Tears stream down my cheeks as I sit to write this review. No, I haven’t suddenly become more overtly passionate about food than I’ve always been. It’s because I’ve just come back after having the spiciest, yet the yummiest meal ever.
A tryst with Jor Bagh market in South Delhi took me and a friend to Purana Villa, a popular Indian eatery in the area, often recommended for its Mangalorean or Konkani dishes. The place is not really fancy, but it’s neat and decent. The décor is too simple considering its ‘posh’ Jorbagh address, with the 48-seater laying the entire emphasis on food and service, both of which score. The strangely tilted glasses on the table, that, at the outset, give you an impression that you’ve got tipsy even before you’ve started drinking, are quite amusing.
Coming back to spices, well, the pre-set table, apart from the usual chutneys, has a bowl of large, friend green chillies wrapped in the most delicious spice powder, so the stage for what is to come is set before you even order. To be fair to the staff, they duly asked if we wanted our food very, medium or less spicy, and we bravely chorused — very. Well then that’s exactly how it turned out to be.
We started with Ambi and Murg Salad (Rs 160), a beautifully decorated preparation of raw mango and chicken salad served in papad cones. The taste is great, but despite the generous portions, I would advise you to go slow on the raw mango unless you want your throat to go for a toss the next morning. The next starter turned out to be a real star. Samundari Ratan (Rs 650), grilled jumbo prawns wrapped in a spicy paste was truly excellent — the humongous prawns being most succulent and well cooked.
Apart from the coastal fare, the restaurant, with a well equipped bar, has an elaborate Mughlai and Awadhi menu. But a small, additional menu stapled to the main, caught our attention. It was the ‘quail’ or Bataer menu, a specialty of the place. Now, the exotic bird’s meat is quite a rarity in Delhi, so we ditched the usual Mughlai fare to order for Bataer 65, a la the famous ‘chicken 65’, with many a folklore about the origin of the fiery, spicy dish. The batter fried quail looked fairly interesting but tasted a tad bit over fried and dry. In hindsight, maybe a quail dish with Kashmiri or Mangalorean gravy would’ve been a better choice.
Trying to focus on the quail, we ordered for yellow Dal Sultani (Rs 265) as accompaniment and it tasted well, though one wished for a bit more tangy flavour. The other main course, Machhi Curry (Rs 495), described in the menu as ‘home style’ fish curry was good and fresh, but with a thick creamy gravy, one wondered if it was really as home style as claimed. Too full for dessert and after crying buckets post the delicious, spicy treat, we headed out, promising ourselves that we shall be back whenever in the mood to shed some more happy tears.
Where: Purana Villa, 4/172 Jor Bagh Market, New Delhi
Meal for two: Rs 2,000