Desi Vibes – Sector 18, NOIDA

I’ve passed the door to Desi Vibes umpteen times, but never *ever* thought of entering. Perhaps it was the door or maybe it was the doorman, but I’ve always felt Desi Vibes was overpriced, jaded and on it’s way out… all without even entering. So when website-veteran Deepinder ‘FoodieBay’ Goyal called to meet up and review Desi Vibes, I cringed  but bravely agreed.

Just shows how wrong one can be.

[singlepic id=372 w=320 h=240 float=left]We met on a Friday afternoon for Lunch. The man at the door asked ‘Table for…?’, while opening the door. I explained I’m meeting someone inside. Climbing the first flight of stairs lands you in a small-ish dining area with clustered tables and ethnic decor. A tall chap materialized and asked ‘Table for…?’. Again, I explained I’m meeting someone. Perhaps it was the camera, or maybe I look like a foodie, because his next question was ‘FoodieBay?’. Another cringe from me. Had Deepinder actually informed the owner/management of Desi Vibes about the review? Would we be observed while we ate and attended to like kings? Most importantly, it looked like we weren’t about to pay for our meal, which is a rule I try not to bend.

I found Deepinder on the second floor, which was just as packed with people as the first, on a weekday afternoon.  Impressive. Deepinder was sharing a table with another young and dashing chap, who turned out to be Manas Wadhwa, the owner of Desi Vibes. (See, if he’s treating me to a meal, that’s the least I can do)

The decor at Desi Vibes is completely ethnic, with various antiques and collectibles scattered all over – including some of the chairs. The walls look like cow dung based plaster and actually are cow dung based plaster, but fortunately, don’t smell like moo poo. The lighting is twilight-ish and quite pleasant, while the music is low and unobtrusive. Service is desi and friendly. Nice package so far. The crockery has this North Indian traditional pottery look about it, complete with the white and maroon motifs that are so distinctly recognizable. Depending on your experience, you could describe the dining area as ‘closely clustered’, ‘cramped’ or ‘cosy’. Take your pick.

After a little small talk, we decided to get on to the task at hand… food! The menu is fairly extensive, with some new items as well as those which appear on every Indian restaurant in the country. I could have ordered a complete meal comprising dishes I hadn’t heard of before. Question is, would they taste different too?

The three of us ordered Mutton Ishtew Hara Masala, a Veg Kebab Platter, a Non-Veg Kebab Platter, Boti ka Lababdar, Paneer Makhani and Hari Bhari Mirch ki Kadi. Only the kebab platters were full size. At our request, all the other dishes were small portions.

The vegetarian kebab platter had 5 kebabs – Hara Kebab, Paneer Tikka, Veg Galafi, Tandoori Aloo and Sabz ka Seekh. Hara Kebab seemed to be the vegetarian equivalent of the Mutton Shami kebab. It could have been a little more succulent and evenly flavored and I’d say the same of all the rest, except the Tandoori Aloo, which was brilliant! The Tandoori Aloo is made with whole potatoes with their insides scooped out, the shells cooked in a tandoor and then stuffed with a spicy mixture. The Tandoori Aloo at Desi Vibes are done just right, with the potatoes soft and succulent and the stuffing flavored just right – I’d order it again any day.

The non vegetarian kebab platter had 3 kebabs – Peshawari Kebab, Mutton Galouti and Kali Mirch ka Tikka. The Peshawari Kebab again, was a trifle dry, but the other two were quite another story. The Mutton Galouti was very well flavored and as tender as it’s meant to be. The Kali Mirch ka Tikka was pieces of chicken on the bone, marinated in a spice mixture dominated by freshly ground black pepper. It was melt in the mouth tender and dominated my experience with the starters. Just so you know, the actual platter has 6 kebabs. We tried a sampler, with two pieces of three types of kebabs.

The Murg Tikka Lababdar was pieces of tender, boneless chicken in a creamy gravy. By the way, can someone tell me what is ‘Lababdar’ supposed to mean? I’ve had various dishes with this suffix and only found it to stand for creamy, non-spicy and smooth, based on the dishes I’ve eaten. However, all the flavors and colors are almost always different. Anyhow, the Desi Vibes version of lababdar delivered. The chicken was tender, the gravy was smooth in texture and flavor and tasted good. The Paneer Makhani was the usual slices of cottage cheese in a smooth tomato gravy and was nice too. Lastly, the Hari Bhari Mirch Ki Kadi tasted like… kadi! This one may interest the chilli aficionados as the pakodas (fritters) in the Kadi were large, whole green chillies. I respectfully removed and kept my chilli aside.

The other things I liked here were the pickle basket and their tava rotis. The pickle basket has 10 pickles, including Mango, garlic, apple murabba, karela (bitter gourd), baingan (egg plant), mixed, green chilli, lemon, ginger and sweet mango.

We completed our meal with a very delicious Phirni, which they make in-house. Did I mention they serve a complimentary glass of Shikanji to their guests, and that the water in the finger bowls was nearly cold… with rose petals?

To summarize my experience at Desi Vibes, the ambiance is pleasant, the service is good, all the dishes are moderately spiced, cooked well and I’m sure you’ll enjoy every one of them. On the other hand, they won’t leave you begging for more either. The entire experience at Desi Vibes is not one of undiluted gastronomic pleasure. It is a combined package of nice food, good atmosphere and great service. Feel free to bring your friends and out of country visitors. I promise you, they’ll have a good time and take back some interesting memories.

– Sid

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Sid Khullar

Sid Khullar is the founder of Chef at Large, a blog that began in 2007. He enjoys cooking, writing, travelling and technology in addition to being a practising Freemason. Health and wellness is a particularly passionate focus. Sid prefers the company of food and animals to most humans, and can be reached at sid.khullar@chefatlarge.in.