G-16, 17, 30 & 31, Ground Floor, Ras Villas Mall, Behind Select Citywalk, Saket

Reviewed by Rakhi Jerly

Cuisine: Traditional Indian cuisine with a new look. Think of it as a super cool grandma in a saree, riding a bullet, winking through her sunglasses.

On the Menu: You will struggle not to smile at this masterpiece of a menu. It will take you on a trip to your childhood, make you yearn for home and marvel at the versatility of age old Indian recipes.

Chipotle Chicken Tikka with Avocado Raita
Chipotle Chicken Tikka with Avocado Raita

Start with the “Sharing plates” – for us it was “Bhatti da Paneer with Eggless Cashew, Mint and Tomato hollandaise” and “Chipotle Chicken Tikka with Avocado Raita” – served on steaming iron boxes! The burning coals send out wisps of flavour that binds the food well. 

Before we could move ahead from the starters page, the chef sent in a dish that we would gladly go back for. Does the name “Biryani Croquettes with Salan Aioli” confuse you? Here’s a simple explanation – shallow fried balls of Biryani. Not only did the thought behind this dish impress us, the flavours were a five minute trip to Hyderabad.

From the city of Nizams to Old Delhi, “Warm Samosa Deconstruct with Aam Pappad Chutney” was mashed and mixed right at the table. Spicy and tangy, this dish was easily the evening’s favourite. My other choice from the salad list would be “Idli, Deviled Prawns, Pinchoes and Cucumber with Roasted Tomato Salsa”.

Ambala Cantt Mutton Curry with Tikone Parathe and Kumquat achaar
Ambala Cantt Mutton Curry with Tikone Parathe and Kumquat achaar

Sweety Saag Chicken from a friend Sweety Singh” and “Brar jee ki Mashoor Rasmalai Makhni” from the main course menu are clearly credited to their creators. My friend who tried “Sarson ka Saag and Makki di Roti with Gur ki Dalli Moti Moti”, wasn’t particularly impressed despite the balls of jaggery trying their best to mellow out the bitterness. But I was drooling over the “Ambala Cantt Mutton Curry – the meat cooked to perfection and soaking in thick gravy, served in a military issue white mug.

For desserts, it was “Badam Halwa Baklava with Shrikhand” and the original “Jamaluddin ki Kheer from Badal Beg Masjid, Old Delhi”. However, we were looking forward to the most interesting name on the menu – Bachpan Platter. Kisme toffees, Phantom Cigarettes and an assortment of other memories from the 90s. Sadly, we never got to lay our eyes on this nostalgic dessert spread, as it it was not available at that time.

The in-house drinks called “Modern Cocktails” deserve a special mention. My picks: Desi by Roots and the Desi Champagne. The former served in a Khullad with bits of lemongrass and the latter in a Champagne flute, with distinct desi flavour.

The experience: Your arrival is announced by a smiling attend with a bell. The cafe we walked into was tastefully decorated with a smattering of vibrant chairs, tables and couches. But what really caught my eye was the wall showcasing icons of the past – vintage cameras, radios and other knickknacks. The head waiter leads you through the “Gali”, which gives you a sneak peek into the tidy kitchen. The main dining area and bar is comfortably spacious with long tables ideal for families and large groups.

Desi Roots

Before you tuck into what you ordered, the staff will offer a tiny mason jar to clear your palate. Open the lid and the aroma of Coconut Chutney, Mint and fried Dal meets your senses. The tiny “Paruppuvada” may be soggy from the chutney, but worth the unique experience. More chutneys, dips and sometimes dishes are served in mason jars – keeping their flavours and aroma intact for your table.

As you leave the restaurant, get your wish locked on the “Jali” – concept borrowed from the “Love Locks”of Paris, I guessed. You can keep the key and use it if the wish comes true on your next visit.

Verdict: Pleasingly unique yet comfortably familiar. Chef Rajiv Sinha and his team did impress us with the flavours and concept. The ambience is ideal for large family get-togethers or meet-ups with friends. The open spaces may not be appealing for a date night. The staff is courteous and attentive. Special appreciation goes to the head waiter, who patiently explained the story behind each dish and carefully instructed us on the right way to get the best out of the flavours.

Meal for Two: Rs. 1,200 plus taxes (without alcohol)

3 Point Impression: Inspiring. Unique. Nostalgic

For more: Desi Roots on Zomato