An old Delhi restaurant gets a spanking new makeover— successfully
By Anoothi Vishal
Growing up in Delhi, one restaurant that I frequented more than any other was Baluchi at the then hotel Intercontinental. Part of an older genre of “Indian” restaurants, this was a family favourite, as much for its tikkas and curries as for live musical performances; more Bollywood than ghazals. It is with such memories that I walk into a spanking new avatar of the restaurant – and am totally disarmed.
Gone is the slightly fraying space as you would have remembered it—complete with its live singing set up. In its place is a completely contemporary restaurant, swanky and spacious with a huge wine bar for an accessory. In fact, the huge wine bar with an exceptionally well put together list of labels is the defining feature of this smart new restaurant. A substantial by-the-glass menu (ranging from Rs 400-2,500 per glass offerings) means that patrons are encouraged to experiment, pair their food with wine—and witness for themselves how wonderfully pan Indian food can go with new world varietals; the Argentinan malbecs, Chilean cabernet sauvignon, New Zealand sauvignon blancs or, of course, the big wines from Italy—the Massis and the Antinoris.
Once you have placed your order at the wine bar, you can turn your eyes towards another new, swish feature—the bread bar. Baluchi is perhaps the only restaurant of its kind in the country to offer this. Chefs make breads of your choice in a live kitchen and you can order an assorted basket of sheer mals, missi rotis, stuffed kulchas and something called the pheni roti (from Avadh, it is crisp and absolutely divine) to munch on while you sip your wine. The breads are a must try, fragrant and addictive and come accompanied by home-made dips, including carrot, radish and fenugreek ones.
Despite its name that would suggest food from Baluchistan/Afghanistan, Baluchi now serves you a pan-Indian selection. Dishes from Kashmir and Karnataka rub shoulders with those from Avadh, Lucknow and Maharashtra. Apparently, the Delhi restaurant is going to be a prototype for an entire chain—the brand to go to other The Lalit properties across India soon. For our meal, the chef sent us a portion of chapli kebabs, a Lahori delicacy, made of mince and traditionally shaped like a chappl or shoe (these, luckily, were not), his special seekh kebabs which are different from the usual ones you may have sampled in that they include onions, tomatoes and much more masala in the mince, paneer tikkas for the vegetarians and an astonishing mushroom galauti—that totally replicates the original non-vegetarian kebab in taste and texture. Definitely, my find for the evening.
In the main course, you could choose from the various curries—our selection included a Maharashtrian-style chicken (with mustard seeds) and kosha mangcho from Bengal, which was average. But what you must also try is the Dal Baluchi—the restaurant’s own version of dal makhni. Cooked overnight, it is less tomato-ey than the fabled Dal Bukhara and a must try. The service is prompt and courteous, the views afforded by some corner tables of Connaught Place by the night totally worth it and the food shows hard work and great understanding of regional flavours.
All in all, I am glad that Baluchi has changed. For the better.
Food: 4 on 5
Decor: 3.5 on 5
Service: 3.5 on 5
Where: Baluchi, The Lalit, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi