Desi Roots, Saket

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.

The Pop Up

After trying out many a new cuisine and variations of the same, Delhi dining is steering towards out-of-the-box concepts or so it seems. Take The Pop Up as a case in point. This new refurbished restaurant replaces the erstwhile Tonic at Siri Fort complex, albeit for three months. The chefs at the very successful Tres in Lodhi Colony, Jatin Mallick and Julia Carmen Desa, are behind the kitchen counters. And here’s a teaser of what you can expect at The Pop Up.

Finger-licking good tomato jam and chilli oil keep you busy till you are ready for your order. Do not miss the awesome plating.

Skeeter started with an Undressed tart of sundried tomatoes with goat’s cheese, caramelised onions, bell peppers, salad greens and tomato infused balsamic (Rs 400). The dish balanced the myriad flavours well and set the tone for the evening, leaving me curious about the next dish, but the presentation got a thumbs down.

Our next order was the Kashundi and dijon baked button mushrooms on a crispy croute (Rs 375). The mushrooms came HOT on the table, we loved the temperature and the taste. This dish would’ve lost all glory had it not been served at that temperature. The explosion of mustard in the mouth satiated us. The croute beneath was not crispy though and that is hardly a complaint because beneath the bread we found to our surprise some Oyster mushrooms!!! So we are not sure if it was deliberately not mentioned on the menu (like it was supposed to Pop Up as well?) or what but we loved what we ate!

For the mains Skeeter had a Doh’nut burger with Pan roasted winter vegetables and Shiitake mushrooms and cheese (Rs 450) which came topped with water chestnuts that looked like little square chunks of cheese. Two doughnut buns replaced the regular big fat burger bun, so this could easily be shared. It tasted great and I believe it was the chef’s take on a meatless burger with lots of oomph and texture. A big hit on the table. The icing (or cheese?) on this burger was that the waiters are well-informed and had forewarned about how the Doh’nut burger has two portions and can be shared. A big thumbs up to them.

The portions at The Pop Up are very generous. Knowing that, I still went ahead to order a side of Hand Cut Double Cooked Fat chips drizzled with a blue cheese sauce. At Rs 150, they easily are the winners of the best deal for fries in town and that it is winter, only helps!

A refreshing cucumber lemonade was a welcome break from the regular soft drink suspects on the menu.

The Tian of Dark and White chocolate mousse with a layer of wine jelly was only a befitting end to a superb meal. Rush to The Pop Up while it lasts 🙂

Maharashtrian street food comes to Delhi: Vada Pav

Indian street food never fails to impress. Skeeter tries to record whatever she eats and one of her street food favourite is featuring in Delhi restaurants these days. It is the mighty VADA PAV from Maharashtra. 
For the uninitiated this fuss-free snack is made using a pav(bun) from the ladi pav which is slathered with a red chilli-garlic chutney and a piping hot vada is placed in it. Something as simple as that, served with a fried green chilly tossed in salt. The accompanying green chilly is a MUST. The vada pav is incomplete without it. It is Maharashtra’s answer to all the crappy, tasteless frozen burger patties used in international chain of restaurants.
vada pav in delhi
(On the right: Vada Pav seated in an aluminum pan at Soda Bottle Opener Wala, Gurgaon)
Have the vada pav for breakfast or a meal on the go when in a hurry or as an evening snack. It is simple, tasty and not healthy but worth every bite. It used to cost something as low as Rs 5 in Maharashtra quite a few years ago. 
Skeeter bumped into old pal, the Vada Pav, one afternoon when she went for a very quick lone lunch at Dhaba by Claridges (DLF Place, Saket) and was impressed. It tasted very well but not like the one she used to eat in Maharashtra. The Dhaba Vada Pav costed a bomb (Rs 195) and came with the chef’s special chutney. They serve two Vada Pavs in one portion. So a portion of the Vada Pav plus a soft drink set Skeeter back by nearly 500 bucks, which is a lot, but for want of her favourite snack in the comfort of a mall and sitting in the hometown it was forgiven.
Next, Skeeter came across the old pal again at the swanky Cyber Hub of Gurgaon at a Parsi eatery called Soda Bottle Opener Wala(will write more about it soon). This one stunned the senses and was a winner hands down! For one, it tasted JUST LIKE the one Skeeter was used to having during her days in Maharashtra. The fried green chilli on the side, rolled in salt was perfectly done. It costed Rs 65. There was one pav as opposed to two at Dhaba by Claridges. It came seated in an aluminium pan and just that. An innovative take on plating as rivalled to all the fancy stuff we are used to these days. They did not fancy it up, nor did they provide some innovative chutney, they simply let the food do the talking. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 
Oh and if you ever go to Maharashtra, do try the Joshi vada pav. 🙂

Dimcha joins the Delhi dimsum brigade

When Skeeter heard fab reviews from friends about a new ‘Dimsum’ outlet in GK 1, N block market, she trotted the trail and reached Dimcha (Dimsum + Yumcha=Dimcha). The place lives up to its name and has a Thai brother upstairs that goes by the name Dao. While Yauatcha may be the dimsum hotspot of the town right now, Dimcha is steadily climbing the ranks. The dimsums here are great and the fact that it starts getting busy by 8pm is but a reminder of its popularity. Skeeter has been to Dimcha only once and doesn’t really like to write about a place before she visits a place more than once, but Skeeter promises to add more to this post sooner than you think!
Dimcha gives the feel of a tea house or a Yumcha cafe where you order dimsum and tea and savour them over some invoking conversations. Here’s what Skeeter had and what one can look forward to:

The steamed Vegetable Chive dumplings (Rs 235) came first: Water chestnut, celery and chives seated in a green pastry cover and steamed to perfection. Two pearls of pomegranate topped this dimsum and gave it a rather elegant look. The food does need to look inviting for sure and it did! A delicious deal.

Next came the Vegetable Char Siu buns (Rs 255) which were steamed bun dimsums with a lip smacking filling of barbecued veggies and minced ginger. You will fall in love with this one.
The asparagus Cheung Fun (Rs 325)was a relevation. Skeeter liked it better than the ones she’s had at Yauatcha and they really stole the show. A rice noodle roll steamed to perfection with an aptly seasoned filling of asparagus and shiitake mushrooms, topped with light soy sauce. Take a bow!

Skeeter also enjoyed the Lo mai gai or the Lotus leaf parcel with sticky rice and veggies(Rs 255). Glutinous sticky rice with mock duck (which was strangely missing or too scant to be noticed), veggies and shiitake mushrooms (that lent a mock meat flavour anyway) come wrapped in a Lotus leaf. These made for a meal in itself. A Cantonese Yumcha classic, these are worth pigging, Skeeter says!

Besides, they have a range of tisanes (flower petal/herbal teas) which one can enjoy with the dimsums. Try the Rose bud (Rs 175) and the Chrysanthemum tisanes (Rs 175) and come back and thank Skeeter for the reccos! The teas are reasonably priced and make for a perfect pair with the dimsums. 
Dao
Skeeter also tried the Yam Phak Ruam Mit Krob (Rs 325) or the exotic crispy vegetable salad in a hot, sweet and sour dressing (Rs 325). The vegetables coated in a light tempura batter were fried and tossed in a tangy sauce. Another green bean salad in the most scrumptious peanut sauce was a Skeeter favourite. 
Having said all that, some things need attention. The tisanes stored in plastic jars were not pleasant to the eyes, considering they’ve spent reasonably in doing up the place. They need to invest in some nice looking jars for the tisanes. Skeeter also hopes they maintain their food quality for her to keep going back and enjoying Yumcha.