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A dollar a dish

New eatery Chandni Chowk serves up authentic Delhi street food at rock-bottom rates.

india Updated: Jan 08, 2010 18:27 IST
Naomi Canton

A restaurant serving Delhi street food has opened up in Mumbai… and every single dish costs Rs 49. Called Chandni Chowk, the joint is a mini replica of the famous bustling area of old Delhi, renowned for its tasty street food.

Save on the flight there and be magically transported to the moonlit square at the Mega Mall in Oshiwara, instead. The difference is the food is prepared with Bisleri water, the food handlers wear gloves, and it’s air-conditioned.

Delhi flavour
Rather than cars honking, you hear ghazals, recreating the magic of what was once the greatest market of India… You feel like you’re a world away from Andheri. Pass through the Mughal-inspired facade and you find yourself in a colourful market.

A wall-sized painting faces you, depicting a road stretching out to the Red Fort. Seven real street food stalls specialise in different food types such as sweets and parathas made by chefs from the Capital.

Some stalls are replicas of actual areas in Chandni Chowk, such as Parathe Wali Gali. Others have made-up names like Dariba Sweet House, with fictitious addresses.

Coupon meal
You pay for dishes at the Bank of Chandni Chowk and then take the coupons to the stalls. You can enjoy unfamiliar dishes, though all vegetarian, like Pudhina Sikhanji (fresh lime water, black salt, mint and syrup), Pineapple Halwa, Matar Kulcha (green pea bread), Golgappe, Raj Kachori and mini Jalebi.

Customers eat in a central courtyard area on wooden tables and chairs. Fake trees, a wax model of a street barber cutting someone’s hair, a Jain temple, a mini police booth, and a moving policeman at a traffic signal, add to the ambience.

On the right side stand replicas of shops one would find in the Capital’s cultural hub, such as a sari shop, an STD phone booth, a herbal medicine shop, a watchmaker and a pottery maker, all with real corrugated shutters, and traditional houses above. A real-life bangle maker sits in the midst of them, making bangles.

The paintings on the walls emanate the chaos and romance of the market square featuring rickshaws, a gurudwara and a family. A plaque says ‘Chandu ke chacha ne Chandu ki chachi ko Chandni Chowk mein Chandni raat mein Chaandi ke chamach se Chatni chatayi.’

The owner of the street-food themed restaurant is Sanjay Pratap, of Pratap’s Restaurants, who runs Wild Dining, a jungle-themed restaurant and The Dhaba, a Punjabi restaurant.

“I wanted to make a street food-themed restaurant since I had already done jungle and Punjabi themes,” he says. This is the country’s first Indian tapas restaurant, he adds, stating that it’s based on the concept of Spanish tapas, small portions of hot and cold food.

“Many city people have never experienced anything like this,” he says. “We are serving traditional Delhi street food, but inside a mall, so it’s classy. We want to make this food accessible to everyone, as it’s very tasty, but many people don’t want to eat off the streets. I’ve kept the prices low so people can try many dishes, not just choose one if they want to have both Choley Bhature and Aloo Tikki,” he adds.

The idea is novel, and Rs 49 is cheap for a dish in Mumbai, but if you want to eat at street prices, you will have to fly to Chandni Chowk.