Monday, September 21, 2015

Ek Bar - Once upon a time (a preview)

Delhi has a new bar dedicated to the drinking culture of India and Skeety visited to get a feel. It is kitschy, it is sassy and it is a neighbourhood bar called Ek Bar by AD Singh of Olive in partnership with the very talented Chef Sujan Sarkar. Ek Bar is located in Defence Colony and the place gives a carnival-like vibe with a giant merry-go-round installation just above the bar. One walks in at Ek Bar to witness eager bartenders doing their shaking jig and that sets the tone for the evening. 

City of Nizams (right)


All drinks have an Indian touch. They are re-imagined in the Indian way. You can sample, murabba, amrak (starfruit), gondhoraj lime, Indian spices and such in your drink. The names of the drinks are quirky and Indian: Murabba Mule, Platform @ CST, Sher Singh, Susegad and more.

Mogito-6 (right)
At Ek Bar you decide what mood you are in and pick a card (menu) accordingly. There's A,K,Q andJ. Choose your drink and get going. The bartender who came with Skeety's drinks had a story to tell with each of them, making the experience superlative. Our welcome drink was the Royal Indian touch. Nitin Tewari, Skeeter's bartender for the evening told 'Punch' is derived from the Sanskrit word which means five and was first made in India in the 16th century using five ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices. When Britishers came to India they enjoyed the drink and took it back to their homeland from where it became popular globally. At Ek Bar, this Punch is served in an intricate teapot that comes with cups to depict the community drinking culture in India.  The Mo'g'ito 6 is Ek Bar's take on a mojito. In India, most pronounce it wrong and hence it is deliberately misspelt at Ek Bar. The story behind the drink goes thus: If Mojito was made in India, it would have our local citrus fruit Amrak or starfruit. And Amrak is sold in Old Delhi during winters, so the bartenders added 6 spices to this drink that they procured from Khari Baoli spice market in Old Delhi. This drink could do with less ice, though! 
All drinks are claimed to be made within two minutes and the ingredients like shrubs, bitters, juices are all homemade.
The Royal Indian Punch (left)
Ek Bar - Granola Bar (right)
 The City of Nizams is gin & tonic, done the Indian way. This bright yellow hued drink comes with  Gin, turmeric, orange syrup and tonic water. While fancy icecubes may be the way the world is going, at Ek Bar, this drink had Katori shaped ice in it and inside the icecube was a blade of mace. As Skeety sipped her drink slowly, the mace broke out of ice to lend a hint of added flavour.

Nitin Tewari, mixologist at Ek Bar 

The grub

The Ek Bar Granola Bar is joyous. It is made of Jhalmuri, Avocado and imli gel with frozen Dahi Bhalla ice-cream on the side. This one sets your mouth on fire and Skeeter would go back just for this. It goes very well with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Fresh local Burrata comes seated on a bed of tomato kut and is topped with a coriander and walnut chutney crumble. The freshness of the Burrata is stunning and the tart-sweet tomato kut beneath only adds to it. What is really good about Ek Bar is that they have engineered the menu that is full of nibbles and finger food. Skeety always wanted a place where she can just snack, drink and be happy and Ek Bar is just that. 
The Veg Thali is just a name. It is essentially appetizers put together to form the Thali components. In the Thali, mushroom galouti hot dog was innovative, beetroot and peanut coin was okay, ricotta stuffed bhavnagiri mirchi packed the punch, rawa fried paneer was different from the tikkas that the vegetarians are dumped with, rajma hummus was fresh and creamy and the charred roti made a perfect accompaniment. They have a cheese Thali too and Skeets would want to go back and try that some day. End your meal on a sweet note with some carrot halwa cake and savoury buttermilk icecream. This combination was delightful and reminded Skeeter of her garam halwa-thandi malai winter eating ritual.

Where: Ek Bar, D-17, Defence Colony (corner building near petrol pump).

Note: The place opens for public on September 23rd. This was a preview on invite.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Flavours of Shahjahanabad

When Old Delhi comes calling one has to oblige. Having heard of the feasts put together by the Jalalis and experienced one herself, Skeeter met the Jalalis one on one over a lunch table hosted by them at at Le Meridien, Gurgaon. And it couldn’t have been better! Osama Jalali, a food writer has curated the dining experience and the meals are prepared by his mother Nazish Jalali & wife Nazia Khan. What one gets to sample is the kind of food that is found in the homes of Old Delhi or Shahjahanabad. Nazish Jalali or Ammi as she is fondly called is a passionate cook who learnt her craft from the khansamas of the nawab of Rampur before she got married and came to Shahjahanabad, where she added more recipes to her repertoire.

Emperors Aurangzeb was a vegetarian, Humayun turned vegetarian even if briefly and Akbar was vegetarian towards the latter half of his life. This did not mean they lost on sampling the best flavours that the khansamas had on offer. There were vegetarian delicacies prepared to pamper these emperors. Some of the recipes may have been lost in time, yet others live to tell a tale.
These Mughlai recipes by the Jalalis are showcased at food festivals across prominent hotels time and again. This time round the focus was on some interesting vegetarian ones. The first of these was a very flavourful Kathal ki Galouti. Skeeter has sampled unusual preparations of Jackfruit but this one outshone them all. Steamed and boiled jackfruit is mixed with lentils and whole spices for a well-textured, sublime galouti. French beans ki Shammi appeared next. Again, a well-made, melt in the mouth preparation, which forces the French beans out of their stir-fry, sabzi, pulao and other avtars. And the third stellar appetizer of the day was a daliya ki tikki. Yes, there’s more to daliya than light/diet food.

Vegetable Biryani 

For the mains we sampled sookhi Urad dal, both black and yellow; the recipes of which come from the kitchen of the Nawab of Rampur. These were very simple preparations that were fluffy and flavourful. A robust Mughlai paneer preparation made in a yoghurt gravy had Skeeter hooked onto the curry. An earthy and dense preparation of Chana dal bharta (mashed lentils) was rich in texture and chopped green chillies complemented it well. Osama calls it desi hummus and well, why not?!

Sookhi Urad Dal 

Chana dal bharta 

The Jalalis 

All these were served with a rustic Khamiri Roti or yeasted flatbread and a mildly sweet Sheermal which is saffron-flavoured, leavened bread. Both are usually paired with greasy non-vegetarian curries in the bylanes of Old Delhi. There was Vegetarian Biryani too! It looked simple but was a pot of myriad flavours. The rice were aromatic as they soaked flavour from the whole spices and each vegetable lent a layer of its flavour to the dish.

After being overwhelmed by the appetizers and the mains, it was time to be besotted by dessert. Aloo ka Zarda, made with shredded potatoes, saffron and sugar was sampled for the first time. It was sprinkled with chironji. Skeeter was looking forward to this one but was underwhelmed by the taste. Maybe she needs to get used to the idea of having spuds for dessert? The Shahi Tukda, which was not liked by some on the table, made Skeeter quite happy. Those who didn’t like this version prefer crispy bread against the soft one which was served. The Gulathi, which was somewhat like a phirni, was the best dessert of the three. It is made by reducing milk in dry fruits and made a fitting end to a sumptuous feast.

Aloo ka Zarda 
Shahi Tukda 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Chor Bizarre- Pop-up

Kashmiri spread reminds Skeeter of Haak/Haaq that she makes at home, of Rajma that the relatives generously share on their trips back from Jammu, of Kehwa (Kahwa) that she loves brewing at home. Chor Bizarre reminds Skeeter of all these and more. When CP was the hub of all good restaurants and malls hadn't made a debut, Chor Bizarre at Daryaganj was buzzing with activity, enthralling expats and Indians alike. Skeeter still gets nostalgic about their salad cart set amidst a vintage car. At Chor Bizarre (literally meaning thieves’ market), no cutlery is alike and the decor is a mismatch. Yet, it all comes so beautifully together. There may be restaurants serving better Kashmiri fare, but Chor Bizarre stands tall. It has stood for 25 years to tell its tale and even gone international (they are now in London). As they celebrate 25 years of serving Delhi, a selection of Chor Bizarre signature dishes can be sampled at Drift, Epicentre, Gurgaon where they have appeared in a pop-up format. Chor Bizarre serves dishes from other parts of the country too, but on the day Skeeter was invited they were showcasing Kashmiri fare apart from few starters.

We started with the Kurkuri Makkai and Dahi ke Kebab. Both reiterated that Indian food isn’t all about lots of spices. The Kurkuri Makkai was extra crunchy on the outside and soft inside, making a perfect match. Dahi ke Kebab were subtle and flavourful. Nadru or lotus stem chips coated with a little spice and served with muj chatin that were a showstopper. Muj Chatin is a condiment made with grated radishes tossed in greek yoghurt, chopped green chillies, salt and sprinkled with walnuts. The two make an awesome pair.

Nadru chips with mooli-akhrot chutney
This was followed by a lavish Wazwan (multi-course meal served during Kashmiri weddings) served in a Tarami (an embossed Kashmiri Thali). Of course the non-veg Wazwan is what people make a beeline for, the vegetarian one that Skeeter sampled was equally good. Tamatar Chaaman, Dum Aloo, Khatte Baingan, Nadru Yakhni, Haaq, Rajmah, Mooli Akhrot Ki Chutney & Laal Pyaaz were served on a bed of rice. The highlights for Skeeter were the Dum Aloo pricked a 100 times, deep fried and then, cooked in a spicy gravy. The Rajmah were unputdownable and the Haaq was flavourful with a bite, just the way it should be. 

The meal ended with Shufta and Phirni followed by Kehwa. Phirni is the Kashmiri take on kheer. Kehwa is a warming brew made with green tea leaves, sliced almonds and some spices. It is traditionally brewed in a Samovar. 

Kehwa served from a traditional Samovar

The Shufta is something Skeeter tasted for the first time. Shufta is a dessert made with nuts tossed in a sugary saffron syrup and has a hint of cardamom. It provides much needed heat to the body in the cold climes of Kashmir. Delhi could borrow it too, for its harsh winters or whatever is left of them.


At: Drift, Epicentre, Gurgaon from August 16 - September 30, 12noon - 3:00pm / 7:00pm - 11:00pm

Friday, August 21, 2015

Lavaash by Saby - a preview

2015 is Skeeter's year to discover new food, chart culinary territories and eat the best grub on offer. In her quest for new food, she ended up sampling Armenian food with a Bengali twist presented by Chef Sabyasachi Gorai at a preview dinner at his restaurant Lavaash by Saby (Ambawatta Complex, Mehrauli).

Armenian-Bengali proximity

A chance discovery of an old grave picture led Chef Saby to reconnect with his childhood spent in Asansol (in West Bengal) that bore touches of Armeninan culture and food. Asansol was an Armenian colony some 200 years back. Chef Saby tells that the Asansol hood was named after Armenian families: Apkar Gardens, Agabeg bridge, Evelyn Lodge. More importantly, the Armenians gave to India, the tolmas, the tonir (tandoor, which is still widely used in India), the Lavash (an unleavened bread), paneer, curd among others. Chef Saby calls his offering the A-cuisine. Lavaash by Saby bears Armenian motifs across its interiors. Viplov Singh and Svabhu Kohli have given shape to the initial moodboard of the place made by Chef Megha Kohli and Chef Saby. Skeeter visited the restaurant at night, but is sure it looks dreamy and romantic during the day. With a beautifully done terrace dining space, Lavaash by Saby is bound to be a hotspot this winter.

Armenian grub

The food on offer is new, but not alien. You get the basic (yet most delicious) Claypot bread with a generous dollop of butter and scatter of chironji seeds. It is Saby's version of Matnakash, an Armenian bread. It is called so, as the bakers fingermarks are imprinted on the bread before putting it in the oven. Along with this bread, you sample the most divine Pumpkin Manti (Armenian ravioli) cooked and served in a clay vessel and scattered with pine nuts. The outer wrapping has a soft, crusty rumali kind of texture and the filling of sweet pumpkin with walnuts, yoghurt sauce and cheese melts in the mouth. The use of nuts characterizes Armenian food which they use for texture as well as nutrition. Skeeter cannot wait to try the Mushroom Manti on her next visit.

Pumpkin Manti

Claypot bread

Baked Mochar Puff 

The baked Mochar Puff filled with a fragrant banana blossom and potato mash and served with a tomato relish is your everyday Bengali household grub revamped and how! This simple twist will leave the Bengali bhadralok craving for more.

Rice Tolma

The Rice Tolma (as opposed to the mideastern Dolma) are grape leaves stuffed with rice, peas, saffron, coriander, mint and melted butter.

Panir and spinach kofte 

Dumplings and stews also feature in Armenian cuisine. The Panir and spinach kofte at Lavaash by Saby are the most delicious version of cottage cheese Skeeter has sampled by a Bengali person. Soft, fluffy balls of cottage cheese with a well-seasoned spinach lining inside are a work of culinary art. Studded with nuts and served in a way that it remains hot, this dish is best eaten with another Bengali staple: fragrant gobindobhog rice with butter and gondhoraj lebu (a local lemon). Together, these two make a sublime combination.

Chef Megha Kohli

Chef Megha Kohli is ever smiling and suitably educates guests about Armenian food. Chef Saby's sister, Sarbani, has helped him give the right Bengali touches to the food.


The Ponchiki or square doughnuts filled with nutella are addictive. I recommend you sample them with some good coffee or the pomegranate tea that Lavaash by Saby has on offer.

An old fashioned chocolate mousse is just the right way to end your meal. Skeeter couldn't keep her hands off this one. Sinful and indulgent!

The restaurant opens its doors to public next week. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Navroze celebrations and community food at SodaBottleOpenerWala

Community food can be sampled at its best in the homes of people. The next best option is to have them at restaurants serving such food. Luckily enough, Delhi is the city of settlers, who have, among other things, brought along their food and culture. Enterprising as they are, these communities who have settled in Delhi share their food commercially. So we have the Parsi Anjuman, Rustom’s and the ever famous SodaBottleOpenerWala serving some Parsi fare, which would be otherwise inaccessible to us. 

While Reeta Skeeter spoke about the Soda Bottle Opener Wala Vada Pao here, she had earlier promised to share more details about this quirky Irani café. The nostalgia evoking SBOW always has Skeeter occupied on every visit. Those who grew up in the 70s and 80s would recall the wired telephones that hung from walls, the Ravalgons and Poppins, the bakery cookies, the old multi-purpose tin boxes, the toy train track which was the best gift you could get on a birthday; they have it all up and decorated in a rather fun way.

But it is the grub that will have you hooked. Skeeter would need yet another post to write about the regular menu offerings but for now one must sample the Navroze Thali that is on the menu till August 27, 2015. They have the vegetarian (Rs 700) and the non-vegetarian (Rs 800) versions. Skeety, of course tried the vegetarian one and here’s what she thought: The Vengna Nu Achaar, a tantalising eggplant pickle is something out of the box and so is the Ravviyyan, where minty chutney is sandwiched between two eggplant roundels. Eggplant is versatile and when you hop across regional menus you get such gems. The Doodhi Murabbo is a sweet bottle gourd relish with the flavours of aniseed and the crunch of the chironji standing out. Skeeter could not have enough of it and if SBOW starts bottling this one, it will disappear from shelves. That good, yeah! The Saria is the Parsi poppadum made from sago or sabudana and deep fried to add some texture to your meal. The Papeta Nu Kavab are made up of a mix of tangy/spicy vegetables and potatoes, mashed, coated and deep fried. They are more like smaller versions of cutlets or pattice but the filling is what distinguishes them. The Paneer Akuri is the vegetarian version of Akuri, a rather simple preparation that had Skeeter hooked. To add touches from Bharuch, some dried fruits are added. The Kora no Patio is a pumpkin sabzi that did nothing for Skeeter’s tastebuds but she had her fork digging into a saffron-laced, delectable Vegetable Pulao accompanied with Masala ni Daar, a classic Parsi preparation of lentils and vegetables. The Kachumbar (diced salad) and Rotli (Roti) featured on the thali too. Skeeter washed it down with Rustam Bantawala, a cocktail using raw mango as the base. It went well with the thali. Thanks to the recommendation of chef Anahita Dhondy, I was saved the trouble of choosing what to drink. 

End your meal with the Ravo (semolina milk pudding) and Falooda. The rose syrup laden falooda comes seated in a cutting glass and being true to the community food, SBOW hasn’t cut down on the sweetness to suit your taste. Skeeter loved it the way it was.  
The portion is generous, so it is advisable to fast for a few hours before you dig into this one.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dimsum Fest at Pan Asian, Sheraton New Delhi

As Reeta Skeeter goes through the capital's dimsum selection, she does a happy dance. There's dimsum all around and Skeeter is hungry! Mr. Choy at Khan Market has been my go-to dimsum place for a while now and I wrote about it here. And when a dimsum fest came calling, it is natural that I was gluttonously inclined. The fest is on at Pan Asian restaurant at Sheraton Hotel, Saket. These are the categories one can choose from: Premium steamed, Teppanyaki, Gluten free, Organic, Steamed, Healthy Fitness, Pan grilled gyoza, Baked, Steamed, Poached, Soupy, Fried and Bao.

The Truffle edamame (Rs 425) from the premium category was the first one Skeeter tried and it was a delicately flavoured and well-made dimsum that hit the spot. Skeeter likes her Edamame beans straight from pod to mouth but this dimsum was definitely a good pick. One could dip it in either of the five condiments: Yuzu ponzu, black bean, spicy roasted chili sauce, onion and crispy chili lime or the chilli oil. But should you want to enjoy this dimsum and othes in their own right, you wouldn't need to touch the condiments tray. A refreshing cucumber and kaffir lime cooler went well with this food. Skeeter could have it by the bucket. An Asian Bloody Mary should be your pick if you want to spike things a bit. Skeeter tried both and cannot recommend one over the other. 
Moving back to the grub, the Teppanyaki pick was Asparagus and Shiitake mushroom (Rs 425), steamed then flash fried on an iron griddle. Another gem from Chef Vaibhav Bhargava,  Executive Sous chef at Sheraton Hotel, this one exuded the meaty flavour and texture of shiitake that was blended with asparagus, and they made an appetising match. There is a surprise on the menu for the gluten intolerant. They can pick Rice paper stuffed with Chinese preserved vegetables (Rs 365). 

Truffle edamame

Fried dimsum with carrot and beans
The fried dimsum with carrot and beans (Rs 325) was almost like a spring roll and is more for those who who want, well, something deep fried. I'd give it a skip the next time and head straight for the Thai spice lotus root and water chestnut bao (Rs 325). At the same price as the former, this one's better VFM. The Thai spice lotus root and water chestnut bao is a delicately kaffir-scented, teasingly spiced and multi textured dimsum that will transport you to Bangkok in one bite.
Thai spice lotus root and water chestnut bao

Hot and sour soupy dimsum
The Hot and sour soupy dimsum (Rs 325) made for some more delightful bites. They come neatly seated in soup spoons and though one should know what to expect, if you bite into half this dimsum, you'd be making a messy splash of it. Be warned! Having said that, Skeeter loves Hot n Sour soup and Pan Asian played this one well. They did a good job at controlling the temperature of the soup from kitchen to table. When Skeeter popped this one in her mouth, it didn't scath her tongue and was warm enough to make her crave for a bowl of soup right then! 

Seven treasure mushroom dumpling
Skeeter would've ended this post on a sweeter note but she's saved the best for the last. Skip dessert and end your meal with the seven treasure mushroom dumpling. This one comes seated in a deep dish and since Skeeter is a fungi fanatic, she was in for a treat. These amazingly textured dumplings come in a thin yellow wrapper stuffed with shredded Enoki, Shiitake, Black fungus, white fungus, Shimeji, button and string mushrooms. Besides, the presentation is beautiful as they come plated with some crispy mushrooms on top, a double treat! You dig your teeth into the soft, steamed dumpling and then you bite on some crispy mushroom. If you've made it to the end of this post, you have to order this one to believe what I just wrote. Chao! 
The festival is on from 10th to 31st August.
For address & regular menu click here

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A healthy meal with Raw Leaf

While Skeeter struggles to break this health posts series link, one after the other, what is certain is that 'healthy' is here to stay. No matter how much Skeeter yearns for her share of junk edibles, there are constant, everyday efforts to eat and stay healthy. These efforts maybe of miniscule proportions, but they are there. 
Health food deliveries are on a roll. I'd rather call them clean food deliveries. Raw Leaf is one of the many such deliveries in/around Delhi. What makes them preferable is that Skeeter has picked their mixed green bags (read Romaine, Rocket, Iceberg Lettuce and so on) from supermarket shelves in the past. These bags, though tad expensive, are crisp and fresh, and never wilted. They are also ready-to-use i.e. the leaves are separated and pre-washed for your convenience. Raw Leaf have their own farm (using best practices) to source these. However, they have not gone organic, yet. 

The salads

And now Raw Leaf has launched a salad & juice delivery service, which seems like the logical next step. They sent some over to sample. Here's what Skeeter thought about them. The first one was the Quinoa salad with grapefruit, avocado and arugula. It came with a Vinaigrette dressing. Though Skeeter loves Arugula, this one needs a little tweaking with less of Arugula leaves to make it wee bit less bitter. Otherwise, a very fresh and pep-me-up salad, this.
The other, an Assorted grilled vegetables salad, came with a sublime dressing made up of simple ingredients: Honey, Olive oil, lemon juice. Assorted peppers, potatoes, and even eggplants made their way into this bowl and a generous grating of cheese was used to finish it. Now, this could be my go-to meal twice a week. Grilled to perfection and tasted fab as well! 

The juices

Fuel up, a bright orange, neaty bottled one, was made up with Pear, apple, pineapple and turmeric, is quite a refreshing one. Though I could not taste the pear, the apple outshone with the tanginess of pineapple showing up at times and a mellow turmeric somewhere towards the end. Overall, I loved how it tasted. The Purify juice, a deep maroon one, was made up with Beets, carrots, tomatoes, coriander, mint, ginger, amla and lemon. Skeeter loves her beets and can vouch for Purify as the most deelish of all cold pressed juices in town. The juices are available at Rs 140 per bottle.

For the pricing of salads, ready-to-use greens and all else, visit: