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Whats khaas about Dilli Khaas?

If you like Delhi’s robust food, especially its street fare, then the ‘Dilli Khaas’ food festival at Westin Mumbai Garden City is worth a visit.

Think Delhi (or Dilli as Chef Ajay Chopra, Executive Chef of Westin Mumbai Garden City, prefers to call it), and the mind conjures up images of Kebabs, Dal Makhni, Chole, Aloo Tikki, Gol Gappe, et. al. Well, if these are the images that flash through your mind too when you think about the capital, then boy, are you in luck! You can now have some of this fare that is seemingly prepared in the inimitable Dilli style, at the ongoing Dilli Khaas festival at Kangan in Westin Mumbai Garden City in Mumbai, till 9th September 2012.

Kangan is the Indian restaurant at this hotel and Chef Chopra informs us that festivals like these are held here on a regular basis to get more guests to sample the diversity of Indian cuisine. Ask him what prompted him to choose Dilli cuisine and he says, The city has so much to offer in terms of food. The taste of the chaat there is so unique that you just can’t get it outside of Delhi. That’s the experience we are trying to recreate in Kangan for this festival.

And it looks like he has managed to get that recipe for Dilli’s unique food down pat (he  ought to, since he is from Faridabad originally and has also worked in New Delhi at some point of his career). The Chandani Chowk ki Garam Aloo Tikki, which is a stuffed potato patty smeared with mint-date chutney and fresh yoghurt, does remind you of the tikki you get at Natraj’s in Chandni Chowk.

The Seekh-e-Sikander, which is spicy lamb mince, cooked on a skewer in a tandoor, too has an unique taste, which the chef says comes from the lamb meat being minced one and a half times in the grinder. This way, each condiment retains it’s unique flavor – you can taste the ground ginger and green chillies in the grainy mince, which is again as old Delhi as it gets!

The Thalli Macchi, which is batter fried fish, tasted alright. But if you are keen to have seafood then we would suggest you opt for the Fish Tikka, which is fish fillet marinated in spices and then cooked in a tandoor. Strangely though, the food festival does not include two things that Delhi street food is famous for – Momos and Gol Gappe. The latter was MIA because it was apparently difficult for the hotel to get the right sooji puris. Our loss, I guess!

So, as a consolation we decided to try our luck a couple of innovatively named cocktails. The Mirchi Melon, which is a watermelon drink with loads of red chilli powder, was just too spicy. Our server changed it to make it less spicier, but it just did not hit the right note. The Masala Martini was anything but martini. Instead of the traditional gin and vermouth that goes into its preparation, this drink had very little vodka with mint – well, we were surely shaken, and not at all stirred! Disappointed with the drinks, we decided to stick to the food (hey, it was a food festival after all!).

And we dove straight into some comfort food from the festival menu – good ‘ol Baingan ka Bharta and Bhindi Masaledar with Missi Roti and Parantha. And, hallelujah, one could not find any flaw in either of the vegetable preparations, but a thought did cross my mind – why would any one shell out big bucks to eat something that is invariably cooked at home on a regular basis?!

Before we digress further, the Shahi Murgh Korma was thankfully not greasy, which is usually how one encounters it in Delhi, but had a subtle flavor and tasted mildly of rose. We, however, preferred the spicy mutton gravy for its robust flavors instead.

But the show-stealer, or rather the meal-stealer in this case, was the Kangan Dal Makhani, which the chef informed us gets its wholesome taste as it slow-cooked in milk, rather than cream. This results in a distinctly different taste as the lentils were not mashed, giving a very rich texture to the smooth dal as it goes down your throat. We predict this dal will tempt you to put down your fork and knife and dig into the Dal Chawaal with gusto, like an average Delhiite would do.

And that, according to Chef Chopra, is exactly what Dilli Khaas is all about – showing not just the food from Delhi, but also transporting people to the Dilli style of enjoying food. Well, we hope you also have an appetite as big as the heart that Dilli is known to flaunt, because that’s the only way to do justice to Dilli Khaas menu!