Everything about Russian national Aleksandr Melnikov is understated. Including his small Russian restaurant, Bline at Anand Niketan, with the four neatly laid out tables and a tiny adjoining kitchen. Only today, this six-year-old joint — and owner Melnikov himself — enjoys a rather loyal clientele, who lap up the homestyle Russian blines (pancakes), a glass of kompot and Russian momos. <b1>
“I came to Delhi as a tourist seven years ago. I have never wanted to go back again,” says Melnikov. Soon after his first visit, the entrepreneur in him had it all figured out — since the city had no Russian restaurants, he could plan one of his own. “I had no experience in India. But I believe that good food always does well,” he says.
So armed with his cooking skills, Melnikov started the 20-cover Bline with wife Elena. Soon word had spread about the blines, the bortz soup and, of course, the authentic Russian salad. “About 80 percent of my clients now are Indians, the rest are expats. They all are eager to try Russian food and they like it. It’s healthy, easy to cook and has subtle flavours,” says the 50-year-old, who comes from Vladivostok in Eastern Russia. And Delhi’s avid foodies; diners in search of newer palates to tickle their tastebuds, gave Bline a clear thumbs up.
Perhaps why Melnikov is much at home in Delhi today. Even though his daughters and his mother are back in Russia, Melnikov wants to stay. “I love this city. It’s easy to live here, easy to do business, and so many places to enjoy life.” From procuring all his supplies from Moti Bagh and INA market to enjoying an evening of chole bhature at Green Park, the city caters to almost all their needs. And Indian food? “Oh, I love the tandoori chicken, the Afghani chicken and dal makhni,” says the mild-mannered restaurateur who dreams of opening a restaurant in the nearby Basant Lok market, one day. Until then, there’s always the warm blines with sour cream, or chocolate, at Bline.