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!

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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.

Wokamama – Saturday serendipity, a review

Saturday afternoon found us at a loose end around lunch time in Gurgaon – the wife and our 4 year old T, and I. We’d just wrapped up some work, and we’d had Thai food on our minds for some time, so out came the phone to search for options. Among the many names offered up by Zomato.com (their mobile version has quite a helpful, minimalistic interface that makes restaurant search easy for the partially decided and vaguely aware), one stood out looking fresh and feisty – Wokamama – yes, I tried saying it a few times in the martial-arts-movie way as well!

It was nearing peak hunger time, so a quick call to confirm directions (not too far) and seating and we were on our way. As you drive down M G Road towards Delhi, the left turn soon after Guru Dronacharya station (I wonder why the name – did the great warrior teacher have his tuition academy in the vicinity?), past Neel Kanth Hospital leads you down a dusty path to Nathupur village. About half a km down the road on the left stands a modest mustard yellow 2 storey ‘haveli’, with Wokamama on its terrace. Its location is quite in keeping with the current trend of hip, new restaurants opening in the dusty, old villages of Delhi.

The bright winter afternoon sun felt fabulous as we sat at our table outdoors. As we often do at Chinese or Pan Asian restaurants, we ordered dimsums right away for T, steamed chicken with celery and basil this time. The dimsums took their time to appear – but they arrived as fresh and delicately flavoured as expected.

While we waited, we ordered Huai Yang crab meat soup (1 by 2, Indian style), and holy basil Thai fish fingers with roasted chilli paste. The soup was astounding, bursting with flavour and generously laden with crab. A quick check on Wikipedia tells me that Huaiyang cuisine is regarded as one of the 4 great traditions of Chinese cuisine. Not at all a bad introduction then! The fish fingers were robustly flavoured too – fried sea bass with skin, basted with spicy paste. The stronger aromas and taste of the soup and fish though, somewhat overwhelmed the dimsums when they arrived.

So far the three month old restaurant (they opened in Oct ’10) had done nothing but please, including the service, which was attentive, friendly and helpful throughout. Ahem.. no doubt aided by the fact that I took photos right through our time there, which must have made them think I was an influential reviewer or some such thing. And in another detail, they did what many established top-tier Chinese and Oriental restaurants often fail to do – they asked if we wanted any jasmine tea. We said yes, and we had a carafe of steaming brew on our table for the rest of the meal.

For the main course, we continued in the Pan Asian vein that we had ordered in until now. A chicken in Thai yellow curry with steamed rice was combined with a Teppanyaki selection – basa fish and sticky rice with broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, bell peppers and pok choi, in katsu sauce. The Thai curry was the old reliable, the Teppanyaki was the calculated risk. The portions were huge, and we wished our server had hinted at that when we ordered. The katsu sauce was a little over-salted but otherwise the plate of rice and fish and the vegetables came together very well. And the Thai yellow curry was superb, sweet to begin with, flavourful through and ended with a spicy pungent kick at the back of the mouth.

Full and sated, we almost did not mind the surprisingly long time they took over the bill. And did I mention how the menu separates the good news from the bad – by listing the dishes in evocative detail on each page but mentioning the prices down at the footer. A surprisingly satisfying discovery – and next time I really do want to check out the terrace on a cool spring night, under a full moon.