Rude Food by Vir Sanghvi: The boom continues!
From burgers to biryani, cuisine is no bar when it comes to ordering food at homeUpdated: Nov 22, 2020, 08:34 IST
For years and years, the idea of takeaway or delivery food in America was synonymous with Chinese food. Which of us has not seen an American movie where the hero eats a quick Chinese meal at his desk from a cardboard container? Or seen the lead couple in a state of undress enjoying a post-coital Kung Pao Chicken in bed?
And yet, the truth is that few cuisines are as unsuited to delivery or takeaway as Chinese. (The most suited, I reckon, is Indian, especially, when gravies and curries are involved.) Chinese food’s success as a takeaway cuisine is only due to a dumbing down of the food to levels that would horrify anyone who lived in China.
In reality, most Chinese food is best eaten straight from the wok because the dish starts deteriorating within five minutes of leaving the heat.
So, if you are trying to deliver non-junk Chinese food, then the challenge is to keep the textures right even after the long journey from the wok to the destination.
Some restaurants can pull it off. I once read an interview with LN Mittal in a British publication where he offered the interviewer a Chinese lunch in his office. The food came from Kai, a Michelin-starred London restaurant and he told the interviewer that though Kai did not normally do delivery, he knew them well so they made an exception for him.
Chinese food is best eaten straight from the wok as the dish starts deteriorating in five minutes of leaving the heat
I thought back to LN Mittal and Kai when I ate a delivery meal from Chi Ni at Delhi’s The Roseate. The genesis of Chi Ni was as a collaboration with Kai and though eventually the alliance sort of petered out, you can tell the Kai influences on the menu.
I have had good meals at Chi Ni, but I was curious to see how the restaurant would handle delivery. Most of what Chi Ni sent me worked even when it shouldn’t have. Despite the distance, the Chicken with Three Chillies and the Garlic Sole (sol, a local river fish) kept their texture. The dim sum worked well too. One twirl in the microwave was all it took for the Prawn Har Gow and the Pan-fried Chicken Dumplings to spring back to life. Overall, I was very impressed.
If Kai is a London stalwart, then Diva, for years the best Italian restaurant in India, is a Delhi stalwart. It is still open, does well most evenings, and delivers Ritu Dalmia’s amazing pizzas within a five kilometer radius of Greater Kailash.
The best place to enjoy Ritu’s amazing pizzas is the Italian Cultural Centre. (It is interesting that the Italian Embassy picks Ritu over many expat Italian chefs to do their catering and to run their Cultural Centre). But that is a members’-only place so delivery is the next best thing for us non-members.
But there is now a new way of enjoying Ritu’s pizzas. Last week, my wife who had never made a pizza before, took Ritu’s ready-made pizza dough and turned out a delicious Pizza margarita. (Who knew it was that easy?)
Ritu’s line of cook-at-home kits (raw pasta, risotto etc.) is now so popular that it threatens to eclipse her success as a restaurateur.
The second time my wife made a pizza from Ritu’s dough, we had a trick up our sleeves. I have known Rohit Singh from the time he began to represent Boscovivo, the Italian truffle company in India and though his main business is truffle products (paste, oil, pasta, honey etc.), he gets shipments of fresh truffles from time to time.
They are not cheap, but if you can splash out once in a while, then they are worth it for a blow-out. I got one of Rohit’s black truffles, freshly arrived that day from Italy, and shaved it generously over my wife’s pizza, loved the experience and thought warmly of Rohit and Ritu (Rohit’s Insta-handle is @trufflemeninindia).
Sticking with Ritu, one of her former chefs, is a part of Bhagat Singh VIP’s Delivery and Catering. I got a message from Monica Narula, who produced both Ritu’s and my shows in the heyday of NDTV, saying that Chef Rosario was now striking out on his own. I asked to try his food and they sent industrial quantities of seafood risotto, two kids of pasta, fish, salad etc. It is banquet food and if you have people over or are hosting a small gathering then this is probably the best place to order from.
Fresh truffles are not cheap, but if you can splash out once in a while, they are worth it for a blow-out
I heard of Burgerama through my friend Amit Patnaik, who said he loved the burgers. Then, another friend, Sanjay Kapoor, put me in touch with Kabir Bose, who runs the brand from cloud kitchens in Delhi/NCR. Kabir sent me samples of his burgers. I am a plain vanilla kind of guy, so his basic cheeseburger was my favourite. My wife liked the lamb burger (Tipsy Conrad, it is called) and I thought the overall quality was high.
The brand is pitched somewhere between fast food and restaurant cuisine. So, they use outside vendors for buns etc. (which means that the burgers travel better) and it is a sort of Indian answer to the Byron, or Five Guys sort of brand. It is very popular and I can see why.
Nandini Bhartiya wrote to me, way back in September to say, “My husband runs a home delivery joint by Bhai-G in New Friends Colony. We specialise in tandoori items.” She sent along a huge menu. Sadly, there was such a huge backlog of people who had written to me that I did not try their food till last week.
I ordered the sort of dishes you order when you are testing a kitchen: seekh kebab, kulcha, dal and keema. All of them were good − the keema had a touch of rara gosht about it and the dal was suitably dairy-assisted. I liked the seekh kebabs the best and thought that the ₹1,414 I paid represented very good value. If you live in the area, do check them out.
Manhar Sabharwat also DMed me on Instagram weeks ago. “I am the ex co-founder of The Bombaykery (which I had to sadly close down). I have started a new venture called Delhi Baking Story.”
Again, it took a while for us to connect and Manhar sent me a box of his creations, of which I particularly enjoyed his Belgian chocolate and salted caramel tart. There was a real commitment to quality and to making as many of the ingredients as possible in-house. This venture will succeed.
And so the delivery boom continues!
The views expressed by the columnist are personal
From HT Brunch, November 22, 2020
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch