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A feast for vegetarians... .

A former commercial pilot has just given a facelift to his four-year-old restaurant, M-52 in South Delhi. As unique as its name, the restaurant offers quality food, says UPENDRA TANKHA...

A FAIRLY large restaurant in South Delhi's Greater Kailash-II, where one can both eat and drink one's favourite brew, has a rather hep name -- M. Fifty Two. How did you hit upon it, I ask. Quite simple really, M stands for the name of the market and 52 is the number of the double-storey property that also has a basement. It serves mainly North Indian food with an accent on Mughlai along with some popular dishes from other parts of the country. Interestingly, it has a longish food menu and a longer wine list.

Being a strict teetotaller since a couple of decades, I am asked to try a mocktail but I settle for the ever-reliable nimbu soda. Later I see that a couple of the mocktails have creme de menthe, a liquor with a menthol base. I point this out to B.M. Sengupta, General Manager, a proper hospitality person in a dark suit, who says for the mocktails, they uee the non-alcoholic variety.

I skip the soups as they are filling and a wrong choice if one has to eat a variety of food on offer to do any justice. However, there are three choices -- chicken, mushroom and tomato -- which have a touch of cinnamon and coriander. For starters I have a Haryali seekh kabab, a strictly vegetarian dish, made out of mush of green vegetables which is very good. It is done in a fashion that it is tough to make out that it has no meat. Then I try Chicken 52, which is pieces of chicken in hot Chettinad sauce. The burra kababs, called adrak ke panje, are nice and soft, grilled as they must have been on slow charcoal fire, and luckily not heavy on spices as at many places. After the kababs, I have gobhi Kashmiri style, gobi dumpukht, which comes in a small earthen pot with its lid enclosed with a paste of atta. This is cooked on steam and a couple of live coals are placed atop the lid covering. I have this with a naan and later with boiled rice.

A former commercial pilot who used to fly in the U.S., Vishal Ohri, whose baby this is, says the restaurant took off some four years ago. Lately he has added a funky basement and is toying with the idea of starting some dancing for the young in the evenings and kitty parties for the matronly ladies in the day. There is a long stretch of happy hours in the day when drinks come cheap, some of them off by 60 per cent. But after 8:30 p.m. it is dinner time and the family crowd starts to stream in. On weekends, there are long queues outside unless one had sensibly booked in advance. The interiors have been done by his wife Ruchika Ohri, who has studied at NIFT. The lights are subdued, the piped music not intrusive and there is enough elbow room for the clients. Smoking is allowed only on the ground floor.

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