Indian Accent III (Delhi, January 2023)

One of my very favourite meals of 2022 was eaten in Delhi in March: lunch at Indian Accent. That was my second meal at Indian Accent, the first having been eaten several years ago, when they were still in their original Friends Colony location, long before the international acclaim and the opening of branches abroad. Now, Indian Accent is in the swanky Lodhi Hotel (not that the previous location was not swanky as well) and is a mainstay on all those stupid “Best Restaurants in X” lists. I am generally skeptical of those lists but there’s no denying the excellence of the food at Indian Accent. Eight years passed between my first and second meal there, but given how good that second meal last year was, there was no way I was not going back again in January, this time with the missus in tow.

We were there once again for lunch. I assume dinner is much, much busier, but lunch is certainly a fairly relaxed experience. If you don’t live in India, getting a reservation can be a bit of a hassle as you’re expected to use an Indian credit card to make the reservation. Both last March and this January, however, I was able to call the restaurant directly and work things out without a credit card on the reservation. Last March I ate there with a friend and we both go the lunch express tasting menu, one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian. Given how good that was (and it’s a lot more food than just the billed four courses), the missus and I had thought we’d do the same on this occasion. But once we were there we could not resist getting the full tasting menu.

We both got the non-vegetarian menu. There are two choices for the largest course and we each got one—so we managed to taste the entire non-veg tasting menu. They were also kind enough to allow us to swap in a dessert from the regular menu for one of our desserts. I’ve been dreaming about their warm doda burfi treacle tart since we first ate it in 2014 and had been hoping it would be on the tasting menu. It wasn’t, but we got to eat it anyway.

As for the rest of what we ate, it was almost all excellent, with only a couple of things that I was not convinced by—not because they weren’t tasty but because I wasn’t sure how they worked in the menu. One of these was the mini cheese naan that opened the proceedings (as it had in the express menu last year). It just feels like a very heavy way to begin, even if it’s not a very large bite. No complaints about the soup that showed up with it though: last year it had been a rasam, this year it involved mushrooms. After that it was a sequence of excellence for a while.

The first course proper of “khandvi, roast beet, goat cheese, crispy patra” was as clear a distillation as you can get of Indian Accent’s culinary philosophy: simultaneously completely traditional (in terms of flavours and textures) and contemporary (in terms of forms and juxtapositions and presentation). This was followed by the “meetha achaar pork ribs” with an aam papad glaze. Just delectable. Also excellent was the “herb chicken, winter saag tart, sweet corn” that followed—the tart with the puree of cooked bitter greens was my favourite part and the sweet corn puree was excellent as well. Next up was a dish billed as “tawa duck, dirty rice, masala papad”. The duck was done more in the form of a large shami kabab and the dirty rice took the form of a crispy nest (I’m not sure, frankly, where the masala papad was).

Then came the signature anar/pomegranate and churan kulfi sorbet, served in the cute toy pressure cooker, and meant as a palate cleanser before the main event. I just love this kulfi and wish it were commercially available. I also wish I were able to replicate the tenderly braised goat shank that was the centerpiece of the first main option. I was told it’s done at a very low temperature for a long time in the oven; I assume it also involves kid younger and of a higher quality than I am able to source. It was served atop a puddle of kadhi with the world’s best onion ring alongside for textural contrast. A lovely plate. Also excellent was the missus’ seafood stew with tamarind. This was served with buttered pao/rolls smeared lightly with podi/spice powder and they were very good for mopping the stew up with.

I was less convinced by the presence of the maash ki dal and the cauliflower and methi chur chur (basically a crumbled paratha) served alongside the two mains. Both were completely excellent on their own terms but didn’t really seem to me to fit with the other two dishes. Similarly, I’m not sure that the raita—tasty though it was—was strictly necessary. I’m not suggesting that more traditional looking/tasting dal and breads shouldn’t be served with this food: the black dairy dal was a highlight of last March’s lunch. This dal, however, was more robustly flavoured and seemed to clash with the two mains. And I had a similar issue with the chur chur.

Things returned to the realm of the outstanding, however, with dessert. First, we were served a small pre-dessert of pumpkin halwa cream in a tiny cornetto. The listed dessert was “masala coconut custart, chironji, date jaggery” and was as tasty as it was beautiful. My heart belonged, however, to the slice of doda burfi treacle tart that they kindly gave us instead of a second order of the custard.

A non-alcoholic cocktail and some water rounded out the meal.

For a look at the restaurant, the menu and the food we ate, click on an image below to launch a larger slideshow. Scroll down for thoughts on service and to see how much the whole thing cost.

Service was a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it was very present and solicitous without being overbearing (as can often happen at the high end in Delhi). On the other, not all the people who touched our table knew as much as about the food as you might hope when eating at a restaurant like this. At one point we were given information about one dish that seemed to be at odds with what we were eating; later one of the chefs came out to chat and described it as being made quite differently! One other service issue: when we first got there, they had a staff member going through the dining room constantly—and I mean constantly—with a broom/mop, sweeping the floor. I guess it’s nice they want the floors to be perfectly clean but it’s both unnecessary to be doing it non-stop and a bit off-putting while eating. After a while of this I mentioned it to our server and he had it paused for the rest of our meal. Somehow we all survived.

Price? Not a cheap meal. The tasting menus are billed at about Rs. 5000 each but after taxes and service charge plus a little extra tip, our total was closer to Rs. 15,000 or $182 or $91/head. This is quite expensive for Delhi (and it was without any alcohol and only one non-alcoholic drink) but for the quality of the food it’s hard to complain (and the quantity is nothing to sneeze at either—we were completely sated).

Well, this is almost certainly going to be among our very best restaurant meals this year as well. My two remaining Delhi restaurant reports are of meals that will not give this a run for their money, though both were good as well. One was in fact a Korean dinner and the other an Indian Chinese lunch. I’ll post one of those reports this weekend and finish up with Delhi next week. In between there will be a report from either Goa or Seoul.



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