The erstwhile Dhaba by Claridges at Surajkund, has been rechristened ‘Paranda’, after the property drew the garb of a Taj Vivanta closer around itself, completing the transformation a few short months ago. Everything seems to be the same about the restaurant; the rocky view I so love, the spacious interiors, the open kitchens and of course, the truck, bangles and other trappings of a typical Punjabi cliche. What a hair ornament has to do with food, I’m guessing the folks at the property will know better than I. Parul, Charis and I met at Paranda for an evening that was just in time for Charis’ impending departure to Kolkata, followed by a stint in Singapore. With Parul too scheduled to leave for destinations far away, I don’t know what I’ll do all alone in Delhi. :(
An Amuse Bouche, which is meant to showcase a Chef’s skills and creativity, started off quite well in Delhi, but has, over time, become a miniature, pre-first course tidbit, retaining nothing but the size of its original intention. At Paranda too, the Amuse Bouche fulfilled protocol but defeated the purpose. An accompanying shot of cool, much-too-creamy and refreshing Masala Chaach completed our welcome.
Charis and Parul continued their Paranda journey with glasses of Shikanjvi (150) alongside single portions each of Tandoori Kurkuri Seekh (400) and Khas Raaney di Tawa Boti (850); the former a vermicelli-coated, tandoor-cooked vegetable seekh kebab and the latter, a tawa-cooked, pile of spicy, masala-smeared, diced goat thigh. I did need my soup, which Charis pointed out, seemed to be bordering on an OCD, and we decided on the Paya Shorba (325). A few sips later, we declared the soup to be nothing close to the meaty delight that is the real thing, Paranda’s version being a distant, unworthy cousin. The raan too didn’t live up to its name, with the vegetable kebabs being the undisputed winner, but only in the company of a squeeze of lime and a shred of onion – delicious, crunchy, soft and flavorful.
Our main courses were Masaledar Amchuri Bhindi (475), Sud de Dhabe di Dal (425), Chitta Kukkad (800) and Raan Tawa Masala (925) accompanied by Garlic Naans (110) and Raita (175). Of course, I did have to bravely fend off attacks by the girls using all the force at my disposal, which is, as you may have guessed, how vegetarian fare was included in our meal. Apart from a mild disagreement over the moisture content of the Okra (I believe the quintessential Punjabi way is to dry it out nearly completely), our main courses were fantastic. The presence of bhindi, a lovely dal, and succulent pieces of meat from the Raan Tawa Masala made this segment of our meal very memorable. I tried the Chitta Kukkad at the end and thought it devoid of flavor, when Parul quietly pointed out the de-seeded green chilies I had picked out and laid aside. Sheepishly, knowing I had broken one of my own rules, I sampled the dish again, with the green chili, as the Chef had intended it to be eaten… and found it to be quite nice indeed. Thank you for that lesson Parul.
At the end of the day, with most well run kitchens such as Paranda’s, if one has anything negative to say, they’re likely to be disagreements rather than disturbing food and this held true for our meal. The soup we ate could have been the Punjabi version, which is said to be far lighter and not as rich as the Lucknowi version; the meat was as it was because ‘tawa cooking does that’ and so on. We’ll never be able to say what’s right and what’s wrong, because usually, such a distinction doesn’t exist.
What I will say, is that we enjoyed ourselves at Paranda, in some part, because of a great conversation with Chef Rajat Sinha, will return and suggest you explore their new menu and find your place in it.