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Monday, Mar 18, 2002

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Pluto gets hot this summer... .

The name might be the farthest thing from the sun but make no mistake about it - Pluto is the best thing to dot the food map of South Delhi, says UPENDRA TANKHA... .

Sahara... calls the young and the young at heart.

IF ONE late evening you hit upon the long meandering Aruna Asaf Ali Road at one end of Vasant Kunj in South Delhi, and drive a few kilometres, you will come to Sahara, the popular sprawling food complex. It is well-lit on the outside with a number of cars parked in a single file on either side of the road. Inside there are a number of ethnic-looking eating places for the family or friends that are separate so that you don't overhear other's conversation. The menu is Mughlai and Chinese with a large glass kitchen you can look into.

Now this family joint has added another feather to its cap: A watering hole for the young where they can dance to some live pulsating music after settling down to drinks and snacks. A large slick bar called Pluto with seating arrangements on the ground as well as the first floor, it is becoming a haunt for the yuppies who arrive in twos or fours or sixes around nine and stay on till midnight when the show ends.

The dimly-lit cool interior, designed by architect and designer Sarbjit Singh, has hues of blue with stars and the moon creating an illusion of the night sky when it is time for the young to swing. The walls are decorated with paintings alongside real musical instruments. Snazzy mobikes, a symbol of the young, are placed on elevations. Of course, the name is that of the coldest and the outermost planet of the solar system.

The good thing is that safety is ensured by strict frisking and screening of all entrants who have to pass through a metal detector. Only couples are allowed in and decent behaviour ensured by tough looking men inside -- uniformed and otherwise. There is no entry charge except on week-ends and festive occasions.

Along with drinks -- mocktails too -- Mexican and Indian snacks are served. I try some fajitas, burritos and enchiladas with chilli sauce and delicious peanut butter. They are tasty and luckily not too hot to suit Indian palates. I try the usual Chinese, chilli chicken and Manchurian vegetables, too though this is not served at Pluto.

Says Harbir Khatri, the white-clad, young Managing Director of Khatri Hotels, ``All these days the family crowd has been coming hear and now you can see the young crowd waiting to get into the well-protected and exclusive bar. The business has picked up quite a bit. Sometimes celebrities and embassy people drop in.''

I am taken around the complex which has an artificial waterfall and a spacious L-shaped party hall - it can accommodate 800 people -- that opens out to a lawn. There is no cover charge and one has to pay per head for the fare.

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