Mamagoto – go for the food, stay for the vibe

A few weeks back, when the summer in Delhi had still not bared its fangs, we were in Khan Market one weekend evening for a long planned visit to the excellent Full Circle bookshop, followed by dinner in the neighbourhood. And so it was that after the books were bought, we (self, the wife and the two girls) wandered desultorily in Khan Market’s middle arc – the one that most of the restaurants and cafes open their doors to. A few minutes of wandering among sated happy diners and others purposefully striding to their dinner reminded us to decide quickly, it being Saturday evening and nearly rush hour for the dinner crowd. Quickly scanning the lane for a place we had not been to before, Mamagoto (promising ‘fun Asian eating’) caught the eye.

We walked up the narrow flight of stairs wondering how the place was going to deliver the ‘fun’ along with Asian eating. As we reached the first floor (they have another above), the hubbub of a busy, happy cafe hit us. Bright and colourful, looking packed to the gills with chattering customers and waiters snaking to and fro, it looked promising – the only question was, would we find a table? Luckily there was one, and a nice location too – a table for 3 in one corner with a view (ok, of the lane outside and the car park). The place had a casual, cafe-like air, more buzz-y than relaxed, and with no overt Chinese or Oriental restaurant trappings. A waiter sauntered by soon enough, greeted and introduced himself, and handed us the menu.

The menu was interesting, riffing on flavours and techniques across the Orient. To begin with, we ordered a spicy fried calamari to go with a Mojito and a glass of white wine. It turned out to be a great choice of appetiser. The calamari was crisp on the outside, and chewy yet tender as you bit through and spicy enough without overwhelming the rest of the flavours.

Spicy fried calamari
Spicy fried calamari

As we munched through what soon started looking like a meagre serving (!) it was time to order the mains. It being our first visit to Mamagoto, we wanted to sample as wide a variety across the menu as was possible for two adults and a kid (our younger daughter is a little more a year old and so doesn’t count, yet. She spent most of the evening on the windowsill – they have only one high chair for kids and it was taken – or wandering about, looking at large noisy human beings at other tables). We decided to go for an Indonesian grilled chicken with coriander and peanut dip for our elder one, and a teriyaki meal in a bowl with chicken and Chiang Mai train station noodles for us. The name of the last dish was too much to resist, and it promised a khao-suey style preparation – so I guess we couldn’t go wrong.

The grilled chicken was excellent, with the smokey notes of ‘tikka-ed’ chicken mixing well with the slightly sweet and pungent sauce it was cooked with. The dip was nice too, and I used it later to add flavour to my teriyaki meal as well.

Indonesian grilled chicken
Indonesian grilled chicken

The teriyaki and Chiang Mai train station noodles took a while longer to arrive. While we waited, we sipped our drinks and longingly looked at the now empty fried calamari bowl, and wondered if it made sense to order another portion. And while the wine was great, the Mojito was served with ice cubes, instead of crushed ice – not sure that was an innovation that added much. Our friendly waiter was difficult to trace, and when he finally arrived to tell us that the rest of the food was almost ready, he introduced himself again. Blame it on a busy night I guess.

Teriyaki Chicken in a Bowl
Teriyaki Chicken in a Bowl

The teriyaki meal in a bowl was nice enough, with a hearty taste albeit a little low on flavour. The serving was generous and so towards the second half of the bowl I found myself reaching for the peanut and coriander dip to add some spice.

Chiang Mai train station noodles

The Chiang Mai train station noodles were a little disappointing – not bad mind you, but did not quite hit the notes we were expecting it to. Overall, it seemed sweeter and more tangy than it should have been, and low on the rich flavour of coconut milk (Maybe the coconuts are expensive at Chiang Mai station?). The sauce in which the noodles were cooked was quite thick, a little too many fried onions, and heavy on turmeric. Maybe the sub-conscious comparison with khao-suey affected this unfairly, but the balance of the dish seemed a little off.

The buzz at the place was great throughout, with large happy groups of friends and families at most tables – the crowd starting to thin out only around the time we were leaving. Asian eating it was, with hearty portions and certainly a sense of fun. I would certainly go back for the calamari, the Indonesian grilled chicken, and to try some of the other interesting offerings on the menu.

Rating: 3.6/5

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This is what I call food

Had promised to write on Monday and now its Friday and I’m still sorta stuck with lots of work, hope its understandable considering that I was out of action for 5 days 🙂
OK!so as promised here’s the list of places that I absolutely love and I have special memories attached to them so that makes it doubly uber cool 🙂

1. China Club- Awesomest place for lovely food, nothing beats Chinese here I can’t claim it’s authentic as per the dishes I ordered and but it tastes just so right. The story behind this is that my best friend of one time had come to India from States after a really really long time and he invited me for dinner and I dolled up and met him at ‘The China Club’ ofcourse, the bill was exorbitant and I didn’t know I could eat so much, we finished an entire bottle of Australian white wine (sorry forgot the name) with tiger prawns as starters and the main course was Pork chilli and Lamb conje. LOVED it!! we ate and chatted for 3 hours. Can never forget that!guess what during the days of News-X had seen Peter Mukerjee also there sounds like a big deal.

2. There’s nobody else I would trust with ordering apart from Vijay, he’s a real foodie and I just request him to order for me whenever he’s there. We had gone on a work trip to Mumbai and I was dying to eat some good sea food so off we went to Gazali. Man!we started with Kokam Kadi and for starters had fried Bombay (Mumbai) Duck, then we ordered crab so the live crab clicking to glory. But the click click! turned into an awesome garlic butter shredded crab, roomali roti, Yellow Fish curry and meat.

Gosh! my mouth is watering already!

3. Solar Topi- Recommended to me by my ex-boss Kannan, he’s a Cancerian and a foodie like me, he suggested this place, its opposite ‘The China Club’ the food is nothing special roti dal sabji 😛 but had loved the ambiance its pristine white and feels like your sitting in a British Raj tent! Had taken my to-be and now my husband there, after he refused to eat anything at China Club. Don’t know if it exists any more, my haunt has changed to Delhi now.

4.Italiano-Had gone there after a grilling work out in gym trying to get this curly haired bomb interested in me. This place has awesome ambiance they light a candle on your table and the lights are dim, with the interiors made of stone/brick and guess what it was awesome because of this mid feb- mar type weather with a little bit of rain hanging in the air, I could smell summer and this really hot guy 😉 same Italian fair that you get every where bruchetta, crostini and the likes, I liked their mushroom risotto. Was located at Nathupur, don’t know if it exists anymore.

5. Olive Bar and Kitchen – The ‘lazy’ review can be found here, my hubby and I had gone there for Christmas brunch, guess who we bumped into Mr. Chidambram himself with no fan fare, just with a glass of red wine, my husband was like- ‘that’s him right?’ I said ‘ya we shouldn’t stare :)’ he smiled at hubby as hubby works for a news channel and has a fancy designation 😉 show off me, but I think this was paisa vasul, saw a couple of girls from my batch at college, some looked the same, some plumper. By the way I have never had such awesome turkey,its was perfect, all types of cheese had fun drinking wine,picking at food and they actually had sweet potato skewers,not my favourite but they tasted good.They also gave us some plum cake in a jam bottle. I was figuring out how did get the cake in the bottle ? May be they just baked it in the bottle? The service that day was terribly slow and if your sitting under the tree then be careful we had larvae trying to eat some pasta.

6. Mom’s Kitchen -Located in Central Goa near Panjim City, on our last trip to Goa, hubby and I hired a scooty and spent the whole day doing stuff that we would do on a weekend, try a new place to eat and watch a movie. I wanted to eat Goan fair so after we saw ‘Clash of the Titans’at Inox,on our way back to Cidade Goa (its was HOT! & April)we stopped at Mom’a Kitchen to eat Goan home cooked food.I loved the Dal and I had chicken broth with Cheeselings 🙂 reminded of the fights that me and Ira had on cheeselings, I was terribly plum and my sis skinny still she would beat me up on chips and cheeselings.

7. House of Ming- My first five star date with my ex I’ll never forget we saved up so much to eat chinese here 😉 We had wok fried noodles and lemon chicken dry specially made for us, we didn’t want gooey lemon chicken so requested the maitre de to get a dry lemon chicken, it was basically fried chicken with lemon sauce on top- yum. It’s located at Taj Mansingh Delhi, I still remember the chopsticks white with shiney silver top.

8.Fresco- Have been here on three occasions already , at Ambience Mall twice and at Janpath once -all celebratory lunches ,first occasion, Rahuls’ Cherry Honda and to celebrate a great pitch with the girls Rashmi and Kudrat. At Janpath the business card did the trick, just a little bit of thank you and the fact that Fresco was newly opened got us the best service, the pizza was freshly made and served at our table, didn’t like the deserts so a cake was specially made for us. 😉 now I like being pampered

9.Bukhara- At the Maurya, I know for sure one place where hubby gets best service, the business card does the trick, loved the wine, the kabab platter. I think Dal Bukhara over rated. Steady and sadly the standard has been slipping here.

10. Punjab Grill- Love ordering in this place when I’m with my side of the family, chicken shikan works for me here, no roti and only boti. Thsi time when my sister was travelling with her hubby my nephew (Anay/googley coz I love his cheeks) took them here, Kurkure are nice, the chaap is awesome but if you want to order a platter then that’s the best option here or anywhere including Punjabi By Nature or Colonel kababs. That reminds me Dahi Meat at Colonel Kabab is good. Then we had good ol’ butter chicken and naan. Gosh, I was stuffed and they had the left over the next day!That’s a hearty meal.

Let me know what all would you like me to write about, More restaurants or something else? Would love to know your opinion on this.

ZEST (Now Setz)

It was a last minute decision to head to ZEST to celebrate my mum’s birthday last night. We had all along planned to go to the adjoining DLF Mall, Vasant Kunj for a simpler meal, but I remembered at the last moment this super fancy place that had opened up to great acclaim and hype, and I wanted to show my mum a good time.

We arrived at the restaurant (I was wearing flip flops) fully expecting to be turned back (I wouldn’t allow myself in a fine dining restaurant in chappals). I knew ZEST to be super fancy, the new hotspot for Delhi’s elite. Up we went and were met by an army of bouncers/concierges/hostesses. “Do you have a reservation?”, “No”, I said “We weren’t expecting a crowd on a Tuesday evening”. “Can you wait for 25 mins”, he said. “No, we’ll rather go elsewhere. I am not dressed for the place anyhow”, I replied.

But what do you know; five minutes later we had a table. I wonder how the lady wearing a beautiful evening dress and sitting at the sushi bar felt when I walked in with my flip flops (I would be mad as hell, if that happened to me). Heh!

The restaurant allows children, but wasn’t really child friendly. No scratch pad or doodling paper for the restless kids waiting to mess up the food. No smiles by the hostesses acknowledging kids who don’t really understand that they can’t sit at a bar stool and order drinks. The expat bartender however, was wonderful and gracious, who offered my 6 yr old niece the apple juice she ordered.

The air-conditioning here is turned to “frozen”. I suppose this is so that the supercilious staff can carry off two button suits and stare down at the clientele. Aren’t the guests (sorry, paying customers) supposed to feel that way? Charming.

The staff are really silly. Very well dressed and all that, no doubt. The trainees wear white overalls and are the bottom rung of the hospitality food chain (I think they are not allowed to interact with humans). You have the servers (shirt, pants & weird pointed shoes) and then some sort of special people (wearing suits, I don’t know what they are meant to do). And of course the pretty hostesses wearing dresses and makeup and scarves and all that. Very posh, you may say. And I thought so too… except our special suited gentleman had his name tag wrongly tagged (so vineet becomes teeniv). He proceeded to shove the menu at my face, killing whatever is left of chivalry in India- there were two women sitting at the table, who apparently didn’t deserve his attention. I suppose in Delhi, the guy who pays the bills and look at staff in the eye gets all the attention. Ridiculous!

Another “Indian” thing I noticed… the size of the chair (roomy, I suspect, to accommodate for our large posteriors). I also found it strange, and this is typical of all Indian restaurants, that most of the table were built family style; in 4-6-8 configuration. The couple tables were apologetically placed at the far end of the room. So sad, really. I should imagine that restaurants would encourage romantic couples and such (I think, young couples out on dates and anniversary tend to order expensive cocktails and what not).

So anyhow, in due course another brisk lady appeared and shot off a question to my mum “would you like still or sparkling water?” (I burst out laughing, I am sorry, I couldn’t help it). I asked her to get us regular water. But no, it wasn’t going to be that easy. This is a fancy place, remember. Another guy came up with a bottle (I think it was Evian). “Would you like…” No, I cut him off; we have already given our preference for plain old drinking water, thank you. Mind you, by now, I have spoken to/been spoken to by 5-6 different people. Whatever happened to personalised service?

Onto the next disaster… We poured over the menu, and I decided my mum should try the tajine (you know, the Moroccan stew sort of thing). But what do you know, they don’t have it. “Why is it on the menu”, I asked. A shrug was all I got. No worries, could the chef at the Arabic live kitchen please show my mum how a tajine is cooked. “No, we don’t have the tajine at all”, the waiter/trainee/hostess/steward type guy responded. I was beginning to feel angry. Don’t have it on the frigging menu if you don’t have the bloody thing. Or let me know before hand that X & Y are not currently available. And for god sake, take the live kitchen and shove it somewhere. What’s the point of showcasing all the stuff, if people can’t experience it?

Moving on to the next disaster… I asked for chopsticks (I was having a Chinese wok), and they got me a – hold your breath – off the street cheap as hell pair. You know the one that is glued at one end that you have to break open? Remember this is a fancy restaurant with wines priced at Rs117,000 (plus taxes). I mean what the hell? I have better chopsticks at home (someone special sent me a nice collection from Chinatown in NYC, but I digress). I was really shocked. This place pretends to be at the upper end of the dining experience – what were they doing handing out take-out style chopsticks?

Oh, By the way- we weren’t shown a drink menu; I had to beg for one, literally. I am not sure why, maybe they thought we weren’t drinking… but my brother had already stopped at the bar for a beer (and the apple juice for his daughter). Very strange. Earlier, we had waited at the bar for the table to be ready, and shockingly the bar guys made us settle the bill at the bar itself, while we were walking in for food. Inexplicable, don’t you think? And then the final straw, the fancy drinks menu didn’t list any Indian/IMFL booze, yet people all around me were chugging kingfisher (including, eventually myself). Apparently the menu and its owners were too ashamed to actually write Kingfisher and Smirnoff alongside “Maison de pommes bla bla bla” (or maybe there was another Indian drinks menu, which is even worse”


Look, the food was great. The ambience was chic. And so ZEST had a lot of things going for it. But I didn’t like the fact that it wanted to come across as pompous, supercilious and fake. Be real. We are real people. Be nice. Make us smile. I am not impressed by white skin waiters and French wine lists. I am not cowered down by hostesses wearing dresses and ear pieces with wireless headsets walking efficiently around the floor.

Don’t pretend to be what you are not. Zest wouldn’t get a Zagat or a Michelin star, but would certainly win as a superb observatory of the quite revolution that is sweeping our elite.

I wonder what Vir Sahgvi would make of this place….

Bercos, Dwarka – Comfort Chinese (at home)

Metropolitan India is undergoing a global cuisine revolution. Descriptors such as niche, artisanal, authentic, creative and fusion now apply to numerous new restaurants in Mumbai, Bangalore and even Delhi (where the hippest restaurants are often found in its oldest villages – subject of a couple of posts previously). Foodies throng to these new places, discovering new cuisines and improving their geography (can you now identify Hunan province on the map of China, and do you know Jamaica through your jerk chicken or is it the other way round?).

Apparently all this is happening. Because if you live in Dwarka, you only see glimpses of this through excited reviews and colourful weekend planners in newspaper supplements, blog posts of friends, or lifestyle shows on TV that help you plan exciting evenings and weekends. Dwarka is a new-ish large suburb at Delhi’s south-western extremity, but its adjacency to Delhi’s airport hasn’t helped fly in global cuisine or far flung-regional cuisine (such as Konkani, Chettinad, Bengali and.. umm.. anything beyond Delhi and Punjab actually) here yet. Most of Delhi’s great culinary traditions find representation here however – Punjabi-tandoori, kabab-shabab, Mughlai, Punjabi-Chinese, Chhole-chaat-jalebi, with a few idly-dosa and pizza joints thrown in. Of these, Bercos is among the most famous of Delhi’s stalwart restaurant brands to have set up shop here (Golden Dragon is here too, but that’s another post).

Bercos has been one of Delhi’s greatest purveyors of Indian-Chinese cuisine, and an institution at Connaught Place (sorry, Rajiv Chowk?). At Dwarka, except to step in and pick up their ‘home-delivery’ menu once a couple of years back, I haven’t been inside the establishment and so cannot talk about ambience, service, seating and such like. But their food has been a regular and reliable visitor at our home for over two years now. Berco’s doesn’t mess much with new-fangled concepts – their ‘dimsums’ are called ‘momos’, and they offer all the old reliables of a Chinese menu – chilly garlic fish, chilli chicken, shredded lamb / diced chicken / slice fish in (choose 1) hot garlic / black bean / szechwan sauce et al. While little of it is authentic in the new-age way, the Bercos kitchen manages restraint in not going too far over to the ‘Punjabi’ way either. And so most of their food actually achieves a satisfying ‘marriage’ of robust taste and discernible flavour.

With Bercos, what you think is what you get. What comes to mind when you think chicken Manchurian? Or hot and sour soup, American chopsuey, fish in black bean sauce? Yes, that’s how Bercos makes it. And their order-taking on phone is reassuringly familiar –
Self: hello
Bercos: hello sir goodeveningthankyouforcallingbercos, you want veg or non-veg
S: non-veg
B: chicken or fish
S: fish
B: ispicy or non-ispicy
S: medium spicy
B: ok sir then you take sliced fish in black bean sauce, will be medium ispicy.
S: what about gravy?
B: do you want dry or gravy?
S: what will this dish be?
B: semi-dry, you can have it with isteamed rice.
You can only have a vague idea of what you want when you dial in, Bercos will guide you through their menu and help you decide dinner quite skilfully. And they are among the rare joints in Dwarka that deliver well within the promised time, even on a weekend evening. All of this probably doesn’t sound like much, but many restaurants in Dwarka will show you how easy it is to get these wrong.

All is not Manchurian and black bean sauce at Bercos either. Their Thai options, again inspired by Thai cuisine 101 (red and yellow curries, tom yum and tom kha for soup), are worth the occasional order as well. A Thai holy basil chicken was quite nice the last time we ordered. A segment called ‘Chef’s Special’ on the menu promises much and doesn’t deliver too poorly either. The chefs do seem to extend themselves here. A sliced fish in mustard chilli sauce tastes very un-Indian-Chinese and is quite lip-smacking. Combine this with their lovely aromatic Moon Faan rice, and you can end up with an unexpectedly good meal. I’m afraid there is no evidence to report of the soups or the vegetarian selection. Ordering from home, somehow those pages on the menu have been a blind spot to me so far.

Which reminds me, we haven’t ordered their starters in a long time either. Sorry to be abrupt, but it’s Friday evening now, and time to decide between Crispy Fish (as you like it with pepper-salt, pepper-garlic or butter-chilli-garlic) and Singapore Wok Fried Chicken!

Places for Birthday Treats in Gurgaon

I must confess that its a task to figure out places to give treats, everyone is up for a free lunch specially in my team, there are a couple of places in Gurgaon that I would like to call food-joints-esentially-for-treats.

Starting from a name that’s really ALL-THAT-YOU-CAN-EAT experience is Barbeque Nation, its the one stop shop for both veggies as well as non-veggies. But its slightly over exposed over the year [was my find :)] infact, not only have I visited it on ‘official’ purposes but also for personal, my husband freaked out when we went there for dinner, he’s a hard core Kabab Factory Fan. Barbeque Nation is located in Sushant Lok if I may say walking distance from
IFFCO chowk metro station. For a lunch buffet with limited choice of 3/4 snacks its Rs350 per head with beer, soft drinks are extra.

The other one that we went recently to was ‘THE CHOWK’ it’s all you can eat in a different way,it’s basically not for an evolved audience but for people who would like to EAT read hog there. I didn’t find variety but the boys hogged on the two non-veg dishes one of chicken and another mutton with unlimited hot rotis that made the experience atleast, worth while, it was I guess Rs250 per person. Slightly boring for vegetarians with same roti , dal, sabji that you could eat anywhere. What I like about ‘The Chowk’ is that has innovative and bright interiors, its located in MGF.

Another gem of all you can eat for veggie fair is ‘ Rajdhani’ I find it disappointing ,as most people I know are veggies and I do eat my share of veg at home also, so not my choice but ya, its good, located in MGF again.Not so fancy fair but totally veg options, good on pocket are Haldirams and Bikanervala, I have  cravings for chaat, so I don’t mind that too much.

Another place that is not really heavy on the pocket but I  like the food is ‘The Red Hot Cafe’, Thai and Chinese here are good, as per the Indian palette, I really like their spring rolls, you can actually ask them not to fry, so it has a thin outer crust and succulent on the inside and their Pad Thai is good too.

Sushiya, if you like Japanese, now that’s a tough choice for most Indians as Sushi per say is not fulfilling read fills but doesn’t satisfy 🙂 .Their ala carte menu is expensive if you give people a free hand at choosing what they want to eat then you’ve had it but if you are ordering in then Sushi Platters come in alot of variants and Satays are a good option too. You could tie this up Red Hot Cafe and order the good ol’ noodles and manchurien. Can be ordered online as well as on call, I had heard about a restaurant that they had opened in Cyber Greens.

For Italian, Mrs Kaur’s at Sec 30 is a good option, I had gone there for a Saturday lunch from work, now this what I’d like to call Punjabi-Italian, not the right place for people who like to eat roti, sabhji. But veggie selection is good too, their open sandwiches , brownies and spaghetti with meatballs are something I would like to recommend. The service and the delivery is slow so keep ample time before your order.

Last but not the least is the King of all food, ‘Nizam’s Kathi Kebab’ one kebab fills up a normal guy and women usually share 1 into 2 style ;), but apart from the standard kebabs I really like their Keema-Pao, that’s for starters, apart form that everything else is avoidable. Don’t forget to order an aerated drink as the oil kebab really fills you up.

Statuary warning-
This is definitely not an exhaustive list but a list that I usually follow for treats and Saturday lunches. This list is also limited to the vicinity where I work. Let me know what you think about this? In my next list I’d write about the uber cool, slightly expensive but some places that I really really like.