Friday, 22 August 2014

DINING OUT: Cafe Delhi Heights Creator Opens A Terminus of Unfussy Palate Ticklers

By Sourish Bhattacharyya


WHERE: Terminus 1, Second Floor, Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj (Next to the Lifestyle store)
WHEN: 11:00 A.M. to 11:30 P.M.
DIAL: 011-40870755; (+91) 9643654033

VIKRANT BATRA has food in his genes. It was 21 years ago when I first (and for the last time) visited the banquet hall his family has owned and operated in Naraina since 1989. It stood out then like an illusion in the middle of nowhere. In the years that have lapsed, it has grown into one of West Delhi's prominent marriage venues and Naraina has never been busier.
If he were less entrepreneurial, Vikrant would have happily continued with his annual, sleep-depriving routine of 520 (maybe more!) marriage banquets a year. Like Ajay Mago of Om Books International, his good friend who got us to meet over lunch, Vikrant chose to look for money and fame beyond his comfort zone, even as his mother, at 63, continues to oversee the central kitchen and commissary of the family's banqueting empire from 6 every morning, and his wife manages the bakery and patisserie.
The stripped-down interiors of Terminus 1 at the Ambience
Mall, Vasant Kunj, give the newbie restaurant a New York
look. Newspapers in ornate steel trunks are a cool idea.
Ajay has added the power of publishing to his family's old (and thriving) business of bookshops. Vikrant ventured into the business of stand-alone restaurants six years ago and he has scripted the success of Cafe Delhi Heights, whose breakfast and Juicy Lucy Burger are the two unmissable favourites on the list of any discerning patron of good eating. To this success story, he has added Terminus 1 (T1), which may be at one neglected corner of the second floor of Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj, but has all the positives of a restaurant that will make waves even in an overcrowded market.
Creamy onion soup with cheese and croutons:
nourishment at soul-satisfying prices
It has the stripped-down, New York-inspired industrial look and Spartan furniture that seem to define the new design favourite of young restaurateurs, but it has other engaging features. A TV screen that zooms in on the chef preparing or plating a dish that's been ordered, for instance. Or menus that are designed like books with covers inspired by immortal titles, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or Eat Pray Love. Or newspapers rolled up thoughtfully in an ornate trunk, instead of being tucked away on a soulless standee.
Such eye candy however cannot satiate your hunger or the curiosity of your alimentary tract. For that, you have to turn the pages of the menu and admire the creative touches of the head chef, Ashish Singh, a soft-spoken, smiling man who has to be goaded to let out the fact that he has spent some years working in London restaurants. The beauty of the menu is its delectable unpredictability. You could start with the sublimity of Applewood Smoked Chicken, Corn and Raja Mircha Chowder, where the infusion of the world's hottest chilli is delicately balanced by the residual sweetness of corn, and then transport yourself to the simple pleasures of the ISBT Makhni Maggi, though the 'instant' noodles that can never be made in two minutes, could have done better with less of makhni gravy.
The idea of digging the Railway Cutlets was too tempting, but I had to tear myself away from it because I wanted The Butterilicious TOAST (the capitals are theirs, not mine) -- a plump, melt-in-the-mouth piece of bread gratinated for eight minutes with butter. On the other side of the cholesterol spectrum, the Sous Vide BBQ Chicken Green Salad should do well with the ladies who lunch -- it's light, refreshing and conducive to conversations about daughters-in-law. Heartier appetites will naturally gravitate towards the Kimchi Bacon Quesadillas -- the bacon is crispy; the Monterey Jack connects instantly with the soul.
It's a menu that has something for every pocket and taste bud -- as you'd expect at a terminus. I'd recommend the Grilled Sea Bass, crumbed with sesame and peanuts, and served with wild rice, eggplant and cucumber dashi veloute. Someone else would go for Halloumi Eggs or Cauliflower and Hazelnut Risotto. Diversity of the palate is what we celebrate at T1, but count yourself among the losers if you leaving without having the Batter Fried Mars Bars or the Karachi Halwa Brownie Cake.