With the whole Hauz Khas Village craze in overdrive, it was only a matter of time till someone decided to cash in on Shahpur Jat. Shahpur Jat has the same little alleys, and a similar spirit of artistic curiosity -- food, really, was the only thing missing.
“Bhojpuri” food got my curiosity going, but it certainly wasn’t what led me there like a cat to sardines. I had seen an article on eye-catching design themes done by Delhi’s young restaurants and Potbelly was one of them. The owners, Vivita Relan and Puja Suha, wanted the feel of a forested canopy inside the restaurant. Not only did they succeed in their own quirky way, they did it with intelligence, and frugality. The airy sun-lit space is brightened by huge colourful cane flowers that hang from the ceilings, with cutting chai glasses in the center that act as bulb holders. A little bit of style and creativity goes a long way; one thing we Delhites should learn is that money alone doesn’t always amount to good taste. Besides the whole place giving this "outdoor" vibe there is an actual outdoor section too down a few steps.
But as much as I and my waistline would love to get full on ‘cuteness’, that is sadly not the case. We were starving and we ordered a feast.
- Starting with a glass of a very inspiring cinnamon and apple ice-tea, which was perfectly refreshing, with just the right amount of sweetness.
- A complimentary bowl of Makhana (popped toasted seeds of water lily - similar to popcorn) was followed by two appetisers, Phish Phingers and the Pakora Basket. The Phish Phingers come in a big plate, all of about 10 pieces, until you look closer and some look suspiciously lighter. I went in for the kill, but realised as soon as I bit into it that it was a piece of fried potato. Half the “Phish Phingers” are in fact potato fingers! The description on the menu says “Deep fried bekti fish in Bihar style masala batter.” Nowhere does it mention potatoes, and neither does it say that the “Bihar-style masala batter” is just an overly thick coating of rawa that completely eludes any taste of the masala. I don’t like sneakiness and I don’t like misleading menus. So, not the best start. Thankfully our Pakora Basket left me with fewer complaints. Simple eggplant and potato pakoras with perfectly thin and crisp batter. The sabudana tikkis were a little greasy but quite flavourful, and I loved the slight sour kick. Lastly, the aloo tikkis -- don’t know what else to call them but they were essentially spicy mashed potatoes coated with rawa and fried. Yummy!
- For our mains we sampled Gol Mirch Chicken - boneless pieces of chicken in a creamy black pepper sauce. I couldn’t help detect this slight Knorrs cream-of-something flavour in it, but I loved the accompaniments. The lachha paronthas were made with whole wheat flour rather than white flour, which made it a tad guilt-free. The sabudana pakoras were even better than the basket! And the mustard eggplant dip was a wonderful spin on a otherwise generic household dish.
- This was followed by Sarson Machhli - rohu fish in a mustard curry, quite enjoyable. Mustard and fish have always been a good match, but I was dying for a squeeze of lemon in there to take it to the next level.
- Mutton Chaamp - chops cooked in a thick gravy with more delicious paronthas, boondi raita and kachumbar. I was a bit confused with this one, firstly it was unlike several of the north Indian meats I am used to, where the masala is more bhunoed or browned. I found this a little hard to get past. It tasted like a lot of raw garam masala, not my favourite dish.
- We finished up with Maher, Bihari curd rice (they had no dessert when we visited). This was probably my favourite dish out of the lot, which led me to think I may have missed out by not ordering more veggie dishes. This curd rice was served warm, with crushed peanuts. Along with it came the simplest, most delicious garlic potatoes. That other yellow thing on the side was far from palpable, tasted cold and stale and was really just dampening all the goodness on this plate. The real show stopper for me was the mustard pickle (sadly hidden behind the bowl), which really packed a punch and left me yearning for more.. more .. more. Would be great if they sold that separately. I would place an order for 10 jars straight away!
I don’t know how often I will crave Bhojpuri food, but I will return just for that lovely Goa-esque vibe and that wonderful apple-cinnamon ice-tea. Ok fine throw in a pakora basket and I’ll be there before you know it!
Alcohol : No
Budget: About Rs. 800 for App, Main , Dessert and Beverage.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 11:30 a.m to 11 p.m
4th Floor, 116 C Shahpur Jat
Labels: Bhojpuri, Indian, Outdoor Seating