If the business is big, an eatery doesn’t feel the need to go for a revamp. Karim seems to be going through the same phase, argues Rahul Verma
Nostalgia doesn’t always work. You like something – let’s say, some kind of fiction – when you are young, and you revisit the books when you are older, and can’t understand why you liked them in the first place. I have had similar experiences with some restaurants. I enjoyed their food at some point of time, but over the years, I discovered that either I, or the food, had changed. The restaurant was no longer something that created a flutter in my heart.
This has been my problem with Karim hotel in Jama Masjid for a while now. Quite a few of my friends and acquaintances keep going there. Some ask me about my thoughts on Karim, and I always say the same thing to them – the food is for tourists. For Delhi’s Muslim food, you should go to other places such as the Jawahars (once it was one restaurant, now there are three) or even some of the smaller places in the neighbourhood.
Then, some days ago, two friends from Calcutta were in Delhi. The husband is a great foodie and a photographer, and the wife is an equally great foodie and a food writer. They had told me – when I was in Calcutta a couple of months ago – that they wanted to visit Karim. Okay, I shrugged. But I warned them that the food was more hyped than real. And, of course, I was proved right.
Let me confess that I was really hoping I’d be proved wrong. There’s nothing that I like more than a good food place in Delhi, and nothing gives me more pain than a place that serves bad food. Karim is so well known and has such a loyal clientele that I wish they’d sit up and do something about their dishes. But they don’t, because they have no dearth of clients. So why waste money and energy on revamping the food when there is always a demand for it?
What a pity! Karim, if it wants, can serve the best of Muslim food. Even some years ago – when I was last there – their burra kabab was the best in the city. No longer. The burra we got was charred from one side. And when I pointed this out to the server, he turned it around, and said very helpfully: “This side is not burnt!”
The burra was not the only problem. We had asked for a plate of mutton biryani, mutton quorma and mutton ishtoo. The korma was so sour that it was almost like kadhi. The ishtoo was bland and tasteless. And the biryani was a puzzle. It was a dish of whitish rice with shah zeera in it – and it seemed as if the rice had been tossed together with some meat pieces. We also tried out the kheer, and the less said about it the better.
The only good thing about Karim are its prices – the entire meal, with tips and so on, came for Rs.1400. But the food was so bad that I had to promptly take my friends to the little sweet corner opposite, where we ate – and enjoyed – the shahi tukda.
My friends have returned to Calcutta – if not older, at least wiser.
Keywords: Karim hotel