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A food corner in every corner

Onyx in Punjabi Bagh.

WEST DELHI has recently seen a great deal of development with pubs and restaurants coming up frequently, the newest of which is Onyx, in Punjabi Bagh.

The owners Sangeeta, Rajat and Amod, explained the location, saying, "Most pubs are found in South Delhi, but actually it is people from West Delhi who go there; so why not have something nearer to home? It's unfair that we have to turn to South Delhi for a night of fun."

Sangeeta adds, "The Onyx, known as Onice or Onicolo in Latin is recognised as providing comfort and relieving stress. That is exactly the kind of place Onyx is, where people can come to unwind after a day's work, or have some real fun if they want to."

The place is divided into two levels, the ground floor being the `disc' area and the first floor housing the restaurant. The lighting, done through a system never before seen in India, changes the colour of the walls every 20 seconds, providing an interesting effect, while the sound system is designed to minimise the noise upstairs, so as not to disturb diners overmuch.

A comfortable place, the owners insist that unlike in other establishments, a lot of attention has also been placed on the restaurant aspect. Chinese, Thai, Continental and Indian cuisine are available, though - as in most multi-cuisine restaurants - the menu is limited in each cuisine. But the dishes are thoughtfully chosen, and anyway, we seem to be living in a world where a person is not happy unless he can eat a tandoori chicken while his neighbour demolishes pasta.

The prices are on the higher side, but not exorbitant, with an entrée for Rs.250, salads at Rs.100 and most cocktails at around Rs.200 with mocktails for 75.

Onyx looks set to be a big draw for people in West Delhi, and is worth a visit even if you aren't from there, if for no other reason than to say "ooh, pretty" when you see the colour-changing walls.

* * *

EVERY AUGUST the Chinese Moon Festival arrives with all its ceremonial moon cakes, curios and traditional revelry. The underlying spirit behind the festivity is palpable even while steaming noodles and appetising soups are served. This is also the time when the food lovers in the Capital can enjoy aromatic Chinese food. Even gastronomic recipes - an exclusive preserve of those staying in coastal regions - are served. For some it means sipping hard drinks from amusing yet stylishly manufactured liquor bottles.

New Delhi's City Park, a four-star hotel - recently inaugurated the festival in its Chinese restaurant, The Dragon - with an elaborate menu.

The food is prepared under the expertise of Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, of Khaana Khazana fame, bearing in mind the palate of its clients. The dishes contain more garlic and ginger than normally used. Is the quantity of these two items deliberate? Shaking his big head in approval, Kapoor, says, "Yes we have added more garlic and ginger. This is because a majority of Indians love eating tangy food. To accommodate their taste for sweet dish we have prepared sweetened flavoured desserts."

Although he has made an attempt to cull the best of Cantonese, Peking and Szechwan dishes, his decision to add an Indian touch to some of the dishes might rob die-hard Chinese fans of an opportunity to dig into authentic food. But full marks to him for using the same modus operandi while preparing stir-fried dishes on high fire; instead of normal British Thermal Unit.

Chicken in Black Bean Sauce is terrific and it once again reinforces the fact that Chinese cooking is wholesome and tasty as it is a healthy amalgamation of vegetarian and non-vegetarian items.

* * *

MACHAN, THE coffee shop at the Taj Mahal hotel on Mansingh Road in New Delhi, is holding an Anglo-Indian food festival from August 22 to 31, which features delicacies from the days of the British Raj. The dishes range from soups to desserts, and the Taj has hired Claire Dutta, an expert on Anglo-Indian food to ensure the authenticity of the dishes.

Claire says: "Anglo-Indian food is a unique cooking tradition that came into being in the days of the Raj. In those days the sahibs all had Indian cooks, and these cooks would always put in regional touches to the dishes and in this manner Anglo-Indian food came into being." Anglo-Indian food therefore has a lot of English dishes, but with elements of Bengali, Goan and Mughlai cooking. In a way, Anglo-Indian food is the earliest fusion cuisine!

The dishes in the festival are, for the most part, excellent. One item in particular is the Egyptian Red Lentil Soup (Rs.175), which is a preparation of masoor dal with plenty of garlic. A most unusual item, the soup is really good, spicy with lots of garlic, and it is also, says Claire, good for the health.

In the starters, the pantaras (Rs.225) are a good bet; crispy pancakes filled with lamb mince show their Bengali influence, and are rather like Mughlai parathas. Vegetarians must try the aloo chops (Rs.225), which are slightly spicy, and stuffed with ginger, garlic and chillies. Most of the items on the main course also sound enticing, but for the non-vegetarians, the lamb masala (Rs.395) is a must try - a delectable concoction of lamb in a spicy curry, with lots of chillies, coriander and poppy seeds, served with pao - bread. Vegetarians should go for the brinjal masala (Rs.310), also served with pao. It is somewhat like a traditional bharta, but not quite. Desserts include caramel custard and bread pudding (Rs.195 each), and both are excellently made. All in all, the festival has some really good options, and is definitely worth a visit, if you don't mind trying something new. Or is it old?

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