now, I have to share my excitement about the top 20 dishes that I tried in Delhi-NCR in 2016. These are not in any order of preference but mentioned randomly.
- Chilean Sea Bass at Bella Cucina at Le Meridien, Gurgaon is just a simple dish made well. Crisp skin with soft and juicy fish is something which has been done to perfection by Sous Chef Amit Kumar under the guidance of Executive Chef Suprabath Roy. Served along with vanilla sauce, this is certainly not to be missed.
- Chapta Kebab at Lantern Kitchen & Bar, Delhi : While restaurants in fancier locations are getting attention, this humble yet elegantly done restaurant is getting a lot of eye balls for its butter chicken. However, I especially like the Lebanese Meshwi Kebab that they call chapta kebab. The Chef brothers Jasneet and Suneet are also the owners of this place and keep delighting people with new interesting products and some crazy deals on whisky and beer.
- Burrata Cheese Salad at Del, Roseate House, Delhi : Burrata is not easily available in India as yet. Chef Anuj Wadhawan does this salad sprinkled with dry Burrata cheese so well that one just cannot miss it.
- Seekh Kebab at Baradari, Westin Hotel, Gurgaon : Seekh Kebab is so simple and widely available that very few really work on it. Sanjay Sharma, Area General Manager of Westin (now Area General Manager of Marriott and Starwood combined for North India & Nepal) is an avid foodie. He enjoys his food from the best of places all over the world but equally explores street food. He got his chef from Jama Masjid from one of his escapades and made him work with the finest of ingredients to get this delightful Seekh Kebab.
- Burma Burma, Cyber Hub, Gurgaon : After making a name for itself in Mumbai, Burma Burma opened in Gurgaon. In spite of it being a fully vegetarian restaurant, even diners who prefer non vegetarian food are going gaga over it. Tohu Mok Palata is a great value for money dish. Basically, it is shan tohu (Burmese tofu) cooked with onion, tomato and spices. The texture is something like the dry yellow urad dal and is served with flaky Burmese parantha that resembles our malabari parantha. When the taste/texture is so similar, it is very difficult not to like this dish.
- Pork Ribs at Twist, Cyber Hub, Gurgaon : The first time I had it, I just fell in love but the next time round, while it retained the texture, it was a bit salty. I would still like to keep it in my list of best 20 dishes of 2016.
- Trio Hummus Platter, Zizo, Delhi : The 3 types of hummus – traditional, spicy and basil hummus served with fresh pita is not only comforting but addictive too.
- T T Lamb Chop at Prankster, Gurgaon is not only one of the best but absolutely the best lamb chops I have had where TT stands for tender tandoori. Chef Harangad who has worked with many leading names all over the world is back in India to delight the diners. If I had to choose another dish out of his menu then I would surely go for his Dahi Bhalla Ice Cream, a very modern yet tasty take on the earthy dahi bhalla.
- Fish & Chips at Capital Kitchen, Taj Palace, Delhi : This is one of the latest additions in the dining space and very fresh in my mind. Serving comfort food from all over the world where Taj has their properties, these fish and chips are to die for. Battered sole fish is fresh and moist inside while retaining it’s extremely crunchy outside. Served with chips and Italian crush parsley, one knows that the chef has really followed the London recipe.
- Sorrento, Shangri-La, Delhi : Everyone does pizza but if you have to try one of the best pizzas in town, apart from their excellent cheese collection, then head towards Sorrento where Chef Neeraj Tyagi and his team are doing a brilliant job.
- Lamb Shank at Diya, Leela, Gurgaon : The quality of shanks used and the sous vide preparation that makes the meat just fall apart !
- Indigo, Cyber hub, Gurgaon : You don’t get cheese steak sandwich in NCR and even if you do by accident, it would hardly be half as good as the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich done by Indigo.
- Circus, South Ex, Delhi: I just love the kheer it serves. Good portion size and the consistency is similar to that of Bengali payesh. Try their sookha mutton too.
- Thai House, GK, Delhi : Saurabh Khanijow, owner of Kylin, has recently started Thai House in GK. I have always had fish wrapped in Grilled Prawn Parcels. Two prawns with grated coconut on a bed of cabbage, basil and red eye chilli are done to perfection. It is very easy to overcook prawns and especially when they are wrapped inside a banana leaf. But these were soft and juicy, sweet from the coconut and spicy from the chilli. Chef Nikkhil Kanwar knows his prawns.
- Lavana, The Hyatt Regency, Gurgaon : Masterchef India finalist Chef Jayanandan Bhaskar makes an amazing Raan Tikki. With the sweetness coming through raisins and heat coming from ginger and complimenting each other so well, do try the dish at this restaurant which is currently open only on Saturdays for dinner for a set meal.
- Yum Yum Cha, Cyber Hub and Gurgaon : Mochi Ice Creams make a child out of adults and Yum Yum Cha has plentiful options to tease and please. The colourful balls of homemade ice cream coated with rice dough shells are extremely inviting. With different flavours like Coconut and Jaggery, chocolaty Rocky Road, Mango and very localized Paan flavour (a local natural mouth freshener cum digestive) and the newly introduced Black berry, this is the perfect dessert.
- Balti Meat at Dhaba : This dish is nothing new but as Dhaba by Claridges transitions to Dhaba after being bought by Azure Hospitality, I just couldn’t have missed this all time favourite where Chef Ravi Saxena has ensured that the quality does not slip over the years.
- Aam Papad at Molecule, Gurgaon : If best things in life are free, then this is the proof. Served complimentary post meal, this chewy and thin papad eaten with black salt grows on you. Chef Piyush Jain has many new dishes in his menu and while I enjoyed many other dishes, this one takes the cake.
- Norwegian Salmon at The Grill Room, The Lalit, Delhi : The herb crusted char grilled salmon is served with dill butter emulsion. The flakiness and freshness of the fish is a treat. One just cannot go wrong with this order.
- Organic Tomato Salad at IT, Grand Hotel, Delhi : This restaurant is surely an underdog. Never have I tasted so many different varieties of tomatoes served all at once. Organic Tomato Salad by Chef Nilesh showcases luscious red, juicy cherry, fruity orange, tart green, and the nutrient rich purple served simply but deliciously with olive oil, tomatillo sauce and sea salt – as refreshing and intriguing as a Tuscan summer.
- Yes, I said my top 20 dishes. But this is a Christmas and New Year time and hence here is a bonus from me. One cannot miss Matnakosh, a farmer’s bread that resemble the ploughed field, at Lavaash by Saby at Delhi. This is just a side dish made by talented young Chef Megha Kohli, but the buttery fresh aroma with bites of chironjee seed makes it so yum that I have to add it to my top list.
As a foodie, these are some of the memories that I am taking away with me from 2016. Do try them if you haven’t so far – I am pretty sure you would not be disappointed.