Chez Nini is the hot new kid in school who everyone has their eyes on. Sooner than later whispers of its sultry onion soup and sinfully wicked desserts reached my ears, perked them up and dragged me to this little French bistro.
Right outside Chez Nini you find two trees glittering with fairy lights, perfect indicator to a sparkling night? I hope so. As you enter the theme of twigs and twinkle continues. A shimmering tree bark has been constructed in one corner and its very many leaf-less branches extend across the ceiling. Aesthetic creativity at its best, as the center holds a huge nest with egg-like bulbs that sprinkle the room with warm light. Only fault here is the ethereal effect is lost because the room is too bright otherwise, but nothing a dimmer cannot fix.
Chef, owner and hostess, before I continue the fact that I can roll all these in one is a big plus for me. Nira Singh was promptly at every table to welcome and guide guests through the menu without letting that smile drop and yes all this in between cooking!
The much talked about tomato bread, left me a little underwhelmed. By the time it was reheated, the edges were left feeling hard and stale. Luckily, we were starving, and were brought a slightly softer second batch.
Which was followed by the Beetroot, Dill and Feta Salad with Citrus Segments. This tried and tested combination could have been winner if it was not for the unsuspecting overload of raw mustard seeds. For an ingredient that wasn’t even mentioned it annoyingly took over the dish like an unwanted algae, leaving my mouth bitter with every bite.
Next came the fabled French Onion Soup. Let me cut the crap and just say that it was everything I could have wanted from it. The onions plentiful and caramelized beautifully, the broth was rich and full of flavour. Not forgetting that quintessential piece of toast with melted cheese that greedily soaked up my soup.
The separate croquette section caught my eye. Of course. Always such a neat idea to take any combination of ingredients and crumb fry them. But the Pumpkin and Feta Croquettes were disappointing. The pumpkin’s innate sweetness sadly did not come through at all, totally upsetting the flavour palette for me. The Crab and Corn Croquettes were nice but texturally if they were a little creamier they could have been closer to perfection. Technically however both croquettes were fried just right - forming a golden crisp exterior that didn’t leave any tell-tale oily signs.
The next dish to arrive was the Rilette de Porc - similar to a pate - texture being between shredded meat and a paste. I loved it. As much as I tried not to stuff myself with it, I - well, stuffed myself with it. The house baked sourdough with flax seeds, the onion jam, oven dried tomatoes, and pickles were all apprentice to the demolishing of our rillette because they only made it that much better.
Poutine - A class Quebecois dish of french fries, gravy, and curd cheese. Apart from the gravy being a tad too salty for me you cant go too wrong with this one. The home style fries were tasty and miraculously managed not to taste too unhealthy.
Finally, moving on to our mains we started with the Sole Pinwheel in an orange glaze served with an egg salad and arugula. The fish was a bit overcooked, and the glaze tasted more lemony than orangey to me. Also apart from the artistry and the forgotten retro egg salad I found the rest of the dish to be a bit passé. There’s classic and then there is boring. Sadly, for me it went to the latter.
No matter a star was soon to arrive at our table in the form of a Confit Duck Leg. It pleased me at first site with its rustic presentation, as the entire thing came in a plain ceramic bowl, meat vegetables piled in, allowing you to forget your courtesies. The meat came off the entire leg in one clean motion. The seasoning had embedded itself in every deep juicy corner of the meat. The roasted vegetables, especially the sweet potato complimented the duck beautifully. My only complaint was with the raw ingredients. Blaming the state of our produce. In a perfect world this could have worked with the carrots lending that sweetness and the radishes providing that earthy pepperiness. Instead I had bland bits of confused veggies jumbled into a otherwise perfect dish. Perhaps, they would do better as a lightly and simply dressed salad on the side.
Be warned, you would be a fool not to save room for dessert. We started with a clever little dish called the Fruit Gazpacho. Which comes with bursts of colour that make you almost glad summer is here. A bowl of bright green kiwi topped with kiwi coulis, vibrant papaya mush, golden honey comb and snowy white mounds of sour cream ice-cream, sprinkled with pineapple bits and black grapes. To my major disappointment our honey comb was burnt. What impressed me to no end though was the perfectly creamy and ingenious sour cream ice-cream! Its no easy task to make ice-cream so perfect and this is one of the best house-made ice-creams I have had in the city.
The other two desserts were winners for me too. The soft, spicy Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing was a tad too sweet but still very good - it almost had to have a woman’s touch and the Chocolate Tart with Salted Caramel - well I’d almost be happy to boast that on my waistline!
Besides the food and the adorable setting, its Nira’s passion and dedication that gives me the confidence to recommend Chez Nini. I’ll be back. Round two - meatloaf and cupcakes!
Budget: Mid-Ranged . Avg dinner for two- Rs.2500
+91 9560211223, +91 9971961216, 011 49050665, 011 49050666
79 & 80, Meher Chand Market, Lodhi Colony