After travelling to different parts of India, we have come up with a list of India’s 50 best restaurants where the food is divine and ambiance surreal. This story is part of our series ’50 Best New Restaurants in India’
There are plenty of ‘best restaurants’ lists all over the Internet. Why do we even need one? After all, food is a choice, taste is a personal matter and budget is a big factor.
In spite of all these factors, the biggest reason for a ‘list’ is aspiration. A restaurant aspires to be on a list, and a diner aspires to eat at a restaurant on a list. A list is believable, relatable, something to work onwards. Think of it as a culinary road map. From Delhi to Mumbai, Kolkata to Chennai, with several stops along the way, we bring you a list of what we feel, are the 50 Best New Restaurants in the country. We are sure you’ve been to some, and must have heard of others. And we hope there are some surprises in store for you too. (Read about Part 1 here)
We’ve done the hard work for you. Now, it’s time for you to go taste. Happy feasting.
CUISINE: TRADITIONAL HYDERABADI
Few earn the distinction Qutub Alam Khan’s chicha (uncle), Mahboob Alam Khan, has earned—of being instrumental in reviving traditional Hyderabadi recipes. And when Qutub and two of his friends chose to bring these dishes out of the home kitchen and into a youthful al-fresco restaurant space, the whole of Hyderabad wanted to be there. Chicha’s serves a succulent haleem every Friday, even when it isn’t Ramzan, and other rare dishes too. Take, for instance, the shaadi ka red mutton, which will make you wonder how did these recipes get lost in the first place. Either way, Chicha’s here to make sure they stay this time.
UNIQUENESS: The mulla do pyaaza (a talawa gosht) is an addictive dish that you won’t find in its authentic avatar anywhere else.
Burma Burma, Delhi
CUISINE: VEGETARIAN BURMESE
Yes, it is about the vegetarian side of Burmese food; yes, it does quite a few versions of khow suey; and, yes, it has a soup by the name samuza hincho, but the hallmark of Burma Burma is that in its few years of existence (and many outlets), it has proven Burmese vegetarian food is just as exciting as the meat-based fare. And one way they have done it is by being consistent. One of the first few to do ‘mock meat’, they have excelled in upping the ante for baos and soft buns.
UNIQUENESS: The Burmese décor and, of course, the bubble tea.
CUISINE: CONTEMPORARY BENGALI
True to its name, Bohemian has drawn out Bengali cuisine from its traditional complacency and turned it into new-age gastronomy. Breaking the stereotype has been the aim of Chef Joymalya Banerjee (he left Oh! Calcutta to start his own venture), and, therefore, this is the only place where you will find the quintessential Bengali luchi aloor dom turned into tacos and served with bhuna mirchi, magic dust and onion chutney. The term ‘fusion food’ takes on a new meaning at Bohemian when you find Italian pasta tossed in Bengali home-style cooked masoor dal. The chef is not afraid to experiment as proven by the new menu he’s come up with.
UNIQUENESS: It is the surprise element. If you must go prepared, try the quirky cocktail (vodka, juices and a few secret spices) called Kolkata Biryani, served with quintessential biryani potatoes.
Lavaash By Saby, Delhi
It is a restaurant that can boasts of many firsts— the first eatery in the country to serve Kolkata style-Armenian and regular Armenian food; the first to fuse the casualness of a bistro into a brightly painted villa-style dining; the first to work with ingredients and tools sourced from the places of origin; and the first to have a menu that is both unapologetically personal yet traditionally accurate. But the one thing that makes Lavaash By Saby as unique as its designer neighbourhood is the food—which is consistent, evolving and the finest showcase of Chef Sabyasachi Gorai’s food philosophy.
UNIQUENESS: Traditionally-made Kalimpong cheese, handmade lavash (a flatbread eaten across the South Caucasus), ponchiki and matnakash clay-pot bread.
CUISINE: ASIAN FUSION
For those who believe fusion in food is a bad thing, a visit to Koji, the Conrad Pune’s good-looking Asian fusion restaurant, is a must. Designed on the Japanese theme of kagami biraki or happy celebrations, Koji is, without a doubt, an excellent place to start exploring the Oriental and its many ways of pleasing the senses. The restaurant boasts a fine collection of Japanese whiskies and sake that can gradually make you a serious connoisseur (or believe to be one till you are in Koji). The true stars of the place however are the sushi, sashimi and teriyaki, which come from its three kitchens.
UNIQUENESS: The use of unusual ingredients like kataifi (Arabic dough) to make the vegetable and prawn kataifi roll.
Lock & Key, Gurugram
The Roaring Twenties in the US were also a period of hushed glugs and swigs, as a prohibition on alcohol was in place. Interestingly, this was when plenty of bars disguised as being under ‘lock and key’, serving the finest of cocktails, cropped up in the figurative underground. The DLF Phase IV Gurugram haunt is an ode to the era, expressed through its jazz tunes, bold décor and tipple containing yuzu, elderflower, caramel and other interesting ingredients. The food—truffle mac and cheese pops, prawn moilee, and the like—adds an eclectic touch to the place. What you have is a sensory experience, assured to take you back a hundred years, even if just for a bit.
UNIQUENESS: The events calendar is filled with performances all year long. Expect to walk in to a nice, dimly lit jazz scene on most nights.
With Sarah Todd of MasterChef Australia fame calling the shots, the guests at Antares always ask for more. The 250-seater al fresco restaurant offers American, Indian and Asian-inspired dishes and the cocktails served here are to die for. Come sunset, the Vagator cliff sports orange and pink hues, the perfect foil to the superlative food and drinks on offer. Do note that the restaurant was severely damaged by fire in January this year and has closed operations for now. It will reopen with the same menu on August 1, while a new menu will be introduced in October this year. We can’t wait!
UNIQUENESS: The Sarah Todd touch and the splendid views of Vagator.
Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, Delhi & Mumbai
CUISINE: INDIAN MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY
Although it is temporarily shut in Delhi, the BKC Mumbai branch of Massive Restaurants and Zorawar Kalra’s magnum opus, Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, still boasts one of the country’s most authentic and well-curated culinary experiences. Four years ago, the concept of chef’s tasting menus was mostly restricted to food reviewers, but the 19-course meal here, especially when paired with wine, has spoiled the usual restaurant-goer in the metros. The menu keeps on changing, but the experience stays consistently good. Repeat visitors swear by classic favourites like the galouti kebab and ashen kulfi.
UNIQUENESS: Masala Library is synonymous with molecular gastronomy in India. Breaking down a dish to its particulate matter allows for the best utilisation of fresh ingredients, so everything tastes the way it had been envisioned.
CUISINE: MODERN INDIAN
India’s first wilderness-to-table restaurant has ‘special’ written all over it. Occupying a spot inside a nondescript industrial mills plot in Mumbai, Masque is a cloaked behind a big black door. Step in, and you’ll travel to many places at once—the Himalaya belt from where Chef Prateek Sadhu sources local sea buckthorn and turns them into iced lolly; or Uttarakhand, where the chef and restaurant owner Aditi Dugar travels to get the incredibly delicate hisalu berry. These and other seasonal ingredients are strung together as part of a 10-course set menu—a new one for each time of the year.
UNIQUENESS: The first course at Masque is always served inside the kitchen, giving an intimate touch to the experience.
CUISINE: MODERN JAPANESE
If we had to describe The Leela Palace’s Megu in one word, the word we’d choose would be ‘divine’. The restaurant opened in 2012 and over the years, its reputation has only grown as a place to savour authentic Japanese fare. With fresh ingredients flown in from half way across the world and presented to a diner in Delhi, Megu’s menu honours the traditions of the small island nation with every bite. And there’s more good news: Shimomura Kazuya has taken over as the new head chef. His forte is integrating modern with traditional Japanese. We can’t wait to see what he brings to the table.
UNIQUENESS: The ingredients are fresh, delicate and luxurious, making every bite feel special.