Like a child in a candy store,
Just wish I could have it all and more,
In Kyoto’s fair city,
The food market named Nishiki
Doth set my heart aflutter.
For there was fish a plenty,
And every man filling his belly
With delights I’d never seen
Fried dumplings cooked through steam.
Oh! my thoughts were but an excited stutter.
Like a child in a candy store,
Sometimes one doesn’t have to take second guesses at the kind of food served at a restaurant – the naming committee that so laboriously sits behind a desk with many crumpled sheets of paper and broken pencils trying to figure out a name for a restaurant makes sure that the message goes out loud and clear! It’s one thing when a celebrity or a chef with a dedicated supply of followers and awards opens their own restaurant, and it’s an entirely different matter when a country’s premier food critic does the same. To put a long discussion swiftly to an end, food critics should not be opening restaurants. No two ways about it.
Having spent a few years in the Indian capital, but mostly as a student, I faintly remembered a few of my favourite haunts that, many years ago made for some great eating. Whilst many of them I would probably not go back to, the memory of one came back as a strong urge to revisit. There is something to be said of a place which is completely chaotic, yet incredibly organised, that serves at least a couple of thousand people for lunch and that when you went there last, 12 years ago, it served fabulous spicy vegetarian food.
Andhra Pradesh Bhavan which is the state representative house in Central Delhi has a canteen where one goes and gets a ticket, then waits around for the number to be called so you can be seated. I say chaotic because the constant flow of people and the relay of messages shouted across the hall in coordination makes this place quite unlike any normal restaurant that most non-Indians might be accustomed to. What’s on offer is a thali, a vegetarian thali with the option of buying non-vegetarian dishes also there. We just went for the vegetarian thali and, having stood around for about 40 minutes, were finally seated.
Now this is when the organised chaos came into perfect balance – a steel thali was immediately placed before us before a server came around with 4 different vegetable preparations – dal, aubergines, potatoes etc. Soon after him, someone else came around with poppadums, puri’s (deep fried roti-like bread), then another with sambhar and rasam, then another with rice. Time to tuck in!
The best part about all this is that it’s all you can eat – people just keep coming around and topping and refilling. The food itself is simple. Simple, yet not dripping with oil and erupting with a myriad 0f flavours – each preparation being differently spiced, each having its unique personality, each so incredibly light, fresh and satisfying and it won’t upset any tummy. Of course, there’s a few spicy pickles and chutneys on the table to add a bit of extra zing and a bit of yoghurt and dessert to finish.
For many of you reading this, the thought of a purely vegetarian meal can be quite disturbing, yet a trip to Andhra Bhavan is worth a visit on everyone’s trip to Delhi, and for those in Delhi, it’s worth many many visits!
Overall Experience: 6
Recommend you go: 8