It's pretty clear that Delhi is starved of extraordinary food. The first indicator is the rave reviews that follow every new establishment. Every place is built up like its the next Per Se in town, when we all know that's rarely the case.
And that is just how Tres came in to the picture, through a thousand whispers from all over the city. I finally made my way in to a decent-sized dining room, equipped with a full bar at one end, styled in a very "un-decorated" way with simple, hanging lamps, wooden furniture and walls. A cozy little fit for Lodhi Colony Market. I would love it if they added tables to the open roofed area by the kitchen!
Luckily, my appetite, which I'd been robbed off by some awful musty mop smells as I entered, returned with aromas of food that whizzed past me. Now to fill my belly. Our Bread Basket arrived fairly promptly, with pickled relish and three types of bread - the sliced bread and the crispy flat bread were quite nice but the crusty bread didn't feel all that fresh and sure did put up a fight to prove it.
Next came a rather lackluster salad of lettuce, pears, walnuts, celery and avocado. The most disappointing part of the salad was the brown bits of avocado mush, that should have made its way to the trash can rather than our table. The unnecessary addition of mayonnaise in our honey mustard dressing ensured freshness would not prevail.
What's great about Tres's menu are the numerous options of small plates. This is a concept I love, due to my compulsive need to try every dish! I would recommend coming for dinner rather than lunch, just for the variety. We decided the chef always knows best and got a non-vegetarian tasting of three of their small plates. The Spicy Pork Sausage with kidney beans was the first to be attacked - in chilly, tomato, roasted garlic and shallot, doused generously in olive oil. Though this combination isn't likely to leave you unhappy, I found the quality of the sausages unimpressive and the flavour profile of the complete dish a bit one dimensional. The Chilly Prawns weren't bad for a home-style toss-up, but certainly underwhelming on a restaurant table. That seemed to be our sentiment for most of the food that reached us, including the Pulled Chicken Croquettes. Though beautifully crunchy and golden on the outside, the chicken itself didn't have very defined flavours, and sadly the uninspiring sriracha mayonnaise didn't do much to help. I hope that paper towel under them was left by accident!
I was most intrigued about the Seafood Sausages and the chef was kind enough to serve them to us despite only being on the dinner menu. The rocket and celery salad that sat on top, dressed in Asian splendour of soy, chilly and sesame, was strangely the best thing I had all afternoon. Though a clever little dish, it lacked the texture of the sausage which, to be precise, was a bit snotty.
Our main of Slow Cooked Leg of Lamb was the only thing I would flat out not recommend. For starters the presentation looked so dismal — airplane food came to mind, though business, not coach, if that helps. Slow cooking gives the promise of tender succulent meat, but that promise was broken.
The contrast between the soft center and crisp exterior of the Crab and Fish Cake was quite nice, as was its marriage with the creamy spinach & celery. Though this also lacked restaurant-quality finesse, being unevenly fried, with the edges closer to burnt than golden.
I was quite happy with the Roasted Vegetable Tarts. Every element played its part and came together well. The subtle sweet roasted peppers were nicely offset by a lovely buttery crust that I think was infused with some cheese. Lifted up with some robust tomato and corn salsa.
Moving to dessert, the Warm Carrot Cake with Ginger Creme Anglaise was a disappointment. The presentation looked dated and sloppy. The carrot cake was a hard dense ball, certainly lacking the softness "warm cake" implies. If by "Poached Fruit" they meant the one citrus slice then that should have been specified because there was certainly nothing poached about the out-of-place slices of crunchy pear.
The Pear Tarte Tatin thankfully made it. The pear was beautifully tender and a healthy caramel colour, and the short crust pastry wasn't bad, though a tad dry — but this was easily countered by the accompanying ice-cream.
The best dessert of the evening though was the Blueberry Creme Brulee which was definitely the more elegant of the two brulee duos (the other being citrus based). Permission to smash, perfect glass-like-sheets of caramlized sugar fills my heart with evil joy, as I dig further into a creamy, subtly sweet custard base.
Budget: Meal for two: Rs. 2000
17 Main Market, Lodhi Colony Market, New Delhi