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Timeless excellence

india Updated: Oct 09, 2009 19:11 IST
Vasantha Angamuthu

Its décor has not changed in 30 years and the menu has been left untouched. Despite, or perhaps because of it, getting a table for dinner at Bukhara is impossible on most days. So it helps when the restaurant - flush with the success of being named by the Miele Guide as India's only entrant in the Top 20 Asian Restaurants 2009-2010 has invited you over lunch.

Delhi's iconic North West Frontier restaurant, with its clutch of awards, remains as talked about today as it was 30 years ago when the ITC Maurya Group opened its doors. It is famously a favourite of the Clintons, with special platters designed for Bill, Chelsea and now Hillary, who ate there on her recent visit to the Indian capital.

The décor is rustic and the backless seating a little uncomfortable if you plan to linger over your meal. But the service is good and the food delicious.

While foreigners enthuse about the Bukhara experience Delhiites, despite flocking to the place at every opportunity, have been heard questioning whether the hype overshadows the food and whether one should pay that much for dal makhani even if the signature Dal Bukhara does simmer for a good 18 hours before it is served.

That question is best answered by all those mothers who, when travelling abroad to visit their sons and daughters, are known to carry dozens of tins of this pedigreed dal for their homesick offspring.

Or answered by all those critics who throw awards at a restaurant that has been declared one of the 1001 things to do before you die. The menu is simple (just six dishes on the veg menu and eight on the non-veg, not counting breads and accompaniments) - there are the famous kebabs, the aforementioned Dal Bukhara, with its great depth of flavour, and a sumptuous Sikandari Raan. The raan is tender and nicely spiced and probably the best item on the menu but a Bukhara meal is incomplete without the Tandoori Jhinga - giant prawns that are cooked so well and are so flavourful that the dish can, if the budget stretches to it, become a weekly habit. A pudina parantha and onion kulcha are lovely accompaniments.

Diners at Bukhara are usually so bent on the meat dishes that the vegetables get sidelined. This is a pity as Bukhara also serves beautifully prepared vegetable kebabs - the Tandoori Aloo is a delicious combination of flavours with its stuffing of raisins and cashew nuts. Overeating is unavoidable.

Frontier favourites like the Murgh Tandoori, described on the menu as the 'King of Kebabs', and the richly spiced Barrah Kebab make it impossible not to eat past satiation. Which leaves no space for anything off the small dessert menu. If there's still room for it, the gulab jamun ends the meal on a nicely sticky sweet note.