The newly opened Daawat- e- Khas, serving North Indian vegetarian fare is a novelty for city folks and will have them smacking their lips

Pure vegetarian with the stress on ‘P’, plus North Indian: Such an eating place was lacking in Kochi, Abhishek Bansal realised. He had just finished his BBM course from Chinmaya Vidyapeeth and was not keen on joining his father’s hardware business.

So, he hit upon this idea of a pucca vegetarian North Indian restaurant. You also get South Indian and Chinese food, but all ‘purely’ veg.

Run through the menu of Daawat-e-Khas at Jos Junction and you will find it a delight. Kaati rolls Balle balle, Pakora Shokore, Poori Laazawab, pappad shappad and Vade-e-mast. This is how young Bansal, all of 23, has christened the dishes to make them more attractive. The last one, vada-e-mast is our good old vada, the lentil doughnut of the firangis.

Well, if Mulligatawny can be our sada rasam, so can sandwiches be ‘Bread ka kamaal at Daawat.

“I cooked up this idea of giving lively names for these dishes. So you have the very south Indian idli named nanhe idli. Kurkure aloo chatpatta is potatoes fried and tossed in chaat masala. The paneer pappad roll is a crispy affair that hides within its fried folds lovely crushed paneer and spicy masala. Eat it with green chutney. “We have 250 types of dishes,” he says. This includes masala Pepsi and jaljeera, new to the city.

The three chefs at Daawat, all below 25, are enthusiasm personified. Raj Tiwari, Manoj Kataria and Krishna are experimenting with new combos. Raj from Dehra Dun, was working in Bangalore earlier. Everyday the pickles here are different, says Raj. Manoj is a kebebs man.

He claims he can make kebabs with anything under the sun. ‘I make even fruit kebabs, chocolate ones for kids,” he says. To date he has made more than 1,000 types of kebabs. “I have no secrets. I can tell you with what I make these. But no one can do it like me, I know,” the confident, young man madly in love with kebabs, says.

Fried ice cream

Everybody likes fried things. How about fried ice creams? “Take a scoop of ice cream, thrust it as filling into a chappathi like flattened dough (maida) and roll it in bread crumbs. Then shove it into hot oil and take it off the kadai quickly. You have a hot, brown crispy ball on the plate and the insides are cool and sweet! Try it sometime. Never mind if the ice cream falls into the oil.

Be sure not to get hot oil on your face though and switch off the gas. The second time, maybe you’ll make it. At this place, it costs Rs. 50 and is called Tadkewali ice cream.

Back to Daawat, many of the sauces and ingredients are got from Delhi, but this fact is not quite reflected in the prices yet. The vegetarian Chinese food here has neither artificial colour nor ajinamoto, they say.

Jain food is available on demand, with no onion, garlic or tubers. Also diabetic food.

A look at the prices now. The costliest on the menu is the Special Dawaat-e-Tandoori Khazana, which in simple terms is mixed vegetable kebeb platter served with roomali roti, at Rs. 180.

The vegetarian curries come at Rs 40-45. The north Indian thali comes at Rs. 85. The other savouries and curries are around Rs. 50 or under.

Remember the place where they sold cut pieces at the Jos building some years ago? This restaurant is in that very place, done up cute and sweet.

PREMA MANMADHAN

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