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Not so enticing

The ambience makes up for the erratic service but food here needs some thought.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2010 02:20 IST

I like the Square One Mall in Saket. That may have something to do with the fact that I feel like a celebrity for whom the entire mall has shut its doors to the hoi polloi when I’m visiting. It’s that empty. Which may explain why it’s brave indeed that the former Tabula Rasa perseveres in newer incarnations.



With the addition of 400 Stone Grill, the eatery now boasts three different dining spaces — Sage and Ink inside and this al fresco diner whose hookah bar and relative seclusion could make it a hit with the youth.



Stone Grill suffers a bit of a Tommy Hilfiger design aesthetic — there are bed-like alcoves which are wonderful except for the red, blue and silver waterproof fabric. But it’s a well-designed space with seating giving the impression of private dining booths.



On a balmy winter Sunday, 400 Stone Grill was just the right place to visit. We lay on the cushions and lazily tried the double apple hookah. I don’t get the lure of the hookah but it’s a hit with young Delhiites who feel they’re doing something deliciously illicit in a country where smoking and drinking is only allowed when you’re a little longer in the tooth.



We started with an interesting sounding Japanese caterpillar (Rs 415), a nori-wrapped crispy chicken roll which turned out to be a weird deep-fried roll that looked like a large slice of eel on the plate!



The Crispy Fried Calamari rings (Rs 495) with chilli garlic sauce was nice, even with its day-glo orange batter. The calamari was cooked well and, except for the squiggles of what looked like a tomato/mustard mix that had been used to pretty up the plate, it was a well-made starter.



The USP at this eatery is the trade-marked stone grill where a heated stone is brought to your table for you to cook meat or fish. It’s healthy eating and fun. But there are two problems with this — your meat can quickly get overcooked and it’s a bit of a cheek being expected to pay good money for food you have to cook yourself.



We tried the Brazilian T-Bone (Rs 2,200), a nicely cured piece of strip and tenderloin easily shared by two people which, as expected, started drying out on the heated stone. This was served with a spicy Asian salad, and some chilli paste that looked like Bisto gravy. The gravy and chilli gave the steak some flavour but the presentation of the dish requires thought.



The Crispy fried red snapper (Rs 695) was served on a mountain of sticky rice. The fish appeared to be plain and batter-fried on which glutinous sauce had been slopped.



We asked the staff if we could try the Thai curry and they obligingly brought a small bowl of green chicken curry. This was delicious, cooked with lovely engaging flavours. Even the lemongrass was used with a gentle hand.



With much of our meal untouched, we had earned dessert. So we tried a double chocolate soufflé. Quite chocolatey but the soufflé could’ve been lighter. The ambience at 400 is great but the service veers from good to bad. The staff didn’t explain the stonegrill concept, and didn’t tell us that the restaurant has a lovely selection of exotic teas!