Placed in the middle of an area that’s been consciously neglected for years, Crown Plaza Rohini is a spanking new property and the no-holds-barred interiors reflect the promoters expectations from Rohini. The most striking (apart from the high ceilinged lobby) and perhaps unexpected too was the well stocked, all-glass wine cellar with quite a few bottles on display.
The most surprising of all however, was the food. Spice Art, due to it’s location, caters to a whopping 80% vegetarian clientele, which is about double of what most other establishments experience – a 60/40 split in favor of non-vegetarians. Also considering most in the area prefer their north Indian food and indeed know their north Indian food, it means Spice Art probably has no choice but to become one of the best restaurants in the area.
Did I say become? They probably already are.
Armed with two glasses of wine, a Jacob Creek 2010 Chardonnay and a Tarapaca 2010 Pinot Noir, my meal began with portions of Kesari Paneer Tikka (495), Hare Matar ki Tikki (445), Tandoori Bhari hui Dhingri (445), Gulabi Salmon Tikka (1095) and Tandoori Lamb Chops (1375). All quite nice, but some were quite memorable, like the (surprise surprise) Hare Matar ki Tikki that had the right bite, a mildly crunchy texture, was well flavored and slightly creamy too. The Tandoori Lamb Chops were spicy, tender and excellent too, though it was disturbing to see Australian lamb cooked thus.
Paaya Potli Shorba (285) was next; a dish I couldn’t quite appreciate given the street version I hold so dear. It had all the right spices, was well seasoned and even came in a bowl that one could lift up with both hands and drink from… but a bit too refined for my taste. If low-spice is your thing and you do like all things meat, then perhaps you’ll enjoy the Paaya Potli Shorba at Spice Art.
Moving on, we had a surprise dish elbow it’s way to the top of the line – Chana Masala with Amritsari Kulcha (450). Now, this is one dish that’s on half the menus in town and you’re probably half yawning and hoping I’ll move on. No such thing. The Kulcha was just as good as any I’ve eaten in Amritsar! That kulcha required us to go to Amritsar, weave through narrow, crowded streets to reach a hole-in-the-wall that served the most scrumptious kulchas I’ve ever eaten. This kulcha on the other hand, is equally delicious, probably cleaner and it’s right here in Delhi. Served with vinegary, sour and crunchy onions with a very homemade Chana Masala to go with the kulchas, you must do a Kulcha Chana lunch one of these days at Spice Art.
Continuing with my repast, I found myself staring at some pretty unlikely dishes – Tawa Til Asparagus (675) and Bhindi Singhara (525) arm in arm with Potli Murg, Chukunder Rogan Josh and Nalli Nihari. Done as a mild bhuna masala tossed with inch-long, crunchy blanched asparagus, the Tawa Til Asparagus was quite a surprise. I didn’t like it much, perhaps because I like my asparagus done differently, but if you’re vegetarian and tired of the very cliched Indian vegetarian choices available on most menus, this is one dish that should appear on your to-try list. Similarly the Bhindi Singhara was a very home style bhindi jostling with singharas. Another unusual texture combination that is hard to find in most north Indian dishes. Potli Murgh, a tennis ball sized sphere of chicken dunked in a creamy, smooth gravy was innovative, subtle and quite memorable… nearly as much as the Nalli Nihari, which I have very little doubt was one of the finest I’ve tasted off the streets.
If you like your north Indian food, Spice Art is a destination that I have little doubt you’ll repeatedly turn to for your fix.