Rahul Verma discovers a spread with cigarillos and charmoula sole could too be satisfying
Life is not always a Metro ride to the Old City. Sometimes, it's sipping good scotch and eating prawn tempura in a happening place,too. Not always, but once in a while. So this week I didn't take the Metro to Chawri and do the regular kachori eating and kabab tasting that I am known for. Instead, I mingled with the swish set in LAP Garden in Samrat Hotel — a place that I'd never visited (and, truth be told, didn't greatly want to visit either). But I must say I enjoyed myself quite a bit.
The occasion was a sister-in-law's 40th birthday. The cousin had thrown quite a lavish party to mark the occasion. What interested me, however, was the fact that the management of the al fresco restaurant was being handled by my friend, Chef Bakshish Dean, and his team from The Park in Delhi. Chef Dheeraj was the young man in charge. And I could see a team of chefs working hard to make the evening a success.
What made it a success to start it were the snacks. I particularlyliked the feta cheese and mozzarella cigarillos — which were thick, finger-shaped cheese rolls served with a chilli caramel dip, and the prawn tempura. The prawn was crisp and fresh and the cheese cigarillo was suitably moist. A vegetarian friend gave high points to the asparagus and sweet corn gyozas, which are a kind of Japanese dumplings, though they originated in China.
The dinner was an elaborate affair — and consisted of everything from wild mushroom soup and a salad spread with different kinds of dressings t/o live grills. One of the live grills was for vegetarians, and took care of the A to Z of veggies — serving everything from asparagus and broccoli to zucchini. I bypassed that and went to the one that served shawarma rolls, which were grilled meat in a wrapserved with hummus, babaganoush, olives and tarator, which is a nice dip prepared with yoghurt, cucumber, garlic, walnut, dill and vegetable oil. What I liked the most was the charmoula sole in lemon butter sauce. Charmoula is a lemony marinade used for seafood, and went rather well with the sole. The dish was light, and the fish had been perfectly cooked. I wanted to eat this with a simple salad, so the chef conjured up something very light for me with bell pepper, asparagus, olive and lettuce, all tossed in a mild vinaigrette. I also tried out the Hungarian goulash, which has always been a favourite of mine ever since a Hungarian friend called Marie cooked it for us decades ago.
There was more – from cherry tomato and bocconchini risotto, lasagna, blackened cottage cheese steaks and what have you to delicious desserts. But I'd had my fill. The place itself was rather nice. The evening was a bit chilly, and there were oil heaters all around to keep us warm. Some of the heaters weren't working, though – so we had to keep warming ourselves with what we had in our hand. At the stroke of 12, we wished our s-i-l a happy birthday, and disappeared before we could turn into pumpkins.