As 2013 comes to an end, Rahul Verma recalls the memorable meals he had — in top restaurants as well as holes-in-the wall

In a couple of days, we will be welcoming a new year. It’s going to be a busy year — with general elections, State elections and some heart-warming events such as World Cup soccer. And I am sure it will also be a year of good food.

But that’s in the future. This week, I’d like to go down memory lane and recall some of the good food trips I had in 2013. A few of the memorable meals I had were in the top restaurants of the top hotels, some were in new restaurants, and quite a few consisted of snacks that I bought from holes-in-the-wall in the city.

It’s difficult to zero in on a few delectable journeys but I shall attempt to, by recalling my food experiences in three places — at Tabil’s kabab corner in Zakir Nagar, Monkey Bar in Vasant Kunj and Sevilla, the Spanish restaurant at The Claridges in New Delhi.

I was introduced to Tabil’s by Hannanbhai, one of the owners of Purani Dilli — a restaurant where the food is superlative. Undoubtedly, Tabil’s buff tikkas were the best tikkas I had in 2013. The meat (from the heart) was so tender that the succulent pieces actually did melt in the mouth. And the spices that coated the meat — nice and hot — were just right. When I was there (in August), the tikkas were being sold for Rs.40 a plate. I haven’t gone back there but one of my New Year resolutions is to eat, and serve, Tabil’s delicious tikkas.

Another wonderful food outing was led by my friend, Anil Chandra. He took me to Monkey Bar, a gastropub (gastro because the food indeed is a gourmet’s delight) in Vasant Kunj (in the C Block Market, near Delhi Public School). The food at Monkey Bar is so good that I have been raving about it ever since. I ate all kinds of dishes, from flattened pork belly on a bed of noodles with greens and a juicy buff burger to a spicy steak and an excellent mutton dish called The Parsee Orderly’s Mutton Curry. Each dish was superb. The meat was tender, and the flavours were zesty. Even the vegetarian dishes that came to our table — crunchy corn in an open, lacy pastry and baked potatoes with corns, beans and sour cream — were delicious.

Monkey Bar has atmosphere. The décor is attractive, and the place hums with life. And what’s even better is the fact that the prices are reasonable (on an average, a meat dish comes for Rs.300). The chef is a most talented chap called Manu Chandra (the aforementioned Anil’s son). I hope to see Monkey Bar go from strength to strength.

And I cannot write about the food that I ate in 2013 without mentioning Sevilla, which is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Delhi. The Spanish restaurant at The Claridges is on different levels. Some of the tables are out in the open, some are enclosed. My friend Neeraj Tyagi, the executive chef, has been experimenting with ingredients (such as rice and salt) and equipment (such as a grill called a Josper oven) over the years. A couple of months ago, he conjured up a delicious meal for me with Alba white truffle. The subtle yet distinct flavours of white truffle went into a host of dishes — Alaskan crabs, cheese soufflé and tagliolini pasta, to name a few — and completely mesmerised me.

White truffles, of course, are very, very expensive. But a few shavings of truffle on a soft poached egg can change your worldview.

It was, indeed, a good year. I now look forward to some happy moments in 2014. And, on that note, here’s wishing you a Happy New Year too!

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