Indian Accents

about Friends Colony, New Delhi

Its always wonderful to find a hidden find, tucked away in hard to reach places but still worth reaching. One such was Indian Accent, a restaurant folded carefully into a nook in a gated community of quiet lanes and expensive bungalows. The Manor Hotel that houses the restaurant is itself a silent, comforting place with kurta-clad staff, cozy lawns  and understated decor. How did I find it? Embarassingly enough, like half of India I read Vir Sanghvi. And BBC's new Good Food Magazine. And the Times Food Award.

I and fellow culinary explorer Atul headed into the recesses of Friends Colony; it took us a few wrong turns before we were settled into the dying minutes of lunch service. Napkins on lap, cellphones on tablecloth, we sat down to the serious business of studying the menu. Too late for the tasting menu, a la carte it was going to be.

I liked the name, it seemed to imply that the food was like your global desi – hugo boss suits and frequent flier miles, but with a desi tang to his drawl. As expected, tne menu  married traditionals like punjabu kadhi and misti doi wth exotics like zuchini and cannoli, added dollops of presentation and served it all coursewise.

We got ordering out of the way and settled down to the salivating when the blue cheese mini naans landed; Chefs bites - all very Michelin star, thank you very much. Excellent. The amuse bouche came out a few minutes later – a classic dahi sev puri but dressed up to party, perched singly in fancy crockery atop a bed of sev.

  

So far so good. While we discussed life and the universe, the starters we had ordered landed up on two beautiful black stone plates. First, foie gras-stuffed gilawati kabab with a strawberry chilli chutney that had sounded horribly promising on the menu.

 

As you can see, it looked much better than Tunde Miyan's gilawatis. Biting into it, however, wasn't as satisfyng – the base kabab, though good, was nowhere near Tunde Miya's and the foie gras that was supposed to have lifted it to seventh heaven seemed to have slunk away to sulk in a corner; the spices had completely overpowered it. A bit of a waste, that foie. The other starter was another matter – baby brinjals topped with pine nuts, salad greens and kesar yoghurt was wonderful.

Main courses followed – a vegetarian option for me (a la goodboy diet) of stuffed zucchini flowers in punjabi Kadhi with ghee rice. Outstandingly presented, a well-executed sea of kadhi in which islands of zucchini flowers were anchored to a ghee rice tower. Quite nice, well executed individually and quite delicious as a combination.

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Atul's peanut butter chicken with methi crisp was very satay. Wonderfuly tender chicken morsels, and the methi crisp did well when soaked in the chunky peanut sauce. Much more plainly presented was the side dish – a wild mushroom kulcha with truffle oil – that nevertheless packed immense flavour. It was a fusion that worked really well; we could easily have eaten a few more portions of it.

 

Then came the desserts. The first one we ordered was a Kashiphal cheesecake with basil something or the other. Kashiphal, it turns out, is the fancy name for a pumpkin (which for some reason North Indians also call Sitaphal – no wonder Mumbaikars don't like them). In any case, the cheesecake was well executed but hardly the stuff of dreams – a pumpkin by any other name and all that. Nice texture, nice punch from the basil swoosh on the plate but basically we needed more (goodboy diet be damned). Mishti doi cannoli with amaranth laddoo seemed promising, so we ordered it. It turned out to be a revelation; easily the best dish of the lunch. The mishti doi was as good as the best in Kolkata, the cannoli perfect and the combination could make a grown Bengali weep.

So here are my final impressions of Indian Accent. Expensive (five thousand for two, and not a drop to drink) but a very nice special occasion meal with exquisite preparations, lots of surprises and every once in a while a knockout dish. Nouvelle Indian is still evolving, but Indian Accent is as good a place as any to watch it evolve.

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