Cafe Lota Again (Delhi, December 2018)

We first ate at Cafe Lota—the restaurant attached to the Crafts Museum in Delhi—in 2014, not too long after it opened. We loved our meal so much we went back a few days later. And on our next trip in 2016 it was one of the places we returned to. Since then the original chef has moved on—we ate in 2016 at his then-new Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu but I think at the time he was still attached to Cafe Lota as well. In the intervening period there’s also been a lot of uncertainty about the Crafts Museum as a whole. There was talk of the BJP government—which does not have much use for Indian culture that cannot be said to have emerged from a cow—shutting it down; but I’m glad to report that it hasn’t happened yet. I didn’t make it into the museum proper on this trip but I did meet an old friend at Cafe Lota for lunch. The restaurant looks much the same, but is the food still as good as it was? Continue reading

Café Lota, Two Years Later (Delhi, January 2016)

Cafe Lota: Do Gajar Halwa
Café Lota was one of our favourite stops on our last trip to Delhi, silly name and all. We ate there twice and liked the food so much that it was the one place we knew for certain we would eat at again on this trip. And we did so, twice again. Neither meal quite rose to the heights of our 2014 experience but I still stand by my claim that this is one of the best and most important restaurants in Delhi. Alas, its future is not bright. This is not because of any problems with the restaurant itself but because the future of the Crafts Museum complex, of which Café Lota is a part is not clear. Nor is it entirely the extent to which this is a political matter.   Continue reading

Chaat etc.

There are few genres as tedious as that in which a middle-aged immigrant waxes nostalgic for the food of their youth/home country and tells you that you can’t get good versions of it where they live now. So I hope you’ll excuse this post.

I left India in 1993 to come to graduate school in the US. Through the 1990s Indian food in the US was an unmitigated disaster: like a bad analogue of Olive Garden’ish Italian food or airport Chinese food. Pretty much all that was available was a bad copy of North Indian Mughlai food made for the most part with pre-fabricated sauces and substitutable meats; with buckets of cream and nut pastes masking the lack of actual experience or care in the kitchen*. None of this was much of a loss for me. This genre of food is restaurant food even in North India–no one eats it at home; and what I mostly wanted to eat I could make for myself at home. I was a decent enough cook when I arrived in the US and necessity made me much better. The ingredients for home-cooking–in my case, Bengali cooking (Indian food is intensely regional)–at any rate were available in Indian stores in Los Angeles. Continue reading

Café Lota (Delhi, January 2014)

Okay, so in my last Delhi restaurant review I noted of Indian Accent that it must surely be on the short-list of highly talked about and ambitious restaurants in the city and environs. It has recently been joined on this list by a restaurant very far away from it in price and ambience, though not, as you will see, in culinary scope. I refer here to the new(ish) restaurant at the Crafts Museum in Pragati Maidan, the unfortunately named Café Lota. We ate two wonderful meals there, but before we get to them let’s take a bit of a necessary detour first. Continue reading