Gurgaon - any ideas?
Back to Gurgaon next week and wondered if anyone had any thoughts on good places?
Last week colleagues took me to the following:
Dum Pukht at the ITC Maurya was very refined and good. I was with a vegetarian colleague so stuck to the veggies. The tomato sauce with the paneer was really great with good layers of flavour and the morel biryani (Noorani Guchchi Biryani) was very good, it was subtle but with an outstanding aroma when it was opened.
Punjab Grill in the Ambiance Mall: we went to two restaurants in malls, both really popular and doing great business. If you have a rimantic notion of eating Indian food in historic "real" settings it's wise to remember the middle classes in India are heading to trendy modern places in malls and hotels. We went here for lunch and it was good, some very fine mutton (goat?) curry. It was quick and simple but very decent.
"Strikers" Namche Bazaar is in the Global Foyer Mall, Strikers is a craft brewery which makes four styles of beer and has a bar with (loud) live music and apparently quite a scene later at night. The beer was a bit sweet for my taste but he food in the adjacent restaurant was surprisingly good. I was very dubious about taken to a trendy restaurant which is part of a nightclub/brewery but it was good. The place was full of multi-generational families and we had a pretty good meal.
Last, and least was "Seasonal Tastes" at the Westin, its the usual pan asian buffet with a few Indian food stations. The curries are OK but he kebabs are not cooked to order and the bread service erratic, its Ok whilst waiting for the long flight home but not much else.
So back again next week - does anyone have any other recommendations close by - I don't fancy travelling too far in the traffic and monsoon rains!
Just sharing with you a discussion thread on the SF Bay Area board, where some senior Chowhounds still felt that you get *better* Indian food in SF Bay Area than in an Indian metropolis like Bangalore http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/911606
Obviously, some folks still have a stereotyped and pretty dated view of India, failing to take into account the tremendous progress which took place there in the past decade, and the rapid rise of a middle-class with discerning culinary tastes and a penchant to try new things, e.g. you can Taiwanese bubble-tea outlets that's much talked about from London to Hong Kong in Gurgaon & Noida:
I do have a certain sympathy for that argument as I find the best of Sydney and HK do hold up well against a lot of places in India. But the best in India really does blow other countries away.
Agree with you about the lack of understanding of the effect of rising affluence in India. The middle classes have high expectations and expect "western" standards of fit-out and service. So malls and hotels may well be were the best food starts to come from. Also agree with the desire for the new, its like China with their fascination with Italian and French high end restaurants. For special meals locals don't stay local they like cuisines from other countries so lots of developments in other foods.My colleagues were so disappointed I didn't want to go to Starbucks every day - their excuse to go there by treating me.
Still don't get bubble tea it's like Hello Kitty, Cup Cakes or the new Asian fad for Cronuts (3 or 4 bakeries in HK already have them and they are selling out - in both senses).
And to think that the Cronut was only invented few months ago:
The craze over Cronuts has about reached its peak in NY now:
Good timing, PhilD, I was just compiling a Gurgaon eat-list for a planned business trip there later this year - just like to share it below. BTW, I've scratched Dum Pukht, Punjab Grill (which you'd done) off the list, together with Jing (Chinese), Konomi (Japanese), etc since I assumed you (like me) do *not* plan to do non-Indian Oriental/SE-Asian restaurants whilst in India.
- Amaranta, Oberoi Gurgaon - Coastal Indian cuisine. Rec: Crab,asparagus & raw mango poriyal. Tel: 0124-245 1234
- Azzurro, The Shopping Mall - Mediterranean/Lebanese/Moroccan. Tel: 0124-4289253
- Barbeque Nation, Ansal Sushant Plaza - eat-all-you-can multi-cuisine spots popular with Indian professionals/work & family groups. Tel: 0124-4044563
- Chin Chin - Desi-Chinese food, think Manchurian cauliflower, black pepper prawns, chilli chicken, etc. Tel: 0124-4200888
- Chor Bizarre, Hotel Broadway Delhi or Savoy Suites in Noida - Kashmiri cuisine. One of *the* places to eat in all of Delhi - not sure how far to get from your hotel in Gurgaon. Please call ahead to check - when we were planning to visit its Noida branch last Mar, they were supposedly closed for renovation. Tel: 43663600
- Citrus Cafe, Lemon Tree Hotel. Love its Bangalore counterpart with a talented kitchen crew (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/911882) so have high hopes the Delhi/Gurgaon counterparts (there are 3 Lemon Tree hotels in Gurgaon) may live up to the same standards.
- Farsaan, 2nd floor, Metropolitan Mall - Gujerati snacks. Tel: 0124-4379277
- The Great Kabab Factory - 6 outlets throughout the city. My thread from earlier this year http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/893575
- Punjabi by Nature - *the* restaurant that popularised the vodka-filled Gol Gappas! Its Gurgaon branch is at DLF Phase III, Infinity Tower. Tel: 0124-4143666
- Swagath Bar & Restaurant, 16-17 Sector 29 Gurgaon - coastal cuisine from Goa, Karnataka & Maharashtra. Tel: 0124-4760600
- Wild Fire, Crowne Plaza Today, Sector 29, NH 8 Gurgaon - Okay, I can't resist throwing this in as it's supposed to be the *only* Brazilian churrascaria in all of North India! Tel: 0124-4534000
- Zanotta - Italian option at Leela Kempinski Gurgaon. Tel: 0124-4771234
Anyway, PhilD, if you make frequent business trips to India like I do, you may want to invest in one of these Times of India food guides, available in any of the bookstores in India. There are separate ones for each major metropolis & its satellite cities, e.g. Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, etc. My latest acquisition was one which covered Delhi/Gurgaon/Noida/Faridabad/Ghaziabad. What I liked about these guides - they're written for the *Indian* consumer in mind: the burgeoning local middle-class and jet-setting professionals.
Thanks for all the info it was very useful - a few of the suggestions received the thumbs down from my colleague.
First was dinner at Latitue at the new Vivant by Taj. Their main restaurant is upmarket Thai so we headed to the cafe that spans cuisines. It was probably the best food over the two weeks. First some wonderful tandoori paneer that was coated in a fiery red chill - big chunks on cheese and a coating that had a real zing, it was a revelation compared to the same dish in other places. We followed with a lamb curry and a vegetable curry. The lamb was amazingly fragment and you could taste the individual spices. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy in a light source seemingly freshly sautéed in the sauce rather than pre-cooked.
Next Zambar in the Ambiance mall this is coastal cuisine from the four southern states. It was the usual lunch buffet but with an interesting selection including a garlic curry. The present plates of veg and non-veg starters to kick off which were OK, some of the curries were good and all worth trying - but none memorable.
Last was Amaranta at the Oberoi and my least favourite meal. The restaurant on the ground floor seemed to have more life (mainly locals) and we should have gone there. Amaranta is very formal and luxurious in a very spartan room (and mainly loud Americans). Its focus is fresh fish but they do meats. The meal starts with breads, pickles and a mix your own dip. Breads included two type of papadum, some naan with butter and pesto, and three types of roll with Indian spicing (which I passed on), the DIY dip gave you two salts and a southern indian spice/sugar mix and you mix these with olive oil - mine tasted horrid but that may be user error! We get the usual amuse bouche with a shot glass of a tamarind tinged drink and a little curried puff. Next the starters are fresh prawns with tomato sorbet - the prawns were OK but nothing special and the sorbet was a bad as it sounds, putting it together added absolutely nothing.
Then a intercourse palette cleaner of another sorbet, never got this in western restaurants, glad it died out, horrified to find it alive and well in India. The main was Andra Snapper which had a light curry sauce and was pleasant but again not outstanding. The best was the curry leaf rice which really added a nice dimension. Overall a confused meal, potentially good food ruined by pretension.
So some good eating in Gurgaon - a decent range of places but look for food in malls and top hotels. Punjab by nature looked great when we passed but we ran out of time. The one big caution for anyone looking to try lots of places is the lengthy travel times, Gurgaon is a mess of traffic as DLF build their private metro - it probably is no better when its finished - and it can take at least 40 mins to and hour to go quite short distances, especially if you are aiming to cross the freeway. Our 500m as the crow flies journey took an hour as we had to navigate the freeway - and my driver was a Gurgaon local!
Yes, traffic's a killer there. When I was in Noida early this year, our driver kept insisting that we go to Karim's branch at one of the modern malls in Noida instead of the original in Old Delhi, because of the traffic jams.
Anyway, we were adamant, so took that 1 hour's drive downtown. Coming back later that evening was a breeze once the roads were clear.
I managed to try "Punjabi by Nature" last night annd had a good meal, especially liked the mustard greens which were in season and were new to me. The maize bread with white butter went really well with them. Their butter Naan is an impressive size and the meat massala annd kebabs were quite passable.