Cafe Lota IV (Delhi, Jan 2020)

We first ate at Cafe Lota in January 2014, just a few months after it had opened at the Crafts Museum. Since then we/I have gone back there on every trip (the one exception being in 2017 when I visited Delhi very briefly on account of a family emergency). We were enthusiastic about our first meals there in 2014; the two visits since then, in 2016 and 2018, yielded somewhat more uneven results with the departure of the original chef a possible reason. I still maintained, however, that it was one of the better and more interesting restaurants in Delhi and so there was not much question that we would go back there again on this trip.

I should say right off the bat that the concern I mentioned in my report on our 2016 visits, that the Crafts Museum itself might close, has obviously not come to pass. The museum remains as active and as necessary a visit in Delhi as it has been. And based on our meal there this time I would suggest that Cafe Lota is also going strong, if still a bit removed from the high standard of 2014.

We were just the four of us, two adults, two kids. It was an unusually rainy day in mid-January in Delhi and so we were very glad that the tile and glass ceiling was as good at keeping water out as it is attractive. The restaurant was quite empty when we arrived close to noon but by the time we left, a little over an hour later, it had filled up, despite the continuing rain. Clearly their popularity has not flagged over the years. The clientele seemed the mix of Hindi and English speaking Indians of various degrees of westernization and a smattering of foreign tourists that I’d seen on my last visit in 2018. The menu, however, continues to turn over. While a number of dishes were repeats from our past visits, there were a few that were new since December 2018.

What did we eat? We started with two small plates from the “Specials” section of the menu: “Do Matar ki Chaat” and “Andhra Chilli Chicken”. The former was an excellent mess of green and white peas with tamarind and coriander chutney. The latter was cubes of chicken marinated in coriander and chilli paste and sauteed; it was served atop a nice appam. To these we added two more small plates from the regular menu: the “Palak Patta Chaat” was as strikingly presented and tasty as it had been on our first visit in 2014; the “Fish ‘n’ Chips”—amaranth grains-crusted tilapia served with sweet potato fries—was also very good but one of these years I will remember that the boys don’t actually care for this overmuch. Having done four small plates, we added only the one large plate: “Machhli ka Laal Saalan”, a very nice curry of sole in a tangy gravy rich with coconut milk. We got this with an appam as well. At the boys’ request we also got an order of paronthi and plain steamed rice. The paronthi came with excellent house-churned butter.

We ended with a dessert each. The missus got her favourite “Apple Jalebi with Coconut Rabdi”—still very good. I couldn’t resist the “Samak and Filter Coffee Kheer”. Samak is millet and I have to say I am now a fan of millet kheer, especially when topped with filter coffee syrup.

For pictures of the food and the space, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it all cost and what we thought of the meal as a whole.

With included service charge the total came to just above Rs. 3100 or about $45. Counting the kids as one adult that’s $15/head. Not cheap in Delhi but on par with our lunch at Made in Punjab and a fair bit less than our meal at Jamun. Still a very good deal for the quality, I’d say. I’d also say that Cafe Lota continues to be a fairly unique and necessary stop in the Delhi restaurant scene. I unaccountably still know Delhi-ites who have not eaten there but no visitor with an interest in broadening their Indian food horizons should skip it.

Next up on the food front: a Thai meal in St. Paul. After that I’ll have another Punjabi lunch from Delhi and then it’ll be time to move on to Goa.

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