BY KUHELI BHATTACHARYA RANE
Delhi has been in the news lately what with the spicy political pot boiler made even spicier by the news channels. If you are craving for more of the ‘Dilli ka chaska’, then head to ‘Chandni Chowk’ in Calangute. Located conveniently on the popular Calangute Baga road, two blocks from Infantaria and in the foyer of hotel Lambana is what is proclaimed to be the only speciality restaurant catering to food from the capital state of Delhi.
A door reminiscent of the old world havelis beckons you in and raises your expectations to a fancy dhaba style interior. At present Chandni Chowk is in the foyer of hotel Lambada and has a muted decor. But the menu card makes up in colour and content. It is bright kitsch and detailed almost symbolic to the unabashed ‘over –the-top’ness that Delhi and its loud mouthed brash but extremely hospitable people are known for. Having lived for almost 10 years in Delhi and Punjab it was a total ‘chak de phatte’ moment to be able to sample some of the flavours reminiscent of my childhood.
They have a list of mocktails and cocktails along with wines and whiskies, apart from homemade authentic lassi, and the house favourite; ice chip slush with kalakhata flavour. Served in chunky glasses reminiscent of Punjabi dhabas, you notice the eye to detail when it comes to the serving plates and even the water lota made of copper.
The bhindi kurkure served as complimentary snacking makes for a chatpata chakna with the drinks. For starters we have the mutton and chicken seekh kebabs, malai chicken, and panner tikka. All the starters are served with a tiny stove replica with a smoking coal. The coal only keeps the starters warm but provides a smoky flavour as well as atmosphere. The seekh kebabs were top notch, and highly recommended. Three restaurants are owned by Xavs Norr, Tin tin, Route 66 and Chandni Chowk. Route 66 and Chandni Chowk are geographical areas, one in America and one in Delhi. All the food is prepped in Tin Tin their flagship restaurant in Vagator. The menu card in Route 66 is also as interesting and detailed like the Chandni Chowk one.
The surprise dish of the evening though was the payashorba, complex layered flavourd of Indian spices in a lamb bone and marrow broth, this soup is a lot like the Kolhapuri pandhra rassa, or the soups served in Mohammad Ali road during Ramzan, I am not sure where in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk you will find it, but it is an absolute must when you visit the one in Calangute.
Any self proclaimed Punjabi eatery must serve sarson da saag makki di roti, aloo and mooli ke parathe and homemade white butter. Quintessential Punjabi comfort food, which Taranjeet explained are available as part of the Chandni Chowk express menu.
We tried the all time favourite Punjabi classics dal makhani and butter chicken. The first and overwhelming taste on having the butter chicken is that it’s sweet, and then comes the dense creaminess, let it sit in the mouth for a while and you get the tanginess of the tomato followed by the hint of kasuri methi. The layered flavours of the humble butter chicken is what makes it a unanimous favourite across the nation. The preparation here in Chandni Chowk is a no holds barred, artery clogging full cream version; it’s meant to be that way.
The secret behind a good dal makhani is the fresh whole spices, the slow cooking method and long hours of simmering. The menu says the dal makhani has been on the heat for 12 hours. Need we say more. If or one got too many cloves and cardamoms in my mouth full, which was a bit off putting, and missed the subtle ginger heat which generally cuts through the creamy daal. Oh did I mention the Dal makhani is creamy too.
After the creamy mellowness of the dal and the chicken the paneer khurchan was a welcome change. Soft home-made paneer in an onion and capsicum gravy is certainly recommended for the vegetarians.
The best part of the meal though were the breads. Roomali roti, onion kulcha, butter garlic naan, you name it they have it fresh from the tandoor. Very few places in Goa offer this variety and quality.
We ended the meal with gajar ka halwa steeped in ghee and cooked again the traditional slow simmering over hours.
Chandni Chowk already has a steady walk in clientele of North Indian tourists who find the familiar flavours comforting, for those who would like to travel to north India without the travel expenses they can take a culinary tour in Calangute itself.