Soups and good grub on a low budget
By Ravi V.Chhabra
Would it be incorrect to state that Delhi bellies’ adopted food is Chinese cuisine? Look around and in each and every cranny there are a plethora of eateries, be it in a plush specialty Chinese restaurant, a mobile van surrounded by food hounds or just other stand-alone joints. Chinese food beckons us all. Indeed, it was among the first of international cuisines that was introduced to Delhites decades ago and has since flourished to no bounds.
The one I discovered last month happens to be tucked away in a corner in the posh south Delhi Hauz Khas market and is called Grub Pub. A bit of a misnomer though, as it serves multi-cuisine ultra fast but lacks a bar or in other words, is not at all like a pub. It is especially known for its tasteful Chinese food done to specific orders for the palate of its guests and is famous among the budding fashion designers of NIFT as the institute is just a few yards away and has become a meeting point of sorts among the youth. The restaurant also serves Punjabi and on-demand Italian dishes and is known for fast and courteous service. The seating is comfortable and the cutlery is ordinary.
Among the Punjabi cuisine menu, you will find bar-be-que quick-bites, fixed thalis with home-made-like menu and Friday specials served through the weekend. All of these cater to the ever-increasing PG community in the neighborhood courtesy the adjoining offices and colleges.
The vegetarian Chinese cuisine lovers would find the main dishes like mixed vegetable with bamboo shoot and paneer shanghai costing less than a Rs 100 a dish cooked well, whereas you will find attractive chicken dishes like chicken in oyster sauce and honey chicken within Rs 200 a dish good value for money. The fine shredded lamb in gravy dish costs here less Rs 200; the one that deserves a special mention is shredded lamb made in Hongkong style. This is the place if you wish to have prawns, as the prawn dishes cost anywhere from two to three hundred rupees, depending on the size and portion of prawns ordered. Order a gravy dish, add a plate of mixed fried rice and you are done with a quick working lunch or just have a plate of Szechwan style mixed chowmein which comes with gravy, the perfect dish for a collegiate on the move.
The decent seating in its two-floors is enough to house forty persons at a time. The restaurant’s 60 percent business comes from delivery orders from close by homes and surrounded offices that range from the famous PHDCC House to BBC, says Jagmohan Singh, its present owner who has inherited this business from his mother Joginder Kaur, who started the outlet at her very own house with the help of her other son Jasbinder in 1982. Being a passionate chef herself, her cooking was adored at the parties she did at home and for friends at their place, whether it was in Kuwait or in the community kitchen in the US, where the family had emigrated in the mid-seventies. Grub Pub was last managed by Amarjeet Singh, one of the sons and continues to be a family business and has grown out of passion for cooking where all the family members would take over the kitchen one by one – a day or two each in a week and display their prowess in cooking various recipes while they were in Kuwait and in the US.
However, Jagmohan Singh did not have any intentions to enter the family business but since he lost his mother and brother who ran the show till two-years ago, and with recession in full bloom in the US, he returned back to take care and grow the business further. “I was selling fast and designer cars like the Porche and Mercedez in Los Angeles and never thought I would one day take over the restaurant business back home in India, even though I had a great passion for food since my youth. My father was posted in Kuwait with the British Petroleum, so we did get to taste a multitude of cuisines and I too would try my hands at whatever I could, especially, the Punjabi daals and butter chicken and friends loved it all, but automobiles was always my biggest passion”, says Jagmohan.
At Grub Pub, the soups section here is immensely popular with food lovers looking for an easily affordable eating place and the orders are served rather quickly. My favourite choice of soups comprises the manchow soup and the chicken wonton soup. Pan-fried noodles with gravy are equally popular with the youth as are the chicken dumplings. The cook who started it all and whose recipes are still followed was Chef Ghansyam, who worked for all of 30 years with Grub Pub and has retired but his son is a manager now at the joint. Grub Pub’s signature dish is the chilly chicken or now called Singapori chicken, it is prepared with fresh chilly-based home-made sauce and that gives it an added flavour, freshness and a pungent aroma.
The staple here is the Grub Pub special chowmein and is laced with fresh vegetables sourced from the finest vendors in the adjoining INA Market – be it baby corn, mushrooms, broccoli or spring opinions. “Our prices are highly reasonable but we have always struggled and kept on our terms as far as quality and quantity are concerned. These are never compromised here. Everything is made fresh. Where else can you have a hearty meal for two under Rs 800 these days that would include soups, a starter and two to three main dishes?,” asks Jagmohan.
The present chef Vijay Thapa has been a cook since last 12 years and began his career with the Princess Garden in south extension. He specializes in Chinese, Thai and Italian cuisines. Taking a two-months sabbatical to Manali to teach cooking at the Ambassador Resort to various Hotel Management trainees who come there has become a part of his profession. Thapa likes to give a twist to his cooking and his favourite dish done for special orders is the garlic jumbo prawns, priced at just Rs 300 for 6 pieces! Grub Pub is open during lunch and dinner hours. A decent place to eat good food without burning a hole in your pocket!