The traffic slowed me down and there was no way I could let my friend know that I’d be late. My cellular network sucks, I concluded rashly! The autorickshaw I was in had just swung onto the Punjabi Bagh Club Road and I had been keeping an eye out, when I suddenly spotted the formidable wooden door of Bollywood Biistro: formidable, because it was dark and sprawled atop a series of steep steps leading up to it.
I stepped into a sea of classy Bollywood remixes playing at full volume, within the Bistro’s wooden interiors the colour of luxuriantly brewing coffee. As I’ve always maintained, nothing sets off the interesting details of a wooden texture more than halogen lamps, and here was Bollywood Biistro nodding in agreement. I looked around for a red turban and spotted it at the farthest table, near the TV, bobbing up and down in conversation with the owner of Punjabi Bagh’s newest Bistro.
I was a fool to think I’d be up for a lecture on punctuality (because my friend doesn’t sCOLD women who are, erm…, HOT?). In fact, he was all smiles at the sight of me and introduced me jovially to the mind behind Bollywood Biistro, Mr Abhishek Vij. Mr Vij is a my-kind-of-ladies’ man, a remarkably warm personality with a superbly handsome smile. We shook hands and seated ourselves for what was to be a delightfully variant meal ahead of us!
We began with the typically Delhi appetisers of tikka and kabab, served in a manner hard to find in the city’s restaurants. Malai dripped off the delicate chicken chunks as they sat on a warm tandoor stick – dangling over a platter of seasoned lettuce, onion rings dressed in sour crème and masala, and a smooth green dip of chutney. You’d wonder how sour crème found its way onto a platter of chicken malai tikka, but it only serves to complement the smokey zing of the tikka. Alternatively, you could pop in some masala-dressed onions to tune up the flavour or down.
The chicken kababs were served in a similar fashion – dangling tandoor sticks over the same assortment of freshly made chutney and vegetables. As it slid smoothly off onto our plates (thanks, Gurpreet, you’re so considerate) and tumbled into our mouths, we concluded that the tikka had stolen the show. If only the body of the kabab had a tad more gold, and its insides another layer of flavour, it would’ve been a match to its chunkier counterpart.
“Who wants some cola to go with their food?” asked my friend.
“Do you want some cola to go with your food?” he asked me.
“No, Gurpreet dear.”
He turns to our host who was quietly enjoying his food. “Do you want some cola to go with your food?” Mr Vij replied in the negative.
Before my friend could start asking diners at other tables about cola, Mr Vij said, “Why don’t you order one for yourself?”
“Ah, yes!” he beamed, “I always need a glass or two to clear my palate before the next course.”
“We thought so,” said Mr Vij, with an amused glance at my direction.
As we soon learnt, the following course was ahead of no less than three more appetisers. A thin-crust pizza was set before us in line with the starters – and it was no ordinarily thin crust. Topped with everything a mom would want her child to indulge in – colourful vegetables, basically – the crust was so fragile, and the cheese so delicately spread atop the same, that it was hard to believe that the crust wasn’t made of soft cheese itself.
More kababs followed, this time a greener affair. Potatoes crushed and mashed with a world of raw flavours, arranged perfectly into dark gold disks the size of a large bite, and assorted with layers of cut-up capsica, lettuce, and peas on a pristine rectangular platter. The unusual thing about this hara-bhara kabab was the roasted bit of cashew embedded in the centre of the disk, which elevates the mood of your palate with the last bite.
There was no way we could’ve skipped fish in our course of appetisers, so the chef brought us a generous serving of fried fish fillets with tartar sauce. Even though the batter of the fillets soaked up most of the flavours and the sauce was sweeter than it should’ve been, we were more than happy with the overall set of appetisers Mr Vij sat down and had with us.
The main course surely matched up to the luxuriant set of appetisers that Mr Tikku washed down with his cola. Soft roties accompanied by paneer lababdar with a regally creamy gravy and dal makhani so velvety, together these two vegetarian pots made up for the naan that happened to be a bit too chewy. We had to taste their butter chicken: boneless tikka-sized meats swimming in thick gravy that refused to slide off the ladle onto our plates. These were followed up by a pot of vegetable biryani packed with the plush, diced goodness of vegetables and a distinctive Mughlai flavour you’d remember Bollywood Biistro by.
Mr Vij suggested we have his banoffee pie for dessert and we agreed. A large triangular slice of the pie was cut up into tinier portions for each of us to be served. You should’ve seen Mr Tikku relish those delicate banoffee bites as soft banana coated with thick toffee squashed against the roof of his mouth.
“Never seen a guy enjoy a banana so much before,” I remarked.
Mr Tikku looked in my direction and scrunched up his face. The gentlemanly Mr Vij laughed and looked the other way. Then Mr Tikku looks at the remaining banoffee portions on his plate.
“It’ll now be difficult for me to finish this,” he jokes, “but I’m going to try anyway.” He scoops up a bite with his spoon and puts it into his mouth. It was so delicious that he shuts his eyes and takes a deep breath, enjoying the mad sweetness of Bollywood Biistro’s banoffee pie.
“Breathing while doing the banana has never been a cakewalk for me…” I remarked again.
Mr Tikku just sped up the dessert-eating process. I doubt whether he’ll be doing it again with me.