Choko la, New Delhi
I am not one of those people who can finish a slab of chocolate at one go. I think chocolate is meant to be had in small doses, savoured intermittently between courses. Many of the signature offerings at Choko la’s new outlet at Khan Market, New Delhi, now threaten to throw my theory out of the window.
The 52-seater restaurant, which opened two weeks ago, has wooden chocolate square walls, and a generous infusion of natural light through wide glass panes. All the chocolate is either sourced from the Zurich-based manufacturer Barry Callebaut or from Valrhona in France.
The good stuff
For a generation that has grown up on Cadbury’s Hot Chocolate tins, Tanzania Hot Chocolate (Rs145) comes as a defining challenge. This single-origin dark chocolate concoction with 73% cocoa is everything your mother can’t associate chocolate with; its heady, vehemently bitter, velvety texture is capable of evoking thoughtful melancholia.
Caramelized Cherry Mousse at Choko la
The Valrhona Tanariva Caramelized Cherry Mousse (Rs95) is pretty too: light brown chocolate dusted on a hard chocolate shell with a chocolate syrup on top, pale pink caramelized mousse as a second layer and a pleasantly tangy cherry syrup centre with a crust of dark brown pastry at the bottom. Churros (Rs55), a long, ribbed, sugar-dusted South American pastry, has a lot going for it. It’s served on an oval plate, with a bowl of dark chocolate. The chocolate croissant (Rs45) comes with some chunky home-made raspberry jam, containing mildly sweet, red and yellow mango-shaped seeds. The artistic flourishes in the serving and on the pastries only add to the experience.
Sure, the menu is not limited to chocolate, and one can sample a variety of sandwiches, pizzas, soups, pastas and paninis. But vegetarian Continental food is always a little difficult to fathom. A host of patrons will no doubt be disappointed not to find the usual non-vegetarian fare such as chicken sandwich and spaghetti bolognese (though the restaurant does a neat Eggs Benedict for Rs85). The Pizza Primea (Rs185) disappoints.
A grand meal of a pizza or a panini, Churros, milkshake, two types of chocolate desserts and hot chocolate costs about Rs1,000 (including taxes). It’s a good idea to buy some premium liqueur chocolates like dark chocolate with Rémy Martin cognac or with Kalhua liquor (Rs55 plus taxes for a small square) on your way out.
Curry Leaf, Moet’s Complex, New Delhi
Note to diners: Curry leaf, the aromatic ingredient used in many Indian dishes, has nothing to do with Kashmiri food. Still, the Indian restaurant at Moet’s Complex has come up with a new menu that promises to give the city a much-needed introduction to Valley cuisine.
The choice is limited, as the two-tiered restaurant gives a mere four square inch space on the menu to the Kashmiri delicacies, among multi-page entries of the usual North Indian suspects.
The good stuff
The restaurant has got its balls right: I mean the Rista (Rs230 for two pieces) and the Gushtaba (Rs230 for two pieces). Both are spherical lumps of meat pounded with animal fat (traditionally many times over through the night) to achieve that impossible consistency, where your teeth neatly slice into the surface without the meat crumbling at the first bite. The Rista is deliciously spicy, cooked in a gravy of tomato and Kashmiri chillies, and goes magnificently with flaky basmati rice. Gushtaba (pronounced gosht-aab), the ultimate meat course in the wazwan (the wedding feast), is of the right size (four times the rista, as my father would tell me). Its gravy is of the perfect consistency—more watery than the kind you normally encounter (aab means water in Persian), and contains a hint of sourness because of the yogurt.
Plenty. The Dum Aloo (Rs170), though thankfully saved from the ignominy of being touched by a knife (if it’s not whole, it’s not a Dum Aloo), has a pallid centre. The simplest test of Kashmiri vegetarian cooking is whether you have managed to infuse the insides of the potatoes with the fiery red oil, so they emit the look of a smouldering kiln. Perhaps, they forgot to poke it furiously with toothpicks, as is the norm, before frying. The Paneer Tomato (Rs170), with raw paneer added to the gravy, has nothing remotely to do with Kashmir.
The chef has gone overboard with fennel powder in the Gosht Yakhni (Rs220) and the gravy is strangely grainy and thick. The mutton is also too tender, it disintegrates quickly and robs you of the opportunity to savour its flavour. Kashmiris like their meat tough, and offering the ritual toothpick to scrape out any bits of flesh from remote tooth cavities is a must after any wedding feast.
One can order a Kashmiri platter (Rs300 plus taxes) that includes rice, Rista, Gushtaba, Tabak Mazz, Gosht Yakhni, Dum Aloo and some yogurt. Ordering the dishes a la carte would cost approximately Rs1,000 (plus taxes) for a meal for two.