Sorry for the whiplash but we’re going back to the food reports from my trip to Delhi in March. I posted reports on most of those meals at a steady clip in March and April and then ran out of steam before getting to the last two. That’s not because these were the least memorable of the meals. Well, this one at Indian Accent certainly was not—and I’m not just saying this on account of a piece of high-concept unintentional comedy involving a napkin that was almost the highlight of the meal (more on this below). No, it was one of the best restaurant meals I’ve eaten in a while. Indeed, though this meal was not quite as extensive as our first dinner there in 2014, I may have liked it even more. And it made me rue the fact that we/I had not gone back to eat there in the eight years following.
Well, “there” isn’t quite “there” anymore. Back then they were located in the swanky Manor hotel in Friends Colony. They’ve since moved to the swanky Lodhi hotel on Lodhi Road, by the Delhi Golf Club. They’ve moved to a larger hotel and the restaurant too is much larger than it was and much swankier. In the interim they’ve also become an international phenomenon, with locations having opened in London (since closed) and New York (still open) and their name showing up regularly in those silly “Best Restaurants of Wherever” lists. The quality of this meal indicates they’ve not become complacent with all this renown.
I was not there for dinner this time. I met a friend there for lunch early in the week. There had been a lot of to-do with emailing to secure a reservation in advance and so forth but as it happened there seemed to be a lot of tables available. The restaurant was not empty but it is, as I said, a very large space. There’s a spacious central dining room as you enter and then two longer rooms that are separated by a large exterior pool with fountains. We were seated to the left of the pool and there’s yet another dining room past that area. Do they fill all of these tables on a regular basis for dinner? I guess they must. The part of the restaurant we were in is filled with natural light from the floor to ceiling windows during the day—I guess the fountains must be on the go with illumination at night.
But we were there not for the fountains but for the food. At lunch you have three options: you can order a la carte; you can get the Chef’s Tasting Menu at Rs. 4450 or Rs. 4350/head (non-veg or veg); and you can get the Express Tasting Menu—a four course menu for Rs. 3300/head (for both non-veg and veg). The details of this abbreviated tasting menu are not on the printed menu but if you scan the QR code on the table you can see what it entails. We did this and liked what we saw. I got the non-veg option and my friend got the veg option.
That it’s billed as a four course menu doesn’t mean that you get only four things to eat. The meal began with an amuse of a tiny blue cheese naan (one of their signature dishes) followed by a small cup of rasam. My friend is both a Tamil fundamentalist and a hidebound reactionary when it comes to mod takes on Indian food but she loved the rasam—possibly even more than I did. This was followed by the first course proper—identical across the veg and non-veg menus—which comprised three separate dishes (in miniature and not-so-miniature form), all excellent. The second course was more substantial: each of us got a roti of a different type topped with various things. My friend’s veg version featured a spiced corn muthia (prepared a la seekh kabab) and burrata; mine had Bihari tash mutton with bhunja or puffed rice. We folded the rotis over and ate them like tacos and liked them very much as well.
The mains were more substantial still. You get a choice between two options on both the menus. My friend got the lotus root shammi on a nihari-style gravy with roast potato; I got the three pepper duck atop curry riso with a delicate buttermilk-based curry poured around it at the table. My duck was outstanding and I think my friend enjoyed her main as well. Both menus received bowls of their outstanding black dairy dal and their caramelized walnut raita. We each also got a stuffed kulcha: butter chicken inside the non-veg version and paneer makhani inside the veg. This is the one area of the meal that I had reservations about (just as in 2014): these kulchas are tasty and striking but useless for mopping up your other dishes with as the fillings clash with what’s on the plates. Dessert was again identical for both menus and featured baked chocolate and fruit on a pool of basundi. We were stuffed at this point but managed to finish it anyway.
My reservations about the stuffed kulchas aside, the bit about the rasam above may be as a good a way as any to reiterate what I said about Indian Accent in my first write-up from 2014. Their food pulls off the trick of being modern(ist) in form while remaining legibly traditional in flavour. I am not saying that they present traditional dishes in mod platings (as I largely found to be the case at Varq several years ago). There are a lot of interesting combinations/juxtapositions of ingredients and components on the plates and some innovative re-constructions of traditional dishes. None of it seems gimmicky for its own sake. Well, depending on what you make of their kulfi-sorbet palate cleanser served before the main courses in a mini-pressure cooker for no good reason: my friend rolled her eyes at the presentation and thought the sorbet was nothing special; I loved all aspects of it as much as I had in 2014.
And then there was the napkin. After the last savoury course was cleared away a bowl was placed in front of each of us with what looked like a large peppermint in it. The word “napkin” embossed on the top prevented us from trying to eat them. And then our server showed up with a kettle from which he poured hot water onto it and it reared up like a…well, the full effect can only be got by seeing what happened for yourself. Please click on this link for the Reel I made of it with an appropriate soundtrack. I promise it’ll be worth it.
For a look at the actual food—and the restaurant—launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for thoughts on service and to see how much it all cost.
Caveats about the kulchas aside, I thought the food was uniformly excellent. I particularly loved the appetizer trio and my duck main. And the dal and raita and the pomegranate kulfi/sorbet.
Service was very polished: present and solicitous without being overbearing as is often the case at Delhi’s expensive restaurants. The total—inclusive of tax and service charge—was Rs. 8567 or about $110 at today’s exchange rate. $55/head is not a cheap meal anywhere, leave alone in Delhi—and that without alcohol. But for the kind of restaurant Indian Accent is and the quality of the food, it seems like a good value. Odds are very good that I will return here with the missus to have another express lunch on our next trip to Delhi together (hopefully in January).
Well, I only have one more Delhi report to go. That one will appropriately be of my last restaurant meal out. I hope to have that done next weekend. Before that on the restaurant front there’ll be a report on Tuesday on a Thai meal in St. Paul.
The Indian Accent in NYC is just as amazing. And about the same price, which is surprising.
On their website the prices seem quite a bit higher: $80 for three courses or $95 for four courses. Is there a cheaper lunch prix fixe?