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Eating out at the Village... .

There is more to the Siri Fort complex than just cultural meets. It offers varied food, cool ambience, reasonable rates. Can one ask for more? SUMITRA SENAPATY drives down to the Village to sample some lip-smacking fare... .

CHOPSTICKS IS not an unfamiliar name to those who like Chinese food in Delhi. This expansive restaurant features an awesome menu with the choicest of Cantonese, Szechwan and Thai delicacies, including hot and cold appetisers, main courses, side dishes and desserts. Feast your eyes on fresh salads, made right in front of you and take your pick from Baby Corn and Peanut Salad or the Thai Papaya Salad. Have a crack at the Drunken Lobster Hunan Style and find the sweet, delectable lobster meat inside, served with melted butter and lemon. If you'd rather start with hot appetisers, try the steamed or fried dumplings with dipping sauce or a bowl of won ton, egg drop or hot and sour soup. The kids will love helping themselves to plenty of crispy fried prawns, chicken barbecued wings, salt and pepper baby corns and crispy spring rolls.

The veggies are pretty standard and included Asian varieties such as bean sprouts as well as celery, cucumber and carrots, etc. A spacious 200-cover restaurant, Chopsticks offers a week-end buffet priced at Rs 325 plus taxes. Ideal for a lazy, family brunch.

At Chopsticks, throw table etiquette out of the window when it comes to seafood. Seafood, comprising crabs done in various styles, prawns and lobster, is a finger-licking good affair. So tuck in with your fingers. How do you enjoy succulent crabmeat stuck deep inside its claws if you're using a fork? At some food joints, small hammers are part and parcel of the table setting. These are provided for you to knock the shells off the crabs. Fresh crabs, lobsters and prawns are flown in daily from Mumbai to retain their freshness.

Authentic North Indian food attracts Delhi's families to Colour `n' Spice. Though the menu boasts of a number of `regal hors d'oeuvres' like samosas and deep-fried pakoras, we pick many of our starters from the Tandoor. Food cooked in the special clay oven with the heat of burning charcoal seems particularly tempting. Such as the unusual Sabzi Kebabs. Freshly squeezed lime and the crunch of cashew nuts in the rolls add to the kebab's melange of tastes. As does the Chaat Masala in which the rolls are dusted before cooking. One of the ingredients of Chaat Masala is the so-called black salt, which adds a peculiar but pleasing tang of its own.

Another tandoor item that's a good starter is the Mastana Jhinga, prawns marinated and cooked in a mixture of garlic and herbs -- be warned, though, the garlic is very strong! Since Indian vegetarian is a sub-classification that offers so much variety, we decide to sample a range. Like the cottage cheese koftas served in tomato-based gravy-flavoured with distinctive black cumin, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. Lots of cumin too in the Simla Mirchi Aloo Jeera, potato and capsicum cooked with julienned ginger. Offering a completely different texture is the Baingan Burtha, eggplant mashed up with spices. But it isn't all just fibre and calories; the protein-rich part of the main course is the Lamb Chops, one of the signature dishes of the chef.

Also that most ubiquitous of `special' chicken dishes -- the Butter Chicken. While most of the vegetables retain their distinctive taste, the curries we order are very heavy. In some cases the rich tomato or cream-based sauces tend to overpower the other ingredients.

It is actually a wise move to pick a variety of naans as accompaniment to the main courses, as they are lighter than rice. The thin naans, flavoured with sesame seeds and butter are very well done. They retain their texture without turning rubbery even when cold. The Lunch Thali at Rs 325 is a special attraction of this restaurant.

Colour `n' Spice can't be faulted for its flavourful range of North Indian dishes but the food is extremely rich, and doesn't make for a light meal. So, in the `royal' spirit of the restaurant's food, theme and decor, plan a meal that lets you treat yourself to a siesta fit for a queen -- or king -- after your repast. Rather than carry your replete, well-fed and sleepy self back to work!

Tak-a-tak at Angeethi, a cozy 35-seater open only for dinner. Well known as the tawa cuisine, this food style has emanated from the wayside eateries of the late `40s, setup in the midst of refugee camps along our borders. Among the Tak-A-Tak dishes that are a must try are the Champ Adraki, Tawa Sabzi, Batti chicken and Mutton Yogi Masala. The display kitchen adds its special effects to the tawa fare.

Then there is Ankur's Coffee Shop at the Village which is a big hit with young, upwardly mobile people. Do not miss the triple S effect - soup, sandwich and salad buffet for just Rs 175 per head, with unlimited helpings, desserts are also included.

Good music, draught beer and soft drinks are available, along with a choice of Mexican, Italian, Continental and Indian food. Looking through their menu, I see now that I am going to have to go back to eat on many different days! ACS has a large selection of pastas, breads, tortillas, quiches, pizzas, cakes and so much more! Yummy! What more could you ask for?

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