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Dining in Gurgaon

Anoothi Vishal checks out three new suburban restaurants in two days

i don’t think much of Gurgaon restaurants that tend to be in soulless malls or in glass and steel office complexes hoping to tap into an essentially corporate clientele. If you drive by night, past its glittering towers, zipping on the expressway (except on either sides of the toll bridge where you’ll be crawling, if you are lucky), this satellite town will remind you of Shanghai or Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road. But despite the rise of the modern city from a collection of rustic villages, which we have all witnessed in the last couple of years, it is Delhi really, that baffling, conflicted, overcrowded, overextended metro, that is beautiful. Delhi has character, old tombs and forts that dot its landscape give it that. In Delhi, it is still possible to come across a patch of green, and leafy boulevards haven’t been done out of existence yet. And in Delhi, you will still find markets and restaurants with a certain charm, tucked away in unexpected nooks and corners, which anything in an antiseptic mall space cannot hope to compete with. Finally, Gurgaon is also 50 odd kilometers from my home in Delhi— so I don’t need other reasons for not wanting to visit it!

Last week, however, I made the journey two days in a row, braving the office hour rush and spending, each time, about 1.5 hours to reach ‘suburbia’. i was forced to undertake the treks because of three excellent restaurants that have come up in the town and which I wanted to desperately check out— never mind Delhi’s treasures.

Zambar

As a rule, I don’t like malls. The only exceptions are Select Citywalk in Saket and Ambience Mall in Guragon, with enough treasures and hooks to make your weekend there a success. Zambar, is the latest restaurant at Ambience, which is crowded enough with some interesting (and reasonably priced) eating out options. The name is a take on “sambhar”, the all pervasive south Indian dish, spelt the way many south Indians (at least when spoofed) pronounce sambhar. The restaurant serves food from the four south Indian states—Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, though the focus seems to be more on Tamil and Kerala cooking, what with the chef being from Kanyakumari.

You can look at Zambar as an upmarket version of the much-loved Swagath: Menu apart, the staff, chefs and service included, is all from the south but there is a wine list in place (liquor license awaited) and the prices are very much in keeping with the casual nature of the restaurant. The interiors, on the other hand, will leave you fairly impressed. When promoter Rohit Aggarwal had told me that one side of the restaurant was “in a boat shape”—ostensibly referencing the Kerala house boats—I was frankly skeptical about the indoor space being treated as such. But the effect is quite pretty. Regardless of being in a mall, there is a certain charm in “boarding” the boat and sitting on little benches and low tables. As you enter, you notice on a side board, a gleaming, gold-plated (?) dinner service. It is a hand crafted replica of traditional serving dishes and while this is merely a prop as yet, the restaurant may soon start serving lunch buffets out of this.

More importantly, the menu is compact and there is no attempt like at Swagath to muddle up things for popular consumption aka serve north Indian food in the same space. It’s a good idea to order a mixed snack platter— we ordered the seafood and non-veg platters, the latter primarily comprised mutton (and chicken 65, the most touristy street dish from down south) done in many traditional ways. While the veg menu includes the likes of paneer (definitely not south Indian, but I guess the restaurant has to look after commercial concerns) and baby corn, crispy fried in masalas, it is the coastal menu that I would most recommend: The provenance of kurkuri (crispy, the word is Hindi) prawns may be unknown, as that of “chilli” squid, that Indians would dig whether in a Chinese or Indian menu, but both these are quite delicious as is the king fish tawa fry. The only disappointment is the crab chettinad style— they take out the flesh and put masala in it—killing half the fun of eating the crustacean.

It is really the main course, where the menu shows strength—and research. I tried the Syrian-Christian pan fried duck, an Andhra chicken curry cooked with cashews, Nilgiri mutton and Tamil style prawn curry — four dishes from four states– and am happy to report that the curries were all distinctive.

All in all, don’t go expecting strict authenticity or tradition from Zambar. There is paneer aplenty and even bater (quail) to keep the north Indians happy. But the offerings are flavourful, different from each other, and you’ll come back happy. The best part of Zambar is that you get to sample a lot of Tamil cooking that otherwise gets lost in the Chettinad hype.

Ratings
Food: 3.5 (on 5)
Ambience: 4
Service: 4
Value for money: 4

Learning : Veechu parotta, is like a north Indian roomali roti, except is crisper and much more delicious. Try.

Zambar, Ambience Mall, Gurgaon
www.ambiencemalls.com

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Vapour

Located in the otherwise “dead” MGF Megacity mall, Vapour is quite a lovely place to relax with a drink and some good music in pubby environs. In Delhi, true pubs are conspicuous by their absence. In their place, what we have are “lounge bars”, more stylized and formal spaces (despite their easy-going categorization), which cost so much money that you wouldn’t go there merely for a drink after office or a casual evening out with friends.
Vapour, in Gurgaon, fills up precisely that slot. On the Friday evening when we visited, it was full of people—both men and women, comfortably dressed, who didn’t look as if they had spent hours getting ready for a casual glass of beer! The music was awesome. But it is really the beer why you will keep going back.
Vapour has a micro-brewery, a growing trend in India, where beer is brewed on premises. If you are interested, you can actually see the process and the staff is happy to educate you on the nitty-gritties. The beer tastes a lot smoother—and better—than the commercial, bottled stuff one has had in India always. And there are comfort snacks to munch on. Could you ask for more?

Ratings

Beer: 4 (on 5)
Ambience: 4
Service: 3.5

Vapour, 2nd floor, MGF Mega City mall, Gurgaon
Mobile number: 9810690973,9582555614.
Tel number: 0124-4222313

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Infusion

Contemporarised Indian is gathering steam as more and more new restaurants go out of their way to serve up, not traditional Indian food, but Westernised Indian food. Infusion, most obscurely located in a new office block, is another such example.
The menu includes pleasing entrees such as French herb infused chicken tikka, scallops in tandoori masala et al— using the same tried and tested techniques that stylist Indian restaurants abroad used to much success. But while it would make sense to use western ingredients in Indian cooking abroad, do we really need to do that in India? That is a question you may as well ask.
Nevertheless, the dining experience is pleasing. Maincourse comes individually plated and there is a bread basket (with naans et al) kept as accompaniments (with butter), which seems somewhat incongruous. I had a lovely lobster in a coconutty sauce, while my daughter had fish in a green coriander one. But while, these are quite interesting, the problem with infusion is that none of the dishes really stand out.

Rating
Food: 3
Ambience: 3
Service: 3
Contact : Infusion
Phone : 124-4223301/02/03
Address : Building 10A, DLF Cyber City, Gurgaon – 122002
Website : http://www.infusionkitchen.com

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3 Responses to “Dining in Gurgaon”

  1. Amber says:

    My Experience with Zambar-
    I tried their dosa & fish curry last week- it was quite nice, but their service is simply disappointing!! I went there this week after work with a friend specially to have my friend try their dosa- which is served at a specific time only…I was asked to sit a lonely corner, When I requested to be seated in nice boat shaped seating area they have, I was refused! because apparently the staff planned to have a workshop on ‘customer service’ there!! what irony!! strangely there were guests sitting there and eating, I asked why am I being refused? The waitress gave a sheepish grunt, while the rets of the staff stood there just staring, embarressed I left….refusing customers from barely decent service in the name a customer service workshop!!! I for sure am not going anytime soon there…..

  2. Aditi says:

    To admit, i am quite a foodie myself and love trying new places. This weekend while mall hopping i came across this new place called Zambar at Ambience Mall. The place had a nice ambience. I happened to go there only at their dosa serving times…staff i must admit too has a long way to go in terms of customer service….the sambar, the coconut chutney, the dosa were all pathetic …believe me i can cook more authentic and better sambar at home. Overall not a very pleasant experience..!

  3. Amit says:

    I was at the Ambience Mall last weekend with my better half and decided to try Zammbar – a newly opened South India joint that boasts of authentic food from four south Indian states. I believe the best way to know how good a restaurant is to try their specials. So for drinks, we tried the Zambar special (vodka and spices based drink) and i must say that it was not more than a highly concentrated Jal Jeera, barely drinkable. Appetizers were fine especially the Chicken platter. However for main course that we tried, one of their highly recommended fish curries and it tasted like age old fish meat immersed in curry mix of south indian spices. Overall a below grade eating experience for quite an expensive restaurant. To top it all, the next morning we realized our worst nightmare – food poisoning at its best!! Request you to please be careful of such places that serve stale food at high prices.

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