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Mughlai morsels

The once-so-popular Khas Bagh joint at Bistro in Hauz Khas Village is in need of a facelift now. However, some of the Mughlai dishes have not lost their shine with the years, says SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY, sprinkling her savoury platter with a dashof pleasant memories... .

THERE WAS a time when the Bistro restaurant was quite a hip hang-out in Delhi. Located in the posh Hauz Khas Village overlooking the lush green Deer Park, it was a pure delight to be in Bistro whether it was while savouring Mughlai cuisine served amid soul-stirring ghazals at its Khas Bagh restaurant or nursing a drink in the peak of winter on its Rooftop, or just sipping a cup of Espresso in the coffee shop. The pleasure was not merely in the culinary but the overall experience - from taking the snaking route to the Bistro complex, past small curio shops, to being entertained by fiddlers and Rajasthani dancers while dining, with soothsayers ready to tell the guest's fate in lieu of a few notes, etc. Now, when one goes to Bistro, the immediate feeling is, it is not same as before.

The feeling is stronger on entering Khas Bagh. There is the platform for ghazal singers to give guests a "Mughal era experience" but unlike before, the crooners fail to turn up at the appointed time. The beautiful black-and-white intricate works on glass are still there, but hanging from walls whose paint is chipping off. The lovely easy chairs in the split-level restaurant are intact, but the cushions on some of them are visibly unclean. It has now become a place that makes you decipher the reason why restaurants often go in for a new ambience, and leaves you wondering, why has Bistro not undergone one yet?

Anyway, let's come to the food. At one time, Khas Bagh was one of the very few restaurants specialising in Mughlai dishes, becoming a hub for foreigners mostly, eager to taste authentic Mughlai cuisine. Also, a glass enclosure exhibiting to diners the restaurant's chefs at work in a tandoor was quite a new concept in Delhi some years ago. The quality of food now has gone down no doubt, but it is still the restaurant's saving grace. One can still try its "Jheenga Tandoori" prepared from prawns marinated in yoghurt and ajwain and grilled in the tandoor; "Raan-e-Khaas" - an interesting dish to look at, made of leg of lamb braised slowly in a spicy rum marination and roasted in the tandoor; "Murgh Yakhni Shorba" - an extract of chicken flavoured with herbs and saffron and garnished with diced chicken and cream, or its "Haryali Tikka."

For vegetarians, there are not many choices but "Subz Bahar Shorba", "Aloo Nazakat" - a potato dish stuffed with diced potato, dry fruits and pomegranate; and cottage cheese dumplings named "Kofta Naram Dil" still have not lost their shine. Moreover, the helpings are quite generous.The most expensive dish in Khas Bagh is "Jheenga Tandoori" costing Rs. 550. The rest are between Rs. 100 and Rs. 300.The good news is, in coming months, the Bistro is adding a new restaurant to its complex soon. Bistro General Manager Dinesh C. Shah says its theme is yet to be decided.

Let's hope, along with this new addition, the decision-makers at Bistro think of giving a new lease to Khas Bagh too. Considering the restaurant's good name is still not completely wiped out, it will be worth a try.

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