If creamy butter chicken, melt-in-mouth kebabs, hearty steaks, flavourful momos and juicy pork ribs is what your palate craves, then you are in the right city. Here’s a culinary guide that tells you where to get what you are craving for in the city, whether it is at iconic eateries harking back to the Mughal days in Old Delhi, restaurants that have made their mark or small wayside joints.
For the Best Butter Chicken in Town
Where to head for this Delhi classic is a still an unsettled debate, but two legendary joints at Pandara Market—Gulati and Havemore—stay on top of the pile among the many contenders. My vote goes to Havemore, which serves the most authentic version of this rich, sinful dish. Not far behind are Moti Mahal in Daryaganj (which by the way pioneered Delhi’s defining dish) and Mughal Mahal in Patel Nagar, which also turn out a good serving of butter chicken.
Where else to have: Rajinder Da Dhabha in Safdarjung Enclave, Punjab Grill in Saket, Dhaba Estd 1986 in Nehru Place, Daryaganj in Aerocity and Butter Chicken Factory in Gurgaon
For a Piping Hot Bowl of Nihari with Khameeri Roti
This dish is true love. When mutton is cooked on slow heat in a sealed pot overnight, it turns into a flavourful stew with super tender pieces of meat. A popular breakfast item during the Mughal times, it was usually eaten at daybreak to beat the early morning chill in winter. Head to Kallu Nihari in Daryaganj, if you want to be bowled over. Best polished off with soft khameeri roti. But this iconic institution in Old Delhi serves nihari in the evening and if you arrive late, it is sold out. The delectable mutton stew is garnished with ginger, green chillies and lime. If you want a traditional early morning helping, head to Karim’s, also popular for their Nihari, which they begin serving at 9am for breakfast. Heading to a fine dine to entertain guests? Dum Pukht at ITC Maurya serves a mean bowl of Shahi Nihari.
Where else to have: Haji Shabrati Nihari Wale and Al Jawahar at Jama Masjid.
For the Best Kebabs
It is not difficult to start a war over where you get the best kebabs but Old Delhi’s narrow bylanes win hands down. Karim’s is popular for its succulent mutton seekh kebab called ‘dil pasanda’. The founder Haji Karimuddin used to cook for Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and when his rule ended, he started Karim’s in Old Delhi with just two dishes—these seekh kebabs and mutton korma. You bite is filled with flavour and history because the recipe has not changed since the days it was prepared in royal kitchens, we are told. If you are in South Delhi, try Rajinder Da Dhaba at Safdurjang Enclave for Galauti kebabs and go to Ghalib Kabab Corner in Nizzamudin for a variety.
Where else to have: Khan Chacha in Khan Market, Colonel’s Kebabz in Defence Colony Market, Al Kauser in Chanakyapuri and Bukhara at ITC Maurya in Chankayapuri
There are a range of biryanis available in Delhi but we will tell you about the two most popular ones—the mild and aromatic Lucknowi or Awadhi biryani and the spicy Hyderabadi or Andhra one. For the latter go to Andhra Bhawan on Ashoka Road on a Sunday and see plates flying off before your eyes. This canteen-style restaurant does an exceptional Hyderabadi Dum Chicken Biryani which is both spicy and flavourful. Order it with a side of mutton fry. Reach on time (noon) because it gets really crowded. When it comes to Awadhi biryani, head to Dum Pukht at ITC Maurya for this iconic dish. When the dough seal of this slow cooked lamb dish is removed in front of you, the aroma is intoxicating and you instantly know why it has become so famous. Biryani by Kilo has several varieties and they have restaurants across the city.
Where else to have: Kolkata Biryani House in Chittaranjan Park, Behrouz Biryani, (several outlets in the city) and Made in Punjab in Noida and Gurgaon.
Some things like momos just taste best at hole in the wall joints or at street stalls. So while many fine-dining restaurants in the city do a decent job, nothing comes close to the momos at Dillii Haat by the Northeastern stalls – Sikkim and Nagaland. No surprise then that they have become an institution over the years. And while chefs have become experimental with momos in recent times coming up with versions like tandoori and kurkure, these stalls stick to the traditional ones we all love – fried or steamed and served with spicy red chilli chutney. If you want to taste something different, have the jhol momos at Yeti – The Himalayan Kitchen - that come with broth. They even have flavourful buff momos.
Where else to have: Yashwant Place near Chanakya cinema, QD’s in Delhi University-GTB Nagar, Dmomo factory in East of Kailash and Hunger Strike in Amar Colony.
In this biting cold weather, what can be better than digging into a mean steak made to your choice? Smoke House Deli is a time tested place that has been consistently dishing out some of the best in the city. Try the house special tenderloin steak with asparagus that comes with a delicious barbecue sauce and remains juicy even if you want it well done. It is served with good old potato wedges on the side. Other places that turn out satisfying steaks are Chili's Grill & Bar and Smokey's BBQ And Grill.
Where else to have: The All American Diner at India Habitat Centre in Lodhi Road, Le Cirque at The Leela Palace in Chanakyapuri, HMan in Malviya Nagar
In this city, two kinds of pork ribs are popular—the Naga style made the Indian way and the American barbecue ones that are a favourite across the world. Go to Nagaland’s Kitchen in Green Park for spicy pork ribs served with raja mirchi dip. A warning: Raja Mirchi or King Chilli is truly fiery so stay away if you cannot handle spices but if you can, don’t think twice about tucking in. When you want the American version, then head to Chilies and bite into baby back ribs which are imported from Spain, slowly smoked over pecan wood and served with their original barbecue sauce. HMan in Malviya Nagar is also becoming popular these days.
Where else to have: TGIF in Vasant Kunj, Nagaland stall in Dilli Haat, Nimtho in Greater Kailash 1 and Dzukou Tribal Kitchen in Vasant Kunj
Even though Delhiities have long been accustomed to tucking into well cooked meats, it did not take them long to start a love affair with sushi. And to satisfy those cravings, a number of Japanese stand-alone restaurants have opened. Yum Yum Cha, which has four branches, is a hot favourite. The casual, cheery Japanese themed décor is a bonus. The traditional sushi rolls like California and Spicy Tuna have texture and taste. If you are in a mood to experiment try Black Spider that comes with soft shell crab and caviar. Pa Pa Ya and Guppy are two other good options in South Delhi while the newly opened Miss Nora at Rajouri Garden is the only restaurant in West Delhi to have a ,live sushi bar.
Where else to have: Kampai in Aerocity, Fuji Japanese Restaurant in Connaught Place and Kofuku in Ansal Plaza in Khel Gaon Marg
Fish, crabs and prawns in this land-locked city is a bit tricky, unless you’re in Chittaranjan Park’s bylanes and scarfing down fish chops and fish orli in Delhi’s mini-Bengal. For a posh setting, Sana-Di-Ge in Chanakyapuri will come to your rescue. They celebrate India’s coastal food with Maharashtrian, Goan, Malabar and Kerala dishes. The seafood platter is massive and gives you a range of options, while the thali is limited and not as big as the platter, it is still quite good. The other good choice would be Swagath restaurant. For those who prefer it done the international way—think salmon and crabmeat—both Guppy and Tres do a good job.
Where else to have: Royal China in Nehru Place, Oh Calcutta! in Gurgaon and Nehru Place and Coastal Reef in Gurgaon