Good Food and Restaurant Review of Veda at Connaught Place September 9, 2012Posted by simarprit in Uncategorized.
How does one define “Good Food” – the debate is never ending between those who believe that good food is tasty food and between proponents of good food is healthy food, food which is good for your overall health. I very strongly believe that nothing is as damaging as excess and there is a possibility of finding a balance between tasty and healthy food. Making healthy tasty food is one option, it is tough though. A simpler option would be limiting quantities of exceptionally tasty but unhealthy food to what is bare minimum for your taste-buds to smile and keep smiling for a little while more.
My first memory of good food is homemade full cream yogurt, hand beaten to smoothness, with some grains for texture intact, mixed with jaggery powder, again hand beaten to get the same uniform color; I may have been only four years old at that time. My next memory is of consuming lots of namkeen/ masala lassi (buttermilk) and having aloo paranthas with dollops of white homemade butter. I am sure millions of Punjabis and my friends from the greater Punjab region have exactly or almost identical food memories. What this did to me was to let my taste buds and mind believe that simple food can be great and also helped me understand textures and flavors one by one.
Good food to me is not expensive food, good food to me is not food served in Versace crockery with 24 carat gold plated monogrammed cutlery. Expensive food can definitely be good too, old cheese, caviar, truffles when used well and in right quantities are just simply wow! I love them and if they are served in Versace they make for life long memories. But and a big but, expensive ingredients are never ever a guarantee to good food, the finest dessert can be beaten hands down on crispiness, texture and flavor by a straight out of a wok (kadhai) Jalebi. That is food, good food and it would remain that way.
The Master Chef series on television offers a great insight to cooking techniques for sons and daughters of the lesser God. Innovative use of standard ingredients, which “naturally” don’t go together for you, open the whole kitchen out for experimentation- say cauliflower in your next dessert. A quest for good food has always been there, this world exists because there is something with our tongue. Our tongue needs more and more of taste and generations through centuries have worked to satisfy the palette. Taste is crazy, it works magically when paired with what our eyes see and it works magnificently when we eat without seeing what we are eating. It is this characteristic of taste which defines good food for me.
In this column the focus would be on these two words and their essence. Of course food can never be good if it doesn’t meet basic hygiene criteria, but I am not at all for disqualifying 99% of food served on the grounds of “Oh! This is so unhygienic.” I also intend taking as much liberties as required to explain exactly how I feel about food, so English as a language won’t be my priority. Having said that, I do believe that good food is explained better in good language.
My quest for good food took me to a fancy restaurant in the new “Old Delhi” of Connaught Place ( the way they have dug-up and messed up CP, most of it is messier than much of “the Old Delhi.”)
This restaurant is North Indian and is called “Veda,” the Punjabi in me read it as Veda (the veranda), only to be corrected at the time of booking that the name is Veda as in Ved Purans (and not what I thought to be a very good name for a north Indian restaurant). The definition of a North Indian restaurant in Delhi is simple, a Punjabi restaurant which doesn’t want to stick to the line when it comes to decor and a few items on the menu. My focus is to stick to the good factor in food, but as I didn’t pay only for the food I feel obliged to write a few lines about everything else I paid for. Veda, is a chain of restaurants in part owned by fashioner designer Rohit Bal. I am told the designer personally works on decor part of all Veda restaurants.
An unimpressive hostess, maitre-d’ was missing, make believe decor, can be called stylish or obsessive depending on personal preferences and I am sure the decor has been done to be talked about. Veda has very interesting table tops, they are artistic to perfection and I definitely aspire to have one like that for my home. Flooring can be best described as inappropriate and if some one says it is in “art deco” style I will insist they are being too generous in their compliments. It didn’t go well with the overall ambiance. The ceiling is designed to stun you and many would like being stunned by silver creepers on the roof over their heads. Menu books would have been impressive if they were not torn, glasses are regular and don’t communicate with such an artistic decor. Crockery in pearl white is good, but for Punjabi food it makes it a little harder- oil shows, color contrasts and so on. Cutlery is worn-out and chipped. For seating, one side has chairs and the other side has sofa benches. The sofa benches should have been at least three inches wider, this is the city of large bellies after all and their largest table was occupied by “Kitty Party” ladies. Wait staff looked underpaid and unenthusiastic, if not depressed. Staff could definitely do with some training, all those we interacted with displayed willingness to serve but were inadequately trained; even basics of minimum guest expectations like “never serve over a guest and across the table” were alien concepts to them. After we had placed our order the restaurant wait staff/ server attending to us asked us very confidently “Shall I give you starters first?” my friend with more than just a mere hint of surprise in his eyes quipped “how about starting with desserts?” I of course had to make the server understand the satire to avoid disaster at the table.
The server was kind enough to tell us that we were over ordering and portions were generous, he ensured that we reduced one dish at least; he was convinced we were ordering for four as per their portions. I am glad he was right, we still landed up ordering for three as we needed full flavors. Looks like their menu would work very well for a party of four. They did pack leftovers for us in neat boxes and gave them to us in an elegant paper bag.
Papars and Chutney were amongst the best complimentary food I have ever had at a restaurant. The papars were perfect, couldn’t be better and chili-tomato-muraba-chutney was delicious and made me consider shouting once more, once more. The complimentary plate of onions was excellent; they were dipped in different sauces and met my expectations from good food in totality. Both dishes were pleasant and tasty surprises. They made a royal statement about the benevolent nature of the restaurant owners and food-serving planners. Yes, they were dishes and not pushed as just complimentary must-dos. Perfect! Good Food!
Garden salad was fresh. Perfect! Good Food!
Manchurian Cauliflower – An Indian-Chinese style dry preparation. It had hints of brilliance but was too sweet for a starter, probably could have tasted better as a dish if it was not bare-plated and had some sweet neutralizers and some spicy accompaniment. Sorry! This is not Good Food.
Paneer Kundan Kalian – Is an interesting take on homemade paneer kofta curry. Paneer was not industrial and had freshness all over it, maybe it was even made in-house or sourced with their own specifications. Paneer balls worked interestingly with gravy which had tamarind defining it but not dominating it. Freshness index of gravy was at its peak. Tomatoes, onions, tamarind, masalas, herbs were all talking to each other and giving enough way to each other, I enjoyed it and so did my friend. Nothing of it was left on the table. Perfect! Good Food!
Dal Veda – They should have just called it our take on Dal Bukhara or Moti Mahal’s Dal Makhni. It was slow cooked black lentils with a somewhat predictable taste which made the Punjabi in me say to myself “eat more, eat some more fat!”. Somehow I felt that the use of spices was on the lesser side and the food would have tasted better with lesser tomato puree and slightly more clove and cardamom. The taste of tomato dominated the flavor of the daal and it didn’t taste like puree made freshly for lentils. It could have been industrial canned puree, which is always on the sweeter side. Sorry! This is not Good Food.
Vegetarian Biryani – I would have preferred a pulao to this version of biryani. It looked like a pulao converted to biryani halfway throught the preparation. There was the taste of stir frying like pulao (I don’t know why) but there was no aroma of flavours which a biryani exudes. Somewhere the recipe lost it. The preparation was fine, it was well cooked, all ingredients were of good quality. I would rate this dish is as imperfect. This is not Good Food.
We decided to cancel the dessert after the server informed us that Lichhi Tehri was “very sweet” he was kind of hinting that we would be better off without it.
Overall, I would rate Veda as an above average restaurant for vegetarians with a mix of exceptional culinary delights and a few nothing great to write back home kind of dishes. I need to go over to veda once again for a review of their famed non-vegetarian dishes.
One line restaurant review of Veda: If you are a foodie, you must go to Veda once.