The Taste with Vir Sanghvi: Here are the top 17 restaurants in New Delhi
In this week’s column, Vir Sanghvi lists his favourite Delhi restaurants, from Bukhara and Delhi Pavilion to SodaBottleOpenerWala and Wasabi.Updated: Mar 07, 2018 09:09 IST
People keep asking me what my favourite restaurants are. The truth is that just as I don’t have a favourite cuisine, favourite movie, favourite book or favourite drink, I find it hard to single out favourite restaurants or favourite anything, for that matter.
But here is a list of the restaurants I do go to in Delhi. Bear in mind that because I travel so much, I tend to eat at home when I am in Delhi and go out for dinner relatively rarely. And that I loathe driving for long distances. So my chosen restaurants tend to be places near my home.
These are the restaurants where I would go for a quiet dinner with the family.
Shang Palace: The best Chinese food in India by a long way. The Shangri-La is a chain owned by overseas Chinese proprietors and there are many Shang Palaces all over the world, some with Michelin stars.
The Delhi outpost maintains the high standards of the brand but breaks slightly from the original format by including more Sichuan food than other Shang Palaces where menus tend to be a little more Cantonese-oriented.
I order the Shrimp Cheung Fan, the Crispy Barbecued Pork, the Double Fried Pork, the Sichuan Fish in Chilli Oil, the cold cucumber salad, the Lamb skewers with cumin and at the end, a simple stomach-filler of perfect Egg Fried Rice.
There are three expat Chinese chefs but I tend to deal with the hotel’s F&B Supremo, Neeraj Tyagi, who I have known through his various jobs and whose excellent food has helped turn the Delhi Shangri La around.
The China Kitchen: My other favourite Chinese restaurant. I usually leave it to Chef Zhang to decide what he wants to cook but of the regular menu items, the spare ribs on a bed of fried garlic and the magnificent Peking Duck are justly famous. I also like the French Beans with Minced Pork and the many home-style pork dishes that Chef Zhang keeps dishing up.
Set’z: I loved this restaurant when my friend Prasanjit Singh opened it as Zest and I love it just as much now. The Thai chef (from Bangkok’s Peninsula) is terrific and I usually leave the menu to her. But Set’z is a multi-cuisine restaurant so I also order the silky Cheung Fan from the Chinese section, the crisp falafel from the Lebanese kitchen and the prawns fried with bedgi chillies from the coastal section. The Napoleon Pastry is an all-time classic, so order that if you want a memorable dessert.
Set’z also runs two cafes on the ground floor of Emporio. One specialises in sandwiches but we tend to order the wada-pav and the Jhaal-Muri as well as the delicious house-made ice-creams, especially the Candied Walnut and Rose Petal flavours. At Cha Shi, the Oriental Café, everything on the menu is worth trying and the service is exceptional.
Simply Sushi: This is a small counter with half a dozen seats just outside the Director’s Cut cinema at the Vasant Kunj Mall in Ambience. But the chef is from Megu and his assistant is from Sakura, two of the city’s best Japanese places. There is a lot of delicious junk sushi. But these guys know how to make a perfect nigiri pellet. So real Japanese sushi is always an option. And it is less than half the price of the fancy Japanese places.
SodaBottleOpenerWala: My favourite of AD Singh’s brands, this is helmed by my pal Chowder Singh (Mohit Balachandran) and Anahita Dhondy, one of India’s most talented young chefs. I go there for a taste of Mumbai. They joke that they know my order the moment they see me coming: the Parsi Papeta per eedu – fired eggs on a bed of sautéed potatoes. The kanda bhajiyas always transport me back to Khopoli, and the small cafes of Bombay.
I go to the Khan Market branch now but used to go to the one in Cyber Hub.
Sagar/Swagath: My locals; they have kept me going for years. I like to sneak into the Defence Colony Sagar at around 6 pm before the rush starts and eat a hot and crisp paper dosa. I eat at Swagath less often but we are always ordering food from there at home: the crab dishes, the fried bombil, the Mutton Sookha, the Gharwali Dal and so much more.
At home, we regularly order the Sagar idlis, the curd-rice, the medu vadas and the amazing dahi vadas.
Town Hall: I have known Augusto Cabrera from the days when he introduced Delhi to sushi in his old avatar as the sushi chef at Threesixty. Augusto is a partner here and the menu is much more ambitious. But I go for some of the finest sashimi in town, his sushi rolls and his utterly brilliant Filipino Pork. (Augusto is from the Philippines). It is always packed (Rahul Gandhi is often spotted waiting for a table) so I book ahead.
Qube: During the day, the loveliest coffee shop in India with greenery all around and sunlight streaming in. If I have to meet people for a coffee or a quick lunch, this is where I always go. (I don’t go for dinner because they screw up the lighting). It also has the best Sunday brunch in Delhi with a wide range of cuisines. (If you ask nicely they will make an off-menu Malayali Egg Roast with appams.)
Wasabi: Yes it is expensive but the food is so good these days that I find myself going back again and again. I go for the Whitefish Carpaccio and the sashimi, chiefly the scallops, the sea urchin and the tuna, all freshly flown in from Japan. And the team of General Manager Satyajeet Krishnan and Chef Arun have really turned the food at the Taj around.
With Other People
There are places you go to when you have to take people out. These are my favourites.
Indian Accent: Manish Mehrotra is a genius so the whole world wants to eat his modern Indian food at Indian Accent. But tables are hard to score, there are only two seatings and they boot you out if you stay too long after the first sitting.
Fair enough. A packed restaurant is a packed restaurant! If Manish is travelling, I am always in the capable hands of Shantanu Mehrotra (no relation), his Number two chef and the terrific Palki Singh who manages the room with style and charm (and always finds me wines I like).
Bukhara: Have you ever met a visitor who does not want to go to Bukhara? I haven’t. This is the most famous Indian restaurant in the world and people will wait hours for a table.
Under the team of Executive Chef Manisha Bhasin and JP Singh, who looks after all the Peshawaris (as Bukhara is called in other cities), the food is remarkably consistent. Nobody I have taken there has ever been disappointed.
Tip: order the chicken khurchan and if you want to freak your guest out, ask for the giant naan.
Masala Library: The most formal restaurant in Zorawar Kalra’s empire, this serves adventurous, cutting-edge Indian food. I must have taken half a dozen people there recently: they have all loved it. Saurabh Udinia is a brilliant chef and he has ensured that standards remain consistent even when he is away at one of the many Farzi Cafes around the world.
Annamaya: This is a long way from my home but I take people here to show them how a talented chef can create wonderful dishes with carefully sourced Indian ingredients.
There is nothing else like it in the rest of Delhi.
Delhi Pavilion: The coffee shop at The Sheraton New Delhi in Saket does outstanding Delhi food (from chaat to Butter Chicken to Biryani) at coffee shop prices. A real find: everyone I have taken there has raved about the Delhi cuisine.
ATM: There are times when you just want a quiet place to chat and eat simple French bistro cuisine. It is open to everyone at lunch but restricted to members during the evening, alas.
Delhi Club House: People love Marut Sikka’s casual restaurant in the Sangam complex with its eclectic menu of nearly forgotten dishes from India’s clubland. Try the Egg’s Kejriwal.
Threesixty: The drawing room of Delhi. If you want to take someone out to lunch at a place where the movers and shakers of the city hang out, this is the perfect restaurant. It’s even better in this new avatar though I tend to give all the sophisticated food (sushi, pasta etc.) a miss and eat the Indian home-style food which never disappoints.