Dirty Apron, Safdarjung Enclave Market

A quaint and cozy bistro has sprung up on the upper floor of The Piano Man in Safdarjung Enclave and it is called Dirty Apron (Delhi is surely getting better at naming its restaurants). At Dirty Apron, they serve Eurasian food and what better than European with touches of Asian for a bistro menu in a city that has a wide palate?
Dirty Apron is owned and run by Arjun Sagar Gupta, an ardent music lover, while fellow food blogger Ruchira Hoon Phillip is the food consultant. Skeeter was at The Dirty Apron in Safdarjung Enclave the other day for a bloggers’ table over lunch. Located bang opposite Deer Park, the approach to the place is easy with plenty of parking space, unlike the neighbouring madness that is Hauz Khas Village. While The Piano Man has a lovely energetic vibe and a following of its own, Dirty Apron is more of a calm and inviting place (read soothing white walls, hanging planted pots and more), just the kinds you’d want to head to after a hectic week at work or a quick lunch on weekdays. 
We started with a Pumpkin and peanut butter soup made up with roasted pumpkin puree and creamy peanut butter and served with a portion of ultra buttery and garlicky bread. All flavours complemented the other, and the rich, velvetty, decadent, nutty soup is a must try! A Beetroot, orange and feta salad was up next. Crisp greens, beets, tangy orange and creamy feta built this refreshing salad. Another salad followed – The Warm Asian Potato Salad. Perfectly roasted spuds tossed in an Asian dressing with a sprinkle of sesame seeds were lent a suitable kick from fresh red chillies. 
Stuffed Mushroom Nonya Sauce were next. Plump, crispy batter fried mushrooms tossed in Nonya or sweet sticky japanese sauce. Though Skeeter tasted this sauce for the first time, she quite liked what she ate. Mains were Coconut rice with Sambal and Okra served with crispy onions and lime. The ladies finger were tossed in a house-made Malay samabal sauce served with on a bed of coconutty rice – a different preparation of Okra, this. 
A woody and hearty wild mushroom risotto followed. There beer cocktails were appreciated by the table. Must try another time. For dessert we tried the Lemongrass and Kaffir lime scented Creme Brulee – which hit the spot and we had to ask for a second round – that good. 
Some fabulous food aside, they have a terrific terrace seating, perfect for the spring in Delhi right now. Brightly coloured walls and comfortable seating – one could spend hours at such a pretty place.
Where: B 6-7/22, 2nd Floor, Opposite Deer Park, Safdarjung Enclave Market, New Delhi
Phone: 011 33107861

Indigo, One Golden Mile

Indigo at One Golden Mile, Delhi opened with much aplomb and almost soon after, celebrity chef Rahul Akerkar exited the company. Skeeter visited the restaurant both before and after his exit and here’s an account of her last visit for a winter menu tasting. One enters the sprawling courtyard, passing by their Deli, from where Skeeter remembers picking some good breads and croissants on her last visit.

On a crisp winter evening, the tasting menu started with a lovely amuse bouche of brioche topped with jam and goat cheese, with an edible flower petal that brightened the plating. A spectacular wild mushroom consomme with mini chevre tortellini followed thereafter. The consomme was light and hearty, and the tortellini paired well with it.

Amuse Bouche
Wild mushroom consomme with mini chevre tortellini

The salad of asparagus, shaved fennel & green apple, baby greens, chives and parmesan dressing was crisp, well dressed, refreshing and aptly portioned. 
Salad of asparagus, shaved fennel & green apple

As the evening wore, the table got a little impatient as the service got a little slow and we got our mushroom mille feuille with whipped chevre, rucola and porcini liquor, after a long wait. But the company on the table kept the evening warm with friendly banter. While the deconstructed take on the mushroom mille feuille with baked puff pastry assembled in crisp layers to stand over the whipped chevre was nice, the porcini were rather cold and the taste was amiss. Overall, a dish that is best not remembered.

Mushroom mille feuille with whipped chevre, rucola and porcini liquor

Faith in their food was restored with the Herb ricotta & saffron stuffed cappelletti (hat shaped pasta) with basil butter roasted mushrooms, baby carrots and parsnip puree. It was a stellar dish full of oomph and flavour. Skeeter would go back for this one.

Herb Ricotta and saffron stuffed Cappelletti
But the show stopper for the evening was definitely – the dessert sampler. With its fun, colourful, simple yet stunning plating, the dessert sampler consisted of a decadent and wonderfully flavoured smoked chocolate mousse, a sublime Belgian chocolate & hazelnut dome, a creamy Mango & Passion Cremeux and a Deconstructed Red Velvet Cake. The food at Indigo is still as good after the celeb chef’s exit and the presentation has gotten better. Kudos!
Dessert Sampler

The Bombaykery

Amid tons of bakeries opening up at an eye-popping speed, few leave a mark. Bombaykery is one that caught Reeta Skeeter’s attention, for reasons more than one. Let us unfold them one at a time.

The concept

Bite sized desserts. Need we say more? You fix that craving of yours and you can’t possibly get greedy as it is all over in a bite. Or two! A bite whose taste lingers on, long after it is over. These desserts also make for perfect picks for a get-together at home, as you continue to sip wine and talk late into the night.

The treats

Here are Skeeter’s picks from their kitty!

This absolutely fab Passion Fruit Tart with a mini macaron (Rs 60). Looks pretty, tastes better! Move away lemon tart, you have competition!

The Belgian chocolate fudge studded with nuts and dusted with more chocolate (Rs 30 a pop with minimum 6 pieces to order). Best had under the blanket with a book in hand and Jasmine tea on the side!

Bite sized baked Kala Khatta cheesecake (Rs 60) with an enticing blueberry and blackberry compote. Love their raspberry cheesecake too!

And I’d save the best for the last. Skeeter loves her savouries more than dessert and these nigella and sesame seed studded cheese sticks (Rs 200 for a jar) are perfect tea-time accompaniments! 
And while they promise to pop-up at yet another food fest ‘near you’, you can always order from their home kitchen. You can find their number and menu here
Here’s to many food adventures ahead. Happy 2016!

Navroze celebrations and community food at SodaBottleOpenerWala

Community food can be sampled at its best in the homes of people. The next best option is to have them at restaurants serving such food. Luckily enough, Delhi is the city of settlers, who have, among other things, brought along their food and culture. Enterprising as they are, these communities who have settled in Delhi share their food commercially. So we have the Parsi Anjuman, Rustom’s and the ever famous SodaBottleOpenerWala serving some Parsi fare, which would be otherwise inaccessible to us. 

While Reeta Skeeter spoke about the Soda Bottle Opener Wala Vada Pao here, she had earlier promised to share more details about this quirky Irani café. The nostalgia evoking SBOW always has Skeeter occupied on every visit. Those who grew up in the 70s and 80s would recall the wired telephones that hung from walls, the Ravalgons and Poppins, the bakery cookies, the old multi-purpose tin boxes, the toy train track which was the best gift you could get on a birthday; they have it all up and decorated in a rather fun way.

But it is the grub that will have you hooked. Skeeter would need yet another post to write about the regular menu offerings but for now one must sample the Navroze Thali that is on the menu till August 27, 2015. They have the vegetarian (Rs 700) and the non-vegetarian (Rs 800) versions. Skeety, of course tried the vegetarian one and here’s what she thought: The Vengna Nu Achaar, a tantalising eggplant pickle is something out of the box and so is the Ravviyyan, where minty chutney is sandwiched between two eggplant roundels. Eggplant is versatile and when you hop across regional menus you get such gems. The Doodhi Murabbo is a sweet bottle gourd relish with the flavours of aniseed and the crunch of the chironji standing out. Skeeter could not have enough of it and if SBOW starts bottling this one, it will disappear from shelves. That good, yeah! The Saria is the Parsi poppadum made from sago or sabudana and deep fried to add some texture to your meal. The Papeta Nu Kavab are made up of a mix of tangy/spicy vegetables and potatoes, mashed, coated and deep fried. They are more like smaller versions of cutlets or pattice but the filling is what distinguishes them. The Paneer Akuri is the vegetarian version of Akuri, a rather simple preparation that had Skeeter hooked. To add touches from Bharuch, some dried fruits are added. The Kora no Patio is a pumpkin sabzi that did nothing for Skeeter’s tastebuds but she had her fork digging into a saffron-laced, delectable Vegetable Pulao accompanied with Masala ni Daar, a classic Parsi preparation of lentils and vegetables. The Kachumbar (diced salad) and Rotli (Roti) featured on the thali too. Skeeter washed it down with Rustam Bantawala, a cocktail using raw mango as the base. It went well with the thali. Thanks to the recommendation of chef Anahita Dhondy, I was saved the trouble of choosing what to drink. 

End your meal with the Ravo (semolina milk pudding) and Falooda. The rose syrup laden falooda comes seated in a cutting glass and being true to the community food, SBOW hasn’t cut down on the sweetness to suit your taste. Skeeter loved it the way it was.  
The portion is generous, so it is advisable to fast for a few hours before you dig into this one.

Anna Perenna Pizza

Healthy ‘eating out’ may sound oxymoronish, but as they say there is no harm trying. Hence, I wander. Skeeter ended up at Anna Perenna Pizza, a gourmet, handmade pizza place, trying to do things differently. Anna Perenna is the Roman Goddess of long life & renewal, health & plenty. This delivery/takeaway service does top notch pizzas, making dough from the scratch and yes they are wholewheat (some, even multigrain) with no processed cheese whatsoever! While the last line may be hard to digest, the pizzas are rather easy on the stomach.

The Mint cooler lemonade served in a glass jar with the right amount of sweet and tang will quench your thirst and make you forget the sweltering heat outside for a while. The olive-studded bread and hummous were a great starter. The hummous was creamy and full of flavour and the olive-studded bread was wholewheat. What else could one ask for? I know it’s gonna be on my dinner table again and again, and more!

From the pizza selection, Skeeter tried the ‘Roast zucchini, tomato and basil pizza’, that has a light and crisp base. The base sauce is made in-house and was finger-licking good. The pizza was overall perfect and I did not realise the absence of cheese. I would’ve loved a crispier base and if the zucchini was char-grilled it would make for a better sight on the plate, but then that’s just being greedy and asking for more. This pizza makes for a perfect treat for weight watchers, as is.

The ‘Jalapeno, pineapple and rocket pizza was rather inspirational and it’d be my go-to pizza in the days to come. If there is poetry on a plate, this is it, this is it, this is it! A crisp base, smeared with tomato sauce, topped with generous helpings of pineapple slices and rocket leaves. You get your pizza fix, you eat your dose of the favourite fruit and you munch some salad, all at a go. Oh did I mention, they have a low cheese and no-cheese option as well. Just ask them and they oblige. They claim to procure as many organic ingredients as possible. Plus ten for that. Vegan pizzas, anyone? Almost everything on the menu can be made vegan if it already isn’t. They even cater to the needs of those suffering from celiac or gluten allergies.
The Pizza cannot get hotter than this!

Meal for two: Rs 750
For more information, check the Anna Perenna Pizza website  

Trendy Microgreens

New things on my plate eliminate the mundanity of table regulars. Stuff, that we eat daily. As a child I often used to wonder if our life would ever move ahead of the normal dal, roti, peas, carrots, rajma, aloo and so on. Will there ever be born again vegetables? My wishes were heard, a little late in life, but they were. Growing up I discovered foods that I had not eaten earlier. And as late as now, I also discovered microgreens. 
Let me begin from the beginning. A few years ago, I was introduced to exotic salad leaves like Rocket and Arugula, which are now quite common at Delhi dining tables. Recently, I discovered many chefs were using mini greens or micro greens to enhance the flavour of their dishes as well as add a charming visual appeal. Mostly, I’ve seen chefs using microgreens to add a curious, visual factor while plating their food. And very often, I find myself being ‘educated’ that I have microgreens on my plate. So, it would only be apt to talk about them on the blog. 
Microgreens are nutrient dense and are typically sown and harvested within 7 to 14 days. There are quite a few of them available on supermarket sheleves. They come in varied colours and flavours like Radish cress, Cilantro cress, Arugula cress, Mustard cress, Lolo Rosso, Beet cress and so on. Microgreens are grown in plastic trays and need good monitoring, the right amount of sun, shade, air and basically quite a lot of care. Some, use sprouting pads to grow them (mostly outside India) and others use cocopeat. I’ve got some Red Cabbage Cress Microgreens to showcase. They have a red stem and green leaves and could make for many a pretty plates. They taste like well, cabbage, and are as crunchy. I planted them in my hummus pot to up the visual factor. Have a look and stay tuned for much more, pretty soon! 

Shiv Sagar, Delhi (Aye!)

All the Bombay vs Delhi debate doesn’t work for me. Nor does the Mumbai vs Bombay. Dilli vs Delhi neither. What a Pani Puri with hot ragda can do for a resident of Maharashtra, the Delhi girl in me could not understand in my few years in that part of the country.
When I arrived back in Delhi, I loved what the good old Delhi Golgappa with cold, boiled potatoes and chickpeas and teekha pani did to my tastebuds. In Delhi, for sometime now, I find myself craving Pani Puri, the Maharashtrian way at times, and the Vada Pav very often. If there is any difference at all between the two cities, that I’d readily admit, it is the pricing. Bombay food is cheaper. Period.
When one of my favourite Bombay eateries opened up in Delhi, I decided to give it a try. Shiv Sagar, of Bombay fame has a Janpath address now. #Win

The ambience is welcoming. A Bombay person would easily connect. Start your meal at Shiv Sagar with a pineapple or watermelon juice, as I recommend them for their taste and freshness. Ask for a no-masala version, if you please, else they add it by default. I had a sample of 6 juices they offer on a sci-fi test tube platter, all of which I enjoyed. The sev puri comes recommended too. Papri topped with potatoes, a medley of chutneys and spices, finished with a generous helping of sev and pearls of pomegranate. Street food, the hygienic way, served up on the table. I’d have preferred it a bit more spicy. 

Shiv Sagar also manages to do justice to the quintessential Maharashtrian street food, the Vada Pav. The chilli garlic powder on the side is amazing too! If you are in the mood for something tangy, go for the chinese bhel. It is neither Chinese nor Bhel, but crispy fried noodles tossed in a sweet and sour sauce and topped with onion and coriander. Yum!

Last but not the least, do not leave Shiv Sagar, Delhi without sampling their Pav Bhaji. Doused in butter, it is the nearest you can get to the Bombay version. Other offerings at Shiv Sagar that one should try are the Veg Makhanwala, Veg Kolhapuri, Biryani with Raita and the cheese grilled sandwich. Icing on the cake? They are gonna turn into an all-day dining, just like Bombay. And the prices will make every Delhiite smile on their way out. Very pocket friendly! An average meal would cost about Rs 800 for two.

Pizza Express Delhi vs Pizza Express London

It’s raining Pizzas in Delhi and how! Last month Skeets visited Indigo Delhi, then came Tonino and Pizza Express. The buck stops at Pizza Express for Skeets as they make another foray to the Pizza market in Delhi. 
It is one hell of a task for Skeets to write about Pizzas as she is extremely biased towards orginal/classic Margherita pizzas. There’s no looking beyond for her. But she shall try. Skeeter’s first tryst with Pizza Express was in London and that was an overwhelming experience. So, she was looking at a repeat experience at Pizza Express, Delhi, very reluctantly. 

Live kitchen and some take away boxes

The signature dough balls (Rs 165) were mopped up with garlic butter and this, Skeets must warn is an addictive combo at Pizza Express. One can opt for the dough balls with a trio of dips and a larger portion. Skeets then proceeded for the Bruschetta Con Funghi (Rs 385) which was a mini meal in itself. The golden bread was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and came topped with baked button mushrooms, bechamel sauce, red onion, chopped parsley and a drizzle of balsamic. Pizza Express has loads of salads on offer but Skeets skipped them to do justice to Pizzas and dessert.
(Left: Dough balls and garlic butter. Right:Bruschetta Con Funghi )

The Pizza tossing spectacle at Pizza Express, Delhi

(Left:Proofing of the dough at Pizza Express, India. Right: Pizza base with tomato sauce from Parma )

The Giardiniera Pizza (classic base) is topped with mushrooms, mozzarella, leeks, cherry tomatoes, artichokes and olives on a tomato and pesto base drizzled with fragrant garlic oil and comes at Rs 510. The Pizza Express classic base has its own fan following but if one wants they can upgrade it to the thinner, crispier Romana base for Rs 100. Extra toppings for any pizza come at Rs 45 a pop; choose from char grilled veggies, eggs, sweet peppadew among others. There are some non-veg toppings available too but that was not Skeets’ area of interest. Skeets moved on to the Padana pizza (RS 595) on a Romana base. It came topped with Goat’s cheese, mozzarella, spinach, caramelised onions and a drizzle of garlic oil. This sublime Pizza was Skeeter’s personal favourite and she recommends you must try the Padana at Pizza Express. Oh and do drizzle some extra garlic oil for enhanced flavour.

 Padana pizza on Romana base

On to desserts, Skeets is happy to report that the Pizza Express Cheesecake did not fail her. The baked vanilla cheesecake (Rs 295) is served with your pick of cream, gelato or mascarpone cheese and fruit coulis on the side. It did justice to the chain and lived up to Skeeter’s expectations. There are a few other desserts and Dolcetti on the menu, but Pizza Express is all about classics for Skeeter.

Baked Vanilla Cheesecake with mascarpone and fruit coulis

London vs Delhi

The few branches of Pizza Express in London that Skeeter likes are the Bromley and Bloomsbury ones. The ambience of Pizza Express, Delhi is pleasant and inviting with comfortable seating. The decor of every Pizza Express branch represents something from the area in which they open shop. This one has painted plates on the wall to represent ceramic pottery of the area. There is a splendid rooftop seating coming up soon too and the liquor license is awaited.
The wait staff are very well trained. Full marks for that! The menu in London is a little more elaborate with a few extras in each section. Am sure the Pizza Express, India people will up their game with time and add more from the London favourites.
The Pizza standards are up to the mark as there is a taste tester who is flown from London for quality maintenance. The tomatoes comes from a region near Parma in Italy, a tradition being maintained by the chain since 1965.
There was a drizzle of cream that dressed the Cheesecake at the London branches. Skeets prays the Pizza Express at Delhi incorporate that and make Skeety happy.

A meal at Pizza Express would be approximately Rs 2000 for two people. A must try Pizzeria, this.

La Compagnia – A dinner with strangers

It’s a strange feeling to go for a dinner without knowing anyone on the table and coming back with a few friends in your kitty. Skeeter experienced the same at La Compagnia: A dinner with strangers.

The concept

A dinner at a pre-determined venue with a specially curated menu will be held each month in various cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and more… There are no +1s allowed. You have to be a solo diner. You’d be joined by other such diners and would gradually get to know each other over perfectly timed courses that give you ample time to befriend and network with others on the table. The table could have people who are new to the city, people who are looking for work-related opportunities, or just a cool bunch to dine out with and explore a new cuisine, perhaps.

Dinner with strangers is a concept popular in the West, which people sometimes organise at their homes. Yes, they open their homes to complete strangers and sometimes even throw in a new cuisine for everyone to sample. The possibilities are endless. It maybe a potluck, or a cookoff, it only gets as fancy as your mind.

The venue for the debut La Compgania table in Delhi was Guppy by Ai at Lodhi Road. We arrived to a neatly laid table with fresh flowers, sparkling cutlery and our respective name tags. As all diners arrived we took our seats and began the introductions. The table was a good mix of entrepreneurs, start-up funders, start-up owners, journalists and writers. We all happened to share the table with Marryam Reshii, a respected food writer/critic, one Skeeter personally adores. Conversations, food, and alcohol did rounds, not necessarily in any order. Sometimes, the experience precedes the food and this was one such event. For the uninitiated, Guppy is Skeeter’s comfort food place, where she’d hop in for some Rock Corn Tempura or a Udon noodles and mushroom bowl. They do some great cocktails too!  
The meal included Amuse Bouche, appetizers, cocktails, main course and a dessert platter. 
Damages:  Rs 1850 per head.
P.S.: This was one of the better organised events that Skeets has been to in a long, long time! 

Le Bistro Du Parc: A french bistro sits pretty in Delhi

The French concept of Terroir is embedded in every brick of the kitchen of Le Bistro Du Parc, a quaint bistro that sits pretty overlooking a park in Defence Colony. Skeeter has struck off another ‘to go’ place on her list by dining at this gem of a bistro. In Paris, everyone has their own favourite bistros where they hop in at ease, select from a limited menu, eat, talk, ponder, proceed. Repeat. The menu changes often and the chefs bank on the availability of fresh, seasonal produce. The basics of a bistro are home-style food, simple drinks like wine, tea and coffee and affordable prices. 
At Le Bistro Du Parc Skeets started her meal with the Organic leak and potato soup (Rs 350 ) with a blob goat cheese and few sprigs of dill. It was picture perfect, temperature perfect and tasted well, perfect! As against an Indian dish where a host of spices come together to lift the main ingredient to another level, in French food, you can get a taste of each ingredient individually.

Moving on to Skeeter’s main course and dessert together, she could not decide which of these stole the show for her. The Vegetable Tagliatelle with carrot mash and basil oil was part of a very pleasant surprise, for it was no pasta, but farm fresh, seasonal, organic, vegetables like carrot, yellow and green zucchini, peeled into strips and plated wonderfully to mimic Tagliatelle, cooked/steamed very lightly to leave the texture crunchy enough for one to bite in. The sweet scented basil oil peeped from between the vegetables to reveal itself and lend flavour to the dish.  Skeeter has never had a healthier dish at a restaurant. The portion size and the quality of this Vegetable Tagliatelle with carrot mash and basil justifies the price tag (Rs 500) absolutely. Skeeter will go back for only this one, on and on. That said, Chef Alexis Gielbaum at Le Bistro Du Parc told Skeeter that they change their menu frequently. So one is likely to go back at Le Bistro Du Parc for a fresh menu and more surprises. It is also commendable to note they have compensated vegetarians (for a limited number of dishes in the already small menu) beautifully by creating star dishes such as the one Skeets mentioned.

The Valrhona chocolate rocher (Rs 350) ended Skeeter’s meal, oh-so-lusciously that she can stay off chocolate for the next six months just thinking of this one. Go grab a bite!
Meal for two: Approx Rs. 1800.
Address: A 57, 58, 59, Moolchand Market, Defence Colony, New Delhi