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Potboiler…gone wrong

Bollywood cafe Chalchitra falters on its execution

Bollywood and spicy Indian street food can be a potent mix, which is why it is wonder that no one really thought of bringing these two together – before Chalchitra. A new restaurant-lounge in GK II, Chalchitra (meaning “moving, or motion pictures”, to translate it literally) was a concept waiting to happen. That’s the reason we are in an exceptionally bright—and forgiving– mood even as we climb up the narrow stairs adjoining Costa Coffee, and promptly get blinded by the red lights that illuminate this space not to mention deafened by the blaring remixed dance numbers, courtesy a DJ on the top floor. But what the heck, Bollywood can be equally loud and you have only to watch a couple of 1980s flick to be overwhelmed by psychedelics.

The first impression is that of kitsch. If you have Manish Arora sensibilities, at least when it comes to fashion, this may be your kind of space. There are posters all around, produced by the restaurateurs themselves, that lampoon various film titles and dialogues just as the menu card does. Sholay, is of course, chole, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson become “Do Jasoos” and memorable one-liners come in the shape of “kitne paranthe the?”. There are also a couple of coffee table books on Bollywood masquerading as décor. And on the walls, projections of popular films roll on silently: Chupke Chupke is on when we visit. It’s a world full of college humour that one could almost like – but for the music. And that’s where, Chalchitra begins to falter. In a space peopled by not more than 10 people, screechy Bollywood numbers make conversation impossible—and it isn’t even Cinderella hour when high-spirited Delhiites abandon their chairs to dance on, well, table tops, bar counters and restaurant floors in clear contradiction of the law…

The menu: We love the menu cards, which are as kitschy as the décor. And there are some sparklers in the seriously average affair otherwise. First, the highlights. The chicken tikka is good—tender and succulent, there is a Parsi version of KFC-type fried chicken which you will also love, and there are chaat masala sprinkled French fries to complement our desi spirit. The snack platter comes with salad and chutneys as also a “bowl” fashioned out of crispy papad full of other papad and peanut munchies, the kind that are always a success with Black Label guzzling guests. There is a deliberate attempt at achieving a mouffusil tone to go with the Bollywood theme. And the star of the evening is the home-style khichda (with chicken!) that we get, just right with its flavouring of ginger and green chillies.

Next, the lowlights: What, for heaven’s sake, is a French onion soup, and not very good either, doing on this determinedly street-Indian type menu? You can have a better version at Kwality’s and other Raj institutions. And some of the food quality is so low that you want to pull up the restaurateurs for daring to dish it out. Prawn Koliwada that we order are a mockery of the real thing—pakora like here. Clearly, it is a fallacy to order anything “south Indian”—the fare is so inauthentic. Another Chettinad-style prawns that we order, teamed up with lemon rice, has too much masala drowing out tiny bits of shrimp. No, you wouldn’t pay fancy prices for this.

All in all, Chalchitra disappoints because it could have been so much more. The food is strictly average, and a lot of times dips further. What happens as a result is that the restaurant comes across as a chaloo, insincere place — much like many of our potboilers, which is a shame because with the idea they had, they should have had a winner on their hands. And, please someone turn off the volume!

————–ends—————

Chalchitra

M-38, 1st floor, GK II, M Block Market, Delhi
Meal for two: Rs 1,000 (without alcohol)

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One Response to “Potboiler…gone wrong”

  1. Y says:

    I thought so too..they had such a great idea but so poorly translated.HAlf hearted, college like!

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