Contributed by Aparna Jha[singlepic id=1727 w=80 h=92 float=left]For an army kid who’s lived in Delhi for a major part of my life I found myself craving good North Indian food very often in Bangalore. One trip to Khaaja Chowk and I now know where to head to for my Kebab, Butter Chicken and Kulfi cravings. Cut to a rather breezy evening with a Geeta Dutt classic playing in the background with autos that promise a Delhi to Bangalore ride. Well, who wouldn’t be tempted?
The interiors at Khaaja Chowk are a blend of modern and traditional with a bit of a Bollywood twist. With bright red autos that serve the dual purpose of a table and a chair, to the colorful glass bottles at the bar together with a collage of posters of old Hindi classics; well, the place does seem like a tourist’s delight. I was told that the restaurant can seat up-to 134 people and was surprised when I only saw about 10 people in the whole restaurant, until I walked a little further and discovered almost all tables to be occupied.
The ambience had set my appetite well in place and I found myself craving food soon and began my foodie quest with Kamal Kakri ki Chaat (75). This dish is a Khaaja Chowk specialty and as the name suggests it’s a chaat preparation made using deep fried lotus stem and boiled corn kernels. Next in line was another restaurant specialty called Palak Patta Chaat (75) which essentially is potato stuffing overlapped with Palak leaves covered in a gram flour batter, deep fried and served the traditional chaat way. Another Khaaja Chowk specialty I tried was the Khaaja ki Chaat (70) which is layered papdi topped with chaat dressing and sprinkled with a special Khaaja masala. One remarkable feature of all these dishes was that they retained their crispness for a while after they were served unlike other versions I’ve seen.
Moving on to the meats, I tried the Non Veg. Kebab Platter (425) which contained the classic Mutton Seekh Kebab, Chicken Burrah and Chicken Banno Kebab. The seekh was average but the Chicken Burrah and the Chicken Banno were succulent, juicy and just perfectly cooked with the right amount of seasoning and spices. For drinks I ordered the Mint Chowk (110) which is a Khaaja Chowk version of classic lemonade with a hint of mint which made it a good accompaniment for the kebabs (Khaaja also has its alcohol based signature drinks which couldn’t be reviewed as I visited the restaurant on a dry day. Poor me.)
Usually restaurants tend to underplay the vegetarian starters menu but Khaaja Chowk knows exactly how to please you. I decided to order the Veg. Kebab Platter (325) which contains an assortment of kebabs including Hara Kebab, Paneer Tikka and Tandoori Bharwan Aloo. All kebabs were well cooked with the Hara Kebab standing out with its unique dry fig filling which is something I’ve never eaten elsewhere. The Paneer Tikka also deserves a special mention as it’s definitely among the best I’ve tasted in Bangalore.
With my tummy almost full with starters I wondered if I should order the main course, but given the experience so far I decided to go for it. And I did order and ate my fill… again. I ordered the Dal Tadkedaar (180), Khaaja Spl. Paneer (230), Chaamp Curry (325) and Butter Chicken (325). It’s said the easiest things are often the most difficult to do but Khaaja does know how to add a bit of panache to the simplest of dishes. The Daal Tadkedaar was one such simpleton that stood out; moong ki daal tempered with jeera and their own blend of secret spices… well I would go back just for the daal and rice. The Khaaja Spl. Paneer was essentially paneer cooked in slightly sweet malai and cashewnut gravy which unfortunately was a bit too sweet for my liking. The Butter Chicken was perfectly cooked with the chicken tender and the gravy tasting just right.
For dessert, I tried the Rocket Kulfi Tilli Pe (50) and Rabri Khaaja(90). I began with the Kulfi and to my surprise it wasn’t too heavy on the malai and was just as sweet as I would want my Kulfi to be. Next in line was the Khaaja Rabri which again is a Khaaja Chowk special that has Rabri served on the layered papri base. This was indeed unique as the Rabri actually tasted better with that slight salty tinge of the papri.
Having spoken about the food and the ambience, good service is another parameter a good restaurant needs to score on. Since I visited the restaurant on a Saturday I did expect Khaaja to be chaotic as almost all restaurants run a packed house in Bangalore on weekends. Also, since this particular outlet was a franchise I wondered if the service would also be as good. But, Khaaja Chowk met this expectation with ease too, with all tables being given proper attention and the stewards appearing to know their job well.
Thank you so much Khaaja Chowk, for that quick auto ride to Delhi and also for giving me and many, many more foodie North Indians the means to survive in Namma Bengaluru.