The list of our favourite restaurants. And we did it exactly the same way we did the first… chatting over MSN. Though, by a strange quirk, I was in Delhi this time around and she in Calcutta – exact opposite of the earlier configuration!
We got down our lists of ten each, had five in common and ten very good 'honourable mentions'! Which means that our common choices have actually reduced over the last few years. Blame it on the opinionated-ness of old age!
We have eliminated sentimentality for most of it (so, the first place where we met should not have qualified – but it did!) and screwed regional quotas as well (which is why there isn’t a single Cal restaurant in the top 5)!
Also, the base is obviously the list where we have eaten at… so, some big guns are awaiting inclusion in Edition III.
So, without much ado, here are the places that are guaranteed to make you go heavier in the tummies and lighter in the pockets – and salivating afterwards!
Bukhara – Maurya Sheraton, Delhi
What do I say that Bill Clinton has not said already? Only this – if I consider only the rotis and the Dal Bukhara, even then it deserves entry!
Diva – Greater Kailash II, Delhi
This one has won innumerable awards for its fabled wine list, which has bottles priced at almost my month’s salary! But the food that it goes with is so good that you won’t miss the wine all that much. The freshness of the salmon, the smoothness of the fish, the texture of the chicken are all first-rate. So, go ahead and binge. And don’t ask them to pack it! The presentation of the food is so intrinsic to the whole deal that the steward looks really crestfallen if you do! The wines available ‘by the glass’ are also quite brilliant (not to mention, reasonable), so that’s recommended as well.
They are the Gods of Indian Chinese. No pretensions, no Page 3 crowds, no publicity mongering - just plain good food. Make that plain fantabulous food. No Chinese chef in their right minds would put mustard and fish together. These guys do - and there is a hint to pickle as well. Strange? It works like a charm. And they have perfected the randomness of their excellence so well that we seldom go through the menu. We just reel off prawn-for-starter-chicken-for-main-course-non-veg-noodles kind of order and it is perfect!
Millers 46 – Millers Road, Bangalore
The only dark horse of the Top 5. Bangalore is an absolute Mecca for Continental food but this one takes the cake. Actually, the steak! This Wild West style steakhouse serves the juiciest of the cuts with the absolute perfect mix of pepper, sauce and sizzle. The only reason it beats out the big guns of Bangalore is the consistency of the quality. The meat is unfailingly first rate and the treatment uniformly well done (and I don’t mean the way I want my steak cooked!).
Myth 1: Oh Calcutta is Bengali cuisine.
Myth 2: Oh Calcutta is expensive.
Calcutta is a melting pot of so many cuisines that it is diffcult to keep track - Bengali, Mughlai, Continental, Russian, Railway, Chinese - but Oh Cal does a fantastic job of it. And, thanks to the gleam of the place, it looks really swanky place till you realise the two of you (sometimes three) have stuffed yourself delirious at less than a four digit bill!
And after the best of the best, we are left with the best of the rest - which are just as good. Only, we were not unanimous about them!
Baan Thai (Delhi) - The best Thai food in India. All the reds and greens of their curries in perfect harmony.
Bheema's (Bangalore) - Purveryor of a very esoteric thing called the 'Andhra Thali', which is similar to Scotch whisky in its need for acquired taste! These guys have perfected the art of deferred hotness (where you gorge first and then die of the spice)!
Bombay Post (Bangalore) - Don't ask me why they are called that. Part of a group with really high standards, they manage to stand out spectacularly.
Cornucopia (Chennai) - Limited menu, devastating consistency. Situated in a dilapidated building on Cenotaph Road, their red snappers and pork chops are stuff people will die for.
Karavalli (Bangalore) - The interiors are apparently like that of a Mangalorean house. After the first nibble of the appam and fish curry (or for that matter, anything!), who gives a f***?
Paradise (Hyderabad) - The best biriyani ever. Remember, a Calcutta boy has chosen this over Shiraz. Just take his word for it.
Minar (Delhi) - One of the best kept secrets of the Butter Chicken Trail. Their kababs are too marvelous to be true.
Trishna (Bombay) - Squid. Butter. Garlic. Lightly tossed. Any questions?
Zafraan (Hyderabad) - A dark horse which beats out the top contenders in the Indian domain.
Zodiac Grill (Bombay) - The country's most expensive restaurant cannot NOT get into a list like this. If you have disagreeable company, go the The Grill. The experience will make up for everything!
So, finally I have got that monkey off my back and now I can peacefully go back to Bollywood trivia. And right on cue, guess what the Big B is playing in Cheeni Kum? A master chef, wooing Tabu. The easiest way to a woman's heart...