Desi Vibes (Delhi, Spring 2017)


No, I am not reviewing a sex toy store in Delhi. Desi Vibes is a north Indian restaurant chain with three outlets in the Delhi area: in Connaught Place, in Defence Colony and in the hellhole that is the Sector 18 Market in Noida, which is where I ate. As to whether these are three outlets operated by the same people, or if one or a couple are franchises, I do not know. I also do not know which is the original. You may remember,  from my reviews of meals in Delhi in January 2016, that the wildly popular Punjabi by Nature‘s original restaurant is in Sector 18 in Noida as well. Desi Vibes is not located very far away from Punjabi by Nature and is close to the erstwhile location of Golconda Bowl Express. Its menu is not very far away from Punjabi by Nature’s either. 

Its high-concept schtick, however, is. The particular desi (of the homeland or “native place” as we Indians say) vibes that Desi Vibes seeks to transmit to you are those of north Indian villages in which no one eating there grew up. These vibes are sought to be transmitted via the decor, which is vaguely rural: this is accomplished mostly via the deployment of thatching meant to evoke huts and a non-functional well (well, of course, it’s non-functional). This is nothing new in Delhi, of course. The Dhaba at the Claridges has been offering an upscale simulacrum of a highway dhaba since the mid-late 1980s (complete with a garishly painted truck).

I met an old friend there for lunch in mid-April (during the unexpected weeklong detour I had to take from London), a day or two after my lunch at Sagar Ratna in Connaught Place. Whatever you may think of the rural schtick it’s an attractive enough restaurant, if a little dark. When you sit down you’ll be offered a glass of jal-jira or similar, which is nice in the Delhi heat; you’ll also see a gent with an elaborate basket offering a large range of pickles to every table. But when you open the menu you will notice that unlike the decor it evokes only every other curry house in Delhi, with ye olde Punjabi and “Mughlai” classics the focus. This is what we ate:

  • Nawabi Murgh Tikka: Kababs were what I was after and these were very nice indeed, with both the marination and the grilling done expertly.
  • Boti Kabab: Mutton shoulder, tenderized and stir-fried with onions and spices. Also very good.
  • Mutton Gilafi: Seekh kababs of ground mutton mixed with cheese (“gilafi” does not mean “mixed with cheese”, by the way: in context it means “with a coating”). Not bad but I prefer the texture of seekh kababs made with only meat—these were a bit spongy.
  • Dal Panchmael: A mix of five lentils, this was just okay.
  • Desi Vibes ki Khas Hari Bhari Mirch ki Kadhi: or “Desi Vibes’ Special Kadhi with Stuffed Green Chilli” (kadhi is a dish made with buttermilk or yoghurt plus besan/gram/chickpea flour). Alas, this was nothing special. The kadhi itself was too thick and the stuffed pepper was lost in it.
  • Rotis: We got a couple of tandoori rotis and rumali rotis. Quite good.

Launch the slideshow for pictures of the restaurant and the food. Scroll down for thoughts on the whole experience.

The service is friendly and capable. The prices are in line with similar places in Delhi. But, on the whole, while I wouldn’t steer anyone away from Desi Vibes, you can do better for similar food at many other places in Delhi (I suppose the Defence Colony and Connaught Place locations might be better). You’ll certainly get far better value for a little more money at Punjabi by Nature, not too far away. In fact, I enjoyed my meal at Lahore Kebab House in London a bit more than this (though the breads here were far superior).

I didn’t eat out anywhere else on this quick outing to Delhi, so the only remaining reports from earlier in the year are of a few more places in London (including a couple of north Indian places). After that it’ll be back to a steady diet of Minnesota reviews.

2 thoughts on “Desi Vibes (Delhi, Spring 2017)

  1. Interesting that London has food comparable to or better than the real thing in Delhi, but that’s over simplifying I am sure? The total food experience for the various Indian cuisines available in India I am sure are incomparable? Cost-wise, are restaurant prices in India similar to what we pay in the states? (I still don’t get $14 for a serving of dal around here)

    We plan to go in 2019, and the food experience I hope to be 30% of the trip.

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    • Some restaurants in London are on par with or better than some restaurants in Delhi—for some things anyway (breads, sweets etc. are much better all around in Delhi).

      As for prices, high-end places in Delhi, especially in fancy hotels can get expensive (especially if you drink) on account of luxury taxes; but in general you will eat much better for less money.

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