I always play safe. Risks and I do not get along well with each other. Not in terms of food at least. But I can totally count on my gorgeous mother and bratty baby sister to push me in the puddle. Their mantra is simple: max to max you will ruin your footwear, but imagine the joy that comes with splashing.
So, when it comes to food, I prefer sticking to the tried and tested options. Trust me it is the safest bet for me and who better than my best friend to second that. However, am I glad or I am glad that I allowed my sister to drag me to her new find. Well, not that I had much choice in this matter.
A rare gem lies within the walls of our heritage i.e. old fort – a part of it – turned into Crafts Museum at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. It is called Café Lota, named after the gift shop within the museum.
It isn’t your usual cafe found in the poshest of places in Delhi and nor is it your typical canteen expected of a Government establishment. It is an open cafe with bamboo sticks roofing, spacious seating, and warmth in plenty. Music here is best defined as soothing and unlike most places it doesn’t numb your sense of hearing; rather you get to talk like civilized people instead of playing chinese whisper at the top of your voice. I have been here twice and have always managed to get a table right next to the angeethis. Yes! Imagine what bliss it is to be sitting next to one in this weather and that too in an open cafe. Sigh! Well, it’s altogether a different story that you get to be the privileged one on first come fist serve basis. They have only two of those angeethis. It is going to be your race against the chill!
Now that I have written enough about its decor and ambiance, let me take you on a tasteful journey. The menu is a perfect example for unity in diversity and has been designed to blow your mind as well as taste buds. It boasts of dishes from different regions of India. So, yeah it isn’t your no-need-to-see-what’s-there-since all-are-the-same menu. Lucky for me that they have plenty of options for the ghaas-phoos janta and some of them are milk-free (For the first-timers on my blog, I am lactose-intolerant).
My can’t-resist and absolute favorite in the ‘smaller plates’ (starters for you) is their gangtok gya-thuk. It is an innovative mix of secret ingredients by one of the geniuses there. Each ingredient separately tests the taste buds yet they amalgamate to truly delight my senses with every bite.
I relish it so much that one bowl is just not enough! FYI there is nothing small about the portion size.
The palak patta chaat is a treat both for your eyes and tongue. Crispy spinach leaves, soft aloo and, chickpeas topped with spiced yoghurt and chutneys is quite tantalizing.
Another must-try is their ‘sindhi kadi, rice, and aloo tuk’. You will find it in the ‘larger plates’ i.e. the main course. This dish is a perfect blend of flavours and doesn’t burn your throat and stomach.
I haven’t tasted their Kathal ki Biryani with Kumaoni Raita but the reviews have been nothing short of delicious. I can vouch for it because my mom gave it a 10 on 10; the lady who doesn’t give her approval so easily, specially when it is food we are talking about.
However, if you really want to enjoy this wonderful weather then do order the ‘paronthi’ (alongwith a large dollop of home-churned butter) with Masala Chai. It is not only yummy but also value for money. To add more spice to it, don’t forget to ask for their finger-licking pickles: eggplant pickle, mixed pickle, karela pickle… and the list goes on.
I haven’t tried rest of the dishes, but I intend to go back soon.
So, the man behind this mouthwatering menu is Chef Rahul Dua, who is also one of the partners at Café Lota. A certified wine sommelier, he learned the nuances of cooking from his mother. Chef Rahul makes it a point to mingle with all the patrons, but he is a tad camera shy. Hey! I am not complaining because with his cap, apron, and a disarming grin in place, he answered all my questions. He insists on being told if the dishes are not up to the mark; an unusual request, since most eateries tend to avoid it. Well, I guess this just makes the place a lot more enchanting.
So, before I wrap it up, a little food for thought: Someone wise said that don’t judge a book by its cover, but I would like to say that the story inside this book is as engaging as its cover.