Friday, 24 January 2014

DINING OUT: No Smokey's Without the Fire of Chilli

This review first appeared in Mail Today dated 24/01/2014. To see the original, please log on to http://epaper.mailtoday.in/epaperhome.aspx?issue=2412014.
Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers

QUICK BITES
WHERE: Smokey's BBQ & Grill, VIPPS Centre, Local Shopping Centre, Masjid Moth, GK-II
WHEN: 12 NOON TO 1 A.M. (Happy Hours: 12:30 to 8:30 P.M.)
DIAL: 011-41435531
MEAL FOR TWO (MINUS ALCOHOL): Rs 3,000 +++
STAR RATING: ***1/2

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

DELHI-NCR, one can now say with justifiable pride, is the country's unchallenged dining capital. There's been an explosion of creativity in the city's kitchens, with established and young chefs, from Indian Accent's Manish Mehrotra to Soda Bottle Openerwala's Anahita Dhondy, tirelessly extending the boundaries of the geography of gastronomic imagination. All those who used to mock at Delhi-NCR as the Republic of Butter Chicken can go eat crow.
An American diner serving burgers and hot
dogs with a chilli twist, Smokey's draws you in
with its log cabin look, smoked cocktails, and
dishes like the meaty Two Peppercorn Steak 
Over the past month, we have seen the opening of Soda Bottle Openerwala and Monkey Bar, both of which have game-changer written all over them, the overwhelming success of Made in Punjab's new menu, the back-to-the-roots winter menu of Punjab Grill, and the entry of JW Marriott's K3, whose dim sum, pizzas and Sunday smoked martinis are my favourites. We have seen so much happening that when Smokey's opened, I felt it was to be expected in a city with evolved taste buds. It has become our fundamental right to expect good food from the new restaurants opening in the city.
Smokey's is a restaurant with heritage. It has opened at the same address where Smoke House Grill (SHG) used to run and it's the baby of Shiv Karan Singh, who's a familiar face in Delhi-NCR's restaurant circles. It was he who used to run SHG with Riyaz Amlani, one of the country's most successful restaurateurs. The two parted ways amicably and Smokey's has a lot of SHG, but with Shiv Karan's larger-than-life stamp and ace mixologist Sherine John's smoked cocktails.
An American diner with a deliciously priced wine list, about which I have commented in Fortune Cookie, Smokey's is just the kind of place card-carrying carnivores would love to visit to sink their teeth into the burgers and hot dogs, each of which comes with a twist. The Andhra Style Tenderloin Chilli Hot Dog made me sit up and admire the inventiveness of the Smokey's team. Guntur chillies add fire to the most boring ingredient and sure enough, they infuse pep into the juicy Bangalore beef, the city's flavour of the season, that goes into the hot dog.
You can taste the same fire in the Two Peppercorn Steak, which is crusted with crushed pink and black pepper. I wonder why pink peppercorns haven't become more popular among chefs. They endow dishes with a different kind of zest. The Slow Cooked Pork Ribs are the other gems -- marinated in the house spice mix, lager and BBQ sauce, and slow-cooked in a wood-fired oven, the meat simply slips off the bones. It's the most expensive item on the menu, but if you love Chilean pork, you've can't continue living without tasting this dish.
I was trying hard to look for dishes that would gladden the heart of a vegetarian, but Smokey's is green-friendly only in one respect -- it only loves animals who feed on greens! It may even challenge those carnivores who've started to go slow on red meat. They have the option of asking for the Chicken Wings, generously drizzled with umami-laden BBQ sauce, or the Atomic Drumsticks spiked with red chillies, the Spicy BBQ Chicken and Grilled Pineapple Salad, pan-seared John Dory served with tomato risotto and Shimla chilli sauce (a memorable new addition to the city's culinary repertoire), and Raja Chilli Marinated Seafood Crepes with Saffron Gratin. Just in case you don't know what Nagaland's Raja chillies are, I'd like to forewarn you that these belong to the same family as the palate-numbing hot Bhut Jolokia. Shiv Karan loves his chillies.
I can't complete this review without a mention of the Sherine John's cocktails. My personal favourite is The New Old Fashioned with Jim Beam, Drambuie, fresh mandarin, cucumber, green apple and basil -- I love the balance and freshness of ingredients, and the low sugar content. It's a cocktail for grown-ups -- and one of the reasons why you must have a meal at Smokey's.