My reviews so far from our sojourn in Delhi in January (we have been back in Minnesota for a week now) may have given you the impression that we did not eat any North Indian food on this trip. Now, it’s true that we ate far less North Indian food on this trip than we usually do but we did eat some. In fact, our very first meal out was at a Punjabi restaurant, the aptly named Made in Punjab. We were at the NOIDA Mall of India for some wedding present shopping for later in the trip and of the many restaurant options the boys selected this one. I didn’t put up too much resistance either. I have very little interest in North Indian curry houses in the US but the genre is a very different proposition in Delhi. The boys were motivated by the promise of tandoori chicken and naans—it’s somewhat pathetic just how much better these basic dishes are at pretty much any halfway-decent North Indian restaurant in Delhi than anywhere in the US. I hoped there might be other kababs that might also be pleasing. I am happy to report we were all happy with our meal.
I should say before I get to that meal that Made in Punjab is a chain of restaurants set up by Jiggs Kalra and his son. That name may not mean much to you but Kalra Sr. was a major name in the North Indian food world first as a writer and then with his role in the renaissance of Punjabi food in a luxe avatar in the late 1990s and 2000s (he died last year). He was largely responsible for the success of Punjab Grill—which has recently expanded to the US in glitzy form. At some point in the last decade the Kalras divested from the company that operated Punjab Grill and opened two other North Indian mini-chains: the higher-end Masala Library (which I have not eaten at) and the more casual Made in Punjab. Now it may be said to be casual but the Mall of India location is certainly far fancier than any curry house in the US and probably larger than most of the fancy Indian restaurants in New York.
At lunch they offer a couple of thalis and also the regular a la carte menu but you’d have to be crazy to pick either of those options over the lunch buffet. This because that lunch buffet is lavish and contains most of the things you’d probably want to get from the a la carte menu anyway. And it’s priced very well at just above Rs, 600 for adults and less than half that for kids. At any rate that’s the option we chose. You can get a sense of just how lavish the buffet is from my pictures below—and keep in mind that I did not photograph everything on offer. Speaking of which, I have to apologize for that quality of the images—they were taken by one hand on my camera while I was holding the buffet containers open with the other.
I began at the chaat stand, moved on to a few kababs and then to the richer curries and so forth. This was our second full day in Delhi and we were far from over jet lag and so we did not do as much damage as we otherwise might have. Take a look at the slideshow and scroll down to see what I made of it on the whole.
Despite not trying everything on the menu we did eat a lot. The standouts were the kababs, the biryani (far better than it should be at a place like this) and the mutton curry. The chaat and the desserts were the weak link (though I did not eat any of the Indian Chinese offerings beyond the chicken lollypop).
With tax and tip the bill came to Rs. 2600 or just about $37. That’s about the price two adults would pay for a lunch buffet in a curry house in Minnesota with about 1/3 of what was on offer and about 1/4 as good. In fact, this was laughably superior to every Indian restaurant in the genre I’ve eaten at in the US and better in many ways than even some of the best (why can so few Indian restaurants make a decent naan outside India?). For that matter, it was also superior to my meals on recent trips at Handiwala and Desi Vibes, both of which are a few hundred meters from Mall of India.
Now, none of this is subtle food and if I lived in Delhi I’d be not very much more inclined to eat it regularly than I am to eat far inferior versions of it in the US. But it’s nice every once in a while to be reminded that food of this genre can be good on its own terms. And, in fact, the next week we had another meal in the genre that was even better, and a couple of weeks later another in Calcutta (of all places) that was better still.
Before I get to either of those though I’ll have a report on yet another meal at Cafe Lota and possibly one on a Thai restaurant in St. Paul (if our plans for this weekend hold).