Budget Bites: Mumbai, Delhi Zaika

March 17, 2012Times of India, Crest Edition

On a Tuesday evening, a few days after the municipal elections, Chor Bazaar’s Pakmodia Street exploded with activity. Eardrum-bursting fireworks were lit in the lane in front of a silver carriage, led by two white horses, holding aloft the constituency’s victor and an entourage of children.

The assembled staff of Delhi Zaika, which overlooks the street, rushed bottles of cola to the kids on the carriage. The restaurant may be a newcomer here, but it has already established itself as a bona fide neighbourhood institution.

Not to be confused with the similarly named kebab stand round the corner, Delhi Zaika straddles the north end of Pakmodia Street, its large red sign promising “The Pure Taste of Delhi”. Skewers of chicken and mutton rest on racks above the steaming tawa out front, fried to order in thick gravies for neighbourhood regulars who stop by to sit or gather out front to wait for take-out. Most dishes come in a choice of three sizes, the smallest an appropriate single serving.

Changezi (order it spicy;medium was too mild for our liking) comes with chicken, fish or fried prawns. A creamy chicken shahi, pungent with green cardamom, came as the special on the night of our visit. Both dishes left plenty of rich gravy for soaking up with crisp butter naan and delicate rumali roti.

Delhi Zaika opens only for dinner, but pass by day and you will see a large handi steaming away in a kiosk across the lane from the main restaurant, under a sign advertising a “Delhi Specialty” : nihari. Served with a choice of butter, nalli, bheja or a “special” combination of all three, Delhi Zaika’s nihari does not best the venerable rendition served for lunch at nearby Noor Mohammadi Hotel, but it does offer a worthy alternative for supper (service begins at 7pm).

For Chor Bazaar newcomers, Delhi Zaika offers a survey of the neighbourhood’s offerings in comfortingly spotless surroundings. Thankfully, though, Delhi Zaika does not isolate you from the experience of the street outside. On that Tuesday night, with our hands clapped over our ears and rogue firework sparks whizzing past our shoulders, we could hardly have felt more immersed in the ebullient cacophony outside.

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