By Sourish Bhattacharyya
|No-nonsense comfort food: Indigo Deli's|
Eggs Benedict comes sitting on two
generously proportioned slices of ham
I WAS at Delhi's first Indigo Deli on the opening night with a young man who has spent a considerable length of time in America. It was a night when a freak dust storm had wreaked havoc on the city, turning trees and street lights into mangled skeletons. At Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj, where Indigo Deli is located on the third floor, one of the three air-conditioning plants had broken down because of the storm and the roof above Kylin Premier's popular Sky Bar had blown away. Indigo Deli had arrived with a storm in its wake, and as we were to find out later, it has taken Delhi by storm.
My young dinner-mate had said he would judge Indigo Deli by the standards of New York. At the end of the meal, he declared with a little touch of drama: "Indigo Deli has brought New York to New Delhi." I agreed. Like the minestrone soup, which I polished off with the hungry passion of Oliver Twist, Indigo Deli owes its reputation to its ability to serve the simple joys of life without compromising on authenticity.
The pastrami in its Reuben sandwich (the original recipe has corned beef) is cured at the restaurant for 21 days and is teamed up with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese, and then grilled in rye bread with Thousand Island dressing and gherkins. It's a New York specialty, though there's also a theory that it was invented by a German immigrant in Omaha, Nebraska.
|The bagel and lox is prepared just|
the way it is served in New York
I was reading a delightful article on this subject by Craig Claiborne of The New York Times, when I realised that the famous food critic of his generation named his column De Gustibus, which is also the name of the company created by Indigo Deli's first couple, the gregarious Rahul and Malini Akerkar. It reminds us of the famous Latin maxim, "De gustibus non est disputandum" (In matters of taste, there can be no disputes). All gourmets must make this the motto of their life so that they just enjoy food and not split hairs about it!
That's what Indigo Deli lets you do. There's a congeniality about the place that draws you in. It lets you engage in a meaningful conversation with friends as the warm yet unobtrusive waiters, whose smiles come naturally, serve you your order. It is comfort food that you get, but done with care and affection.
The Eggs Benedict sit on a pair of fat slices of ham and nicely toasted English muffins, bathed in a generous dollop of hollandaise. The juicy BBQ chicken in the Seriously Sloppy Joe, which comes in a baguette, complements the molten cheddar and the Deli's priceless mustard -- diverse tastes and textures make a great tag team in each of the Deli's top-sellers. The BBQ sauce works its magic on your taste buds one more time when you order the spare ribs and the meat just melts in your mouth -- perfect with the warm and welcoming corn bread it comes with. Talking about the condiments, each sandwich or burger comes with a little pot of honey mustard on the side that'll make you want to buy the entire stock. Yes, you can buy breads, and more, after you've had a meal at Indigo Deli.
But the show stoppers, without doubt, are the wafer thin pizzas. We ordered the Deli carbonara with crispy sage and molten parmesan and we just couldn't stop drooling over it. At another table, people were behaving in the same way with their pizza topped up with Parma ham, asparagus and scamorza. The menu has been engineered in a way that it gives you multiple reasons to keep coming back -- one time for breakfast, the next time for sandwiches, then for the pizzas and ice-cream, and then for the more serious stuff, like the 250gm chunk of char-grilled filet mignon with red wine sauce.
Akerkar will be flying in and out to inspire his Delhi team ("I'll be busy collecting frequent flyer miles," he says); his A-team from Mumbai is here to ensure that we are not denied the original Indigo Deli experience, so there are more waiters and the service is super-efficient; and Jaydeep Mukherjee, a Taj product who has been with Akerkar for 13 years, has come down to help the kitchen tide over its startup issues. Indeed, Indigo Deli is indulging Delhi. Let's savour our special position while we can, and give Akerkar the rousing welcome he deserves.