I often find myself in the backlane of Select CityWalk, to make an entrance from the rear of the mall. I also often find myself gazing at some standalones behind the mall, thinking, some day, I will have the time to try one of those rather than just parking myself at one or the other eateries within the mall.
My last visit was different, as I entered one called Desi Roots. What seems like a one hall restaurant from outside is actually a spacious three hall dining space. You enter a cafe with desi knick knacks (coal irons, pickle jars, film cameras and more) holding your attention. Do not miss the dining table made from an old-fashioned sewing machine on which you can actually rock your feet!
Just a little ahead is another dining space which gives way to the semi private dining table and a bar. As I was invited to the restaurant, the management enlightened me with more desi elements of the design before we settled down for an amuse bouche of dal/masala vada on a bed of fresh coconut chutney in a mason jar topped with a crisp kadi patta.
What came next, bowled me over. A warm galawati pate of Jimikand served with sheermal crisps, onion rings and green chutney in a Alice’s ‘Drink Me potion’ like bottle on a black tray fitted in a wooden frame. The presentation had me kicked and the taste was superlative. I was digging my sheermal crisp into an amazingly textured and sublime pate, that, if I may say, would give a non-vegetarian galawati a run for its money. The flavours oozed oomph and boasted of a complex mix of Indian spices, which were rather well balanced. Surely desi in its roots. Had I not been having it at a restaurant, you’d find me licking the jar clean.
The Taboulleh Kachumber dhokla with grilled spicy watermelon came next. A big piece of dhokla came sitting underneath the Kachumber Taboulleh. The fresh tomatoes, onions, mint and coriander made the dish quite appetising. The watermelon on the side was spiced with an achari mash and was quite a delight. While the taste was spot on, Desi Roots could present the dish in a better way.
Chef Rajiv Sinha, the genius that he is, used his Calcutta Roots rather cleverly to come up with a warm samosa deconstruct with aam papad chutney at Desi Roots. A stunning and delicately spicy mash of potatoes with whole coriander seeds and fennel seeds sat between strips of crisp nimki or namakpara studded with carom seeds (ajwain). This was an open samosa and with every bite it will transport you to your favourite local eatery that serves this wonderful Indian snack. An epic dish, this.
For mains, I wanted something light and chose the Jawdropping Khichdi ke char yaar or 4 grains of khichdi (rice, quinoa, jowar, bajra) with some hesitation. While Khichdi is something I’d never order in a restaurant, and was rather vary, but took the risk and it paid off. The four Khichdis at Desi Roots came sitting individually in pretty props of tiny pressure cookers and Indian pickle jars. I liked classic, quinoa, jowar and bajra in increasing order of preference. Each came topped with a different kind of papad: palak, chana, pepper et al as well as a slight hint of a different kind of pickle each. So Desi Roots lifted the khichdi to another level and turned it from ‘food for the sick’ to something rather enjoyable. Comfort food, that.
The breads at Desi roots are something to look out for. They serve their choice of breads or rice with the mains. Do not even try to change that as their choice of breads is great. I was served the Brar jee ki mashoor rasmalai makhni. A delicate and flavourful rasmalai dipped in tomato juice and served in a makhni gravy, this dish comes recommended by Reeta Skeeter. It will tease your tongue and satisfy the hungry soul. Mine came with a fresh, hot, crispy laccha parantha.
If you visit Desi Roots for a family dinner with kids or without, try the Bachpan Platter for dessert if you want to revisit Tit Bits, Lollipops, Kisme toffees, Gems, Chikki bites, wafer fingers and more. It is an experiential concept. But I preferred Jamaluddin ki Kheer from Badal beg masjid. Also known to us Old Delhi lovers as Bade Mian
, this Kheer is brought all the way from Chandni Chowk to be served at the restaurant. This thick, creamy delight will make you walk out of Desi Roots with a big smile. Read more about Bade Mian here