Great Indian Kebabs, butter chicken
By Ravi V. Chhabra
Barely half-a-kilometer away from the India Gate is the all-famous Mecca of Delhi bellies, the Pandara Road market, known for a plethora of multi-cuisine restaurants especially for the Punjabi and Mughlai cuisines. These restaurants have been there for over five-decades and have established a reputation since then, from being just the roadside ‘dhabas’ to fancy and niche restaurants serving specialized cuisines that range from the north west frontier province food to the Japanese and Chinese fare.
The one restaurant that comes close to serving the finest of kebabs, gravies, breads and butter chicken is the Pindi. It is an a la carte restaurant that has a well-defined and elaborate menu that offers a variety of succulent kebabs – be it the reshmi kebabs, the malai-tikka; a range of rich gravies and vegetables and lentils cooked in various styles that are served at lunch-time and go far beyond the dinner-time. The restaurant is open far beyond midnight and visitors throng the place despite many a time having to wait outside for their turn at the table.
For almost 50-years, Pindi has been dishing out Punjabi fare on Pandara Road. It has graduated from a dhaba to a restaurant and has, of late, added Chinese cuisine to its menu. However, the food, if you like the good old dhaba-style Punjabi cuisine, is still rather good. Try the famous butter chicken, a Pindi speciality. The Pindi chana, paneer peshawari, shahi paneer, tawa kebab, kashmiri kebab and malai kofta are passable but the various rotis available here are worth a try. The prices are on the higher side but the food more than makes up for that. Of all the restaurants in Pandara Road,this is the one that perhaps attends to the maximum tourists from the western world.
A hot favourite among the diehard carnivores in Delhi, Pindi offers fine variety of roasted delights, whether it is the malai tikka – chicken and mutton or a variety of seekhkebabs. In the gravy section are the rara meat, the roghan josh, malai kofta and kadhai chicken. The roghan josh is a favourite with those who like the goat meat dishes prepared in thick dark masaala gravy that is both rich in texture and highly aromatic. Besides, Pindi offers an array of fish tikkas that can be ordered with or without a spicy marination.
The food is always served hot and fresh here and the service is courteous with not much waiting for the platters to arrive after the food has been ordered. The restaurant offers a variety of soups for starters as much as there are the good old biryanis. The mutton biryani is prepared painstakingly with tender meat of a small goat so that the cooked meat pieces melt in the mouth and the rice, of course, has a great flavour with each grain finely separate to give it complete sheen and blossom.
The butter chicken which is a special dish and its recipe has been passed on from many years to the present chef is prepared in thick tomato gravy and is rich in spices and aroma and can be ordered with bones or boneless. It has a garnishing of cream that gives it the richness and fine smooth texture and is best relished with hot naans, rotis or rumali rotis that arrive nicely wrapped in a cloth so they are fresh and steaming as they enter the mouth.
The ‘makhni daal’ and the vegetable ‘malai kofta’ are hot favourites among the vegetarians who are far less enthusiastic about the Pandara Road eateries as compared to the non-vegetarians. The ‘palak paneer’ or cottage cheese cooked in fresh spinach thick gravy is a must order for the westerners who like to eat food that is not hot and lacks pungent spices. Some other vegetarian dishes are a staple form that exist at the usual Indian ‘dhabas’, such as the shahi gobi, matar-paneer, dum-aloo, jeera-alu, shahi-paneer,mixed vegetables et al.
At Pindi, it is advisable to make prior reservation so as to avoid waiting outside, even though the view is good but as we know the hungry in Delhi want to hit the table the minute they arrive at the dining venue. A decent non-vegetarian meal for two could cost anywhere between Rs 1200 to Rs 2000. The restaurant accepts all major credit and debit cards. It is also advised not to miss the famous kulfi-faluda and ice-cream shops adjoining the Pindi restaurant for those with a sweet tooth. These could be ordered inside the restaurant or you could just step out and stand and relish them!