As a food writer and critic, I’m constantly quizzed over my latest exploits. While friends and family find it easier to call me and inquire about where to eat and what to order at the restaurant than using restaurant search engines like Zomato.com, I feel extremely nervous and responsible each time I make a recommendation. So when Restaurant Week India (RWI) rolls by, I make sure to remind all the food lovers in my social circle to make a reservation. Not only do prix fixe meals force diners to step out of their comfort zone but they also offer a chance to explore more of the restaurant’s menu in one sitting than à la carte and pass the burden of selection from the guest to the kitchen.
This year, RWI has over a hundred participating restaurants in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Chennai. To celebrate their five-year anniversary in Mumbai, they’ve also upped the ante with five-course meals at Rs.1,100 for lunch and Rs.1,300 for dinner. Diners in Delhi will be offered a three-course prix fixe menu at Rs.1,100 for lunch and Rs.1,300 for dinner; in Bengaluru at Rs.900 for lunch and Rs.1,000 for dinner; in Chennai at Rs.750 for lunch or dinner; and in Kolkata at Rs.900 for lunch or dinner.
As an RWI regular, I’ve rarely been disappointed since my first meal at Koh by Ian Kittichai at the InterContinental Hotel, Mumbai during the inaugural edition in 2011 and so I’ve decided to make a checklist of all the dos and don’ts I follow to make the most of my reservations:
Lunch over dinner, weekday over weekend
Over the last five years, I’ve found that I’ve always had better lunches than dinners through RWI. One of my most memorable meals was at the Trident Hotel’s pan-Asian speciality restaurant India Jones, Mumbai three years ago. With fewer tables to attend to, the staff took their time taking us through our options, ensured each course was brought to the table promptly but didn’t hurry through the meal either and even threw in small samplers of dishes that weren’t on the menu. Similarly, I recommend weekday nights over weekends. It allows the kitchen and the service staff to focus on fixed meals which they tend to rush through if they are running a full house.
Opt for group dining
While romantic dates get a cushy update during RWI, I’ve always had more fun with a group of three or more through the platform. Most restaurants offer at least a couple of choices under each of the courses and I insist everyone on the table gets a different dish so we can collectively try more from every restaurant’s expansive menu. All participating restaurants have different vegetarian and non-vegetarian menus but even if you and your companion are carnivores, I still strongly recommend one of you picking the vegetarian meal for variety on the table.
Last year, RWI also encouraged restaurants to offer their signature dishes at nominal prices (an additional Rs.200 for appetisers and Rs.300 for main courses in Delhi and Mumbai and Rs.1000 for appetisers and Rs.200 for main courses in Bengaluru and Chennai and Kolkata) and these are best tried in a group. When I took my mother to Sahib Room & Kipling Bar at the St. Regis Hotel, Mumbai last September, we had to doggy bag the restaurant’s signature nalli nihari since their three-course meal was already too indulgent.
Compared to standalone eateries, restaurants at five-star and branded hotels tend to have longer menus, higher prices and severe taxation so I find they are best tried through RWI to save money and multiple visits. Reservations are also easily available since most diners tend to opt for the three to four most popular new participants each round. Hotels are also likely to offer more options for every course and generous portions the whole table can share. I use RWI the most at five-star restaurants I wouldn’t otherwise dream of visiting and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised. If you’re in Mumbai, I highly recommend the excellent Dakshin Coastal at ITC Maratha where you would otherwise feel reluctant to indulge in tiffin fare like dosas and appams.
General courtesies and the golden rule
The only rule to follow during RWI is to respect the reservation you’ve made and make sure you remember to cancel if you cannot make it for some reason. It allows the restaurant to accommodate other waitlisted diners. Other than that, stick to your own restaurant etiquette and tipping standards and don’t forget to leave feedback for the RWI team. In case you’d like more of a dish you’ve really enjoyed, compliment the kitchen and offer to pay extra.
Restaurant Week India concludes on Sunday, 20 September. Click here for details and to make reservations.