Non-vegetarian’s delight

By RAVI VERMA (The Hindu)

I remember mentioning in these columns how my friends from Kerala are always divided when it comes to restaurants that serve food from the region. I, however, don’t have strong views on the subject. I went to Mahabelly some months ago, and enjoyed some of their dishes especially the biryani. A few of my friends were surprised. And one young niece, who now believes she knows a thing or two about Kerala food because her husband is a true-blue Malayali, then held forth on The Toddy Shop, which she thought served food that was close to what her in-laws’ kitchen offered.

I haven’t been to the in-laws’ house in Kerala, but if that’s like The Toddy Shop, I should plan a visit. I went to the restaurant a few weeks ago, and had a very nice meal there, indeed.

Delhi these days has quite a few small Kerala restaurants. There are tiny shops in INA Market, and in and around Mayur Vihar, where you get good mutton fry and pothu fry. I remember long years ago, when –– Delhi-ites thought you were referring to bitter gourd when you talked of a Kerala meal –– there was a small place called Sridharan in Gole Market, which served the yummiest Kerala mutton you could dream of. Then the old man passed away, and a son-in-law called Tyagi took over the eatery, and the food, not surprisingly, changed colour. A long time ago, there was a small eatery called Navkerala, near the old Super Bazar in Connaught Place.

There was a dearth of Kerala food for a while, though Coconut Grove, and a short-lived restaurant near Safdarjung Enclave did sate our appetites for some time. The restaurants, alas, are no more. But The Toddy Shop in Hauz Khas Village can fill the vacuum.

It’s not far from the parking area of the Village. I thought I’d have to go through a treadmill test (many of these eateries are on rooftops, which require a walk up several flights of stairs), but it turned out to be on the second floor, which was a relief. The ambience was warm and arty –– the poet, Jeet Thayil, had just finished reading out some of his works when we reached there, The servers, though none from Kerala, were friendly and helpful. And the meal, itself, was excellent.

We had quite a spread. First there was pothu erachi varattiyathu, an excellent Kerala beef fry (Rs.350) which we had with parottas. Then there was a creamy erachi ishtoo –– mutton in coconut milk (Rs.400) –– which we ate with appams. For the youngster in our midst, there was Kozhi varutharachathu, chicken with roasted spices and coconut (Rs.350). Appams are for 50 a piece, and the parottas for Rs.60.

I loved the pothu fry, which is anyway a great favourite of mine, and the lamb ishtoo, which had the taste of mild spices simmered in coconut milk. The chicken, too, was flavourful, and went well the parottas. We had another lamb dish, erachi varathadu, lamb cooked with shallots and coconut (Rs.320). This one was thick and spicy, and most enjoyable.

It was a very nice meal, and I suppose I have to give some credit to the young niece who is now quite a Kerala expert. Now I have to try out a small place near Saket that our friend, the one who took us to The Toddy Shop has been singing praises of. She lives around the corner, so I hope she’ll lead us there one day soon. And if that’s not a hint, I don’t know what is!


By Harnoor Channi-Tiwari

As we kick off the Restaurant Review series at NDTV Food, we thought hard about what restaurant we should review first. Should it be a fancy fine-dining place with new-age food being served or should we go the street food way and dig out small popular eateries? But in the midst of these discussions, we realised that it should be neither of these. The food scene in India has transformed in the past 2 years, and how. Two aspects that have been an integral part of this transformation are the rise of regional Indian cuisines and small cosy restaurants that are offering alternative dining options. Thus, it is only apt that our first review is one that embodies both of these.

The Toddy Shop is located in Hauz Khas Village (HKV) and if you do not know your way around, it can be quite a task to find it. But as you make your way up the narrow staircase to the second floor (quickly passing the loud Bollywood music blasting away on the 1st floor), you enter a space that is both relaxing and intriguing. A backlit bar beckons you towards the left corner while there are tables placed along the L-shaped space. With only 7 tables, it thankfully steers clear of cramming every corner with seating space and offers a certain amount of privacy and affords conversation.

The décor is simplistic, bright yellow walls accentuated with framed black and white photographs of Chinese Fishing Nets, popular in Cochin. A stage in the corner has musical equipment set-up and we were told that they host live music performances and even poetry recitals amongst other events.

Choosing not to sit at a table, we took our seats on the bar-stools at the bar. The bar is not too long, with 4-6 bar stools around it but it is wide enough for you to comfortably enjoy your meal. The Toddy Shop serves draught beer too and we tried the Bira Blonde (Rs.380). Extra malty, with a delicate aroma, the beer was refreshing and perfect to counter the humidity outside. For appetisers, we recommend the Kothu Porotta (Rs.200-260), which essentially is shredded flatbread tossed with vegetables/ eggs/ chicken or mutton as per your preference. Served with a delicious chutney, it is not very authentic but rather their take on the popular street food from Kerala.

We also loved the Pothu Erachi Varattiyathu (Rs.320), a spicy tenderloin fry that would work equally well with porottas as it did by itself. Though the meat was well cooked and spiced just right with curry leaves giving it an edge, it did border on being a little dry. It went well with the beer, but by itself, could have been more moist. Chef Vicky Ratnani loves their chicken fry: Kozhi Varathadu (Rs.280), another dish on the menu that pleases the taste-buds.

For mains, we tried the Chemeen Moilee (Rs.420), which blew our minds. Sometimes, one doesn’t need bold overpowering flavours to make a point. The delicacy of subtle flavouring is an art that many restaurants are yet to master. The Toddy Shop does that with this one dish. The yellow coloured, coconut-milk based gravy was absolutely lip-smacking. We tried it with fluffy appams and flaky Malabar Porottas, and as versatile as it was, it went well with both. The prawns were perfectly cooked and the quantity was sufficient for two (it had five large prawns and plenty of gravy to lap up with your appams). If you do make your way to The Toddy Shop, this is the one dish that we recommend you must try.

For dessert, skip the generic pancakes and go for the Semiya Payasam. After all, the restaurant is all about flavours from Kerala and that is what it does best.

Delicious food, a relaxed vibe and beer on the tap, The Toddy Shop is a great place for an afternoon lunch. Leave the pub-hopping for the evenings and find your way here for some authentic Kerala food. The Toddy Shop hopes to fill the void that Gunpowder left when it shut shop. With Coast Café nearby, it does have its work cut out but in the one year of its operations, it has managed to carve a niche of its own in the crowded Hauz Khas Market.

Meal for 2: Rs.1500 (without alcohol)
Location: Hauz Khas Village, on the right side in the beginning of the market, below Bootlegger.
Happy Hours: 3pm-8pm Monday to Friday
Rating: 3 on 5
Must Have: Chemeen Moilee with Appam

At Select Citywalk, My Square redefines the idea of a food court

This review first appeared in Mail Today on March 13, 2015. Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers
By Sourish Bhattacharya

IT’S IMPOSSIBLE to run a food court without a McDonald’s and a Haldiram’s. No one had challenged this received wisdom till Select Citywalk, which has seen food brands such as the newbie Yum Yum Cha, Johnny Rocket, Krispy Kreme and the leader of the pack, Mamagoto, deliver unheard-of revenues per square foot of real estate, decided to knock this logic and rewrite the rule book.

It got Sid Mathur, head of food and beverages at Riyaaz Amlani’s Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality, whose most recent big success has been the Social restaurants, to curate a food court minus the usual suspects. Then it raised the bar for the average price paid per person, lifting it above standard food court levels, and yet, My Square has not seen a dull hour ever since it opened about a month ago.

If anything, My Square has proved that Delhiites don’t shy away from paying for good food, even if they’re at a mall. And by signing up aspirational brands such as H&M and Gap, the mall management has ensured that the kind of people who will be drawn to Select Citywalk are more likely to be drawn to a Fat Lulu’s or a Pita Pit, than to Haldiram’s (by the way, I have nothing against the hallowed brand!) or some dosa QSR. My Square, as a result, has non-competing brands representing most of the entries you’d find on all lists of Delhi’s favourite restaurants.

There are a lot of good things to eat, so one wonders why the same care did not go into the selection of the dispensers of drinks – the juice guys, Refuel, for instance, are busy spoiling the party with their sugary concoctions and you can’t expect Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to turn over a new leaf overnight. Anyway, I am looking forward to the day when the enclosure designated for alcoholic drinks to be served gets its licence soon to slake our unquenchable thirst for all manner of essential liquids!

What has also left me mighty impressed is the care that has gone into planning the layout of the food court. You’re greeted by a display of Happily Unmarried products, which also doubles as a segregator; the seating is comfortable, the level of cleanliness is impeccable (I believe the tables were subject to a repeated spilled soy sauce test to check out how effectively they could be wiped clean), and there are cozy corners as well as an expansive terrace with tables laid out for al fresco seating.

But what really holds the place together is the variety of food options. There’s rawa masala dosa of Saravana Bhawan and there’s also Shiv Sagar’s unbeatable Chinese Bhel and Chilli Idli Pav Bhaji at SS On The Go (the QSR brand of the Mumbai restaurant that has taken the Delhi market by storm with its street treats). For every 300 kcal pizza or 200 kcal steamed burgers from Lean Chef, you have the unputdownable beef fries, mutton and potato ishtoo, and idiappam from The Toddy Shop, the Hauz Khas Village sensation, or the New York-style pizzas of Fat Lulu’s.

My Square gives you the option to go lean one day with Pita Pit’s healthy sandwiches and to indulge on another day with Pind Baluchi’s kababs and apple cinnamon tarts. For those with more exotic tastes, there’s the Syrian and Egyptian spread prepared chefs from Dubai at Rrala’s Habibi, or Mex It Up’s do-it-yourself menu, and of course, the local favourite, Kylin, which is represented by a van, Vanchai by Kylin Express, serving dim sum and lettuce wraps, among other palate ticklers. You can never get repetition fatigue at My Square. Even for ice-cream, you have the choice of checking out Gelato Italiano’s droolicious offerings, or settling for my favourite, the paan kulfi of SS On The Go.

I urge other mall managers to roll out copies of My Square – imitation, as they say, is the best form of flattery – so that we have many more reasons to go mall hopping!

Kerala in the Village

by Rupali Lamba

published in Little Black Book – Delhi

Despite the 70 odd restaurants that exist in Hauz Khas Village at any given time, the discerning Dilliwaala tends to {repeatedly} gravitate towards a handful. For me, amongst my favourites are Yeti, Gunpowder {when it was still around}, TLR, Naivedyam, Diva Piccola, Fork You, and often Smokehouse Deli.

Remember the first time you walked into any of the aforementioned establishments – that feeling of wonder and anticipation; the knowledge that you were about to experience something that was going to become special. A space that was going to become a fixture in your life, whether it was the place you went to catch up with your friends to chase away the Delhi chill, or it was the place you went to dance the night away, lost in a musical frenzy; a place you repeatedly visited with your mum for brunch, or with your man-friends for gluttonous Sundays.

The Toddy Shop, located on the 2nd floor of what is now the Bootlegger building gave me those magical tingles; I haven’t experienced these since, well…Yeti, three years ago. The space has saffron milky walls, potted plants, indigo and ikat upholstery, a well-appointed stage, and slow rock wafting through the sound system.

We ordered a Pothu Erachi Varattiyathu, {a Kerala beef fry with Porottas}, an Erachi Ishtoo {goat and potato curry in coconut milk}, Erisheri {red lentils and pumpkins cooked with coconut}, Iddiappam and an egg appam. I liked everything – including the Erisheri. Not only was every item we ordered balanced in itself, but also interplayed with others beauteously. The beef fry was dark and spicy, without causing oil-induced nausea after a few bites. TheIshtoo did its job of creating flavour and heat, and then dumbing it down with the coconut milk. The Erisheri was sweet and creamy, with freshly cooked dal texture, and helped to bring all the flavours of the meal together.

I really enjoy this type of food {which I am sure you have noticed, considering all the raving} but have always been frustrated that most establishments serve a ‘thrown-together,’ mass produced version of the same. At The Toddy Shop, each dish is meticulously prepared and exhibits a level of balance that can only come from a mother’s kitchen. Speaking of mothers, the menu is a part of the arsenal of Mrs. Kutty, who is Anup’s mother. Anup, Lubna and Randeep ran Ziro in HKV, before creating The Toddy Shop.

I cannot wait to try some other very exciting dishes on their menu, such as Ammamma’s Karal Varrathiyathu, fried goat liver with black pepper and spices {apparently an heirloom recipe}, The Aila Varutharachatu {a mackerel Kerala curry}, and the Mulaga Podi {as a side}, which is basically gunpowder and ghee.

I will now answer your burning question: No, they do not serve Toddy, and yes, the liquor license is coming soon. I experienced the calm before the storm and mania The Toddy Shop promises to become. If you want to eat in the comfort of your home and not have to brave the throngs in the Village, they also home-deliver.

Lapping the Coast

by Shantanu David
published in Indian Express

At this particular party almost everyone is wearing Banana Leaf.

While restaurants in Hauz Khas Village usually tend to flash their signs and hoardings in the market louder than a garage rock band in a cul-de-sac, The Toddy Shop flouts the norm. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the hipster hub, the sole sign to the restaurant is in the form of a discreet star. Following it like the three wise men (more of the James Blunt variety than the biblical original), we find ourselves in a cool, yellow-lit space sparsely set with framed vintage Indian magazine covers, a photography exhibition by Amit Sharma, a small stage area and a few potted palms.
The menu, a trim single sheet glossy document, laps around the Malabar coast and tends to favour the red dot more than the green — all the better for us. There are family recipes aplenty with traditional stews, fries and sides, clearly marked ‘goat’ (not the generic lamb so beloved of most city restaurants) and seafood preparations dominating the options. At this particular party almost everyone is wearing Banana Leaf, and coconut, of course, is king.
Deciding we’ll sample the vegetarian fare on a Tuesday or any day when so many meats aren’t crying for our attention from so many spots on the menu, we start with Kutty’s Fried Chicken (or KFC, if you prefer) and the Pothu Erachi Varattiyathu, more simply known as the spicy beef fry of yore. The chicken, unlike its conglomerated counterpart, is simple-y winning, simbly winning even, comprising slightly larger morsels of chicken marinated in the owners’ secret spice mix and deep-fried with torn curry leaves. The beef fry comes enmeshed in curry leaves, fragmented coconuts and caramelised onions, the degree of doneness varying from as tender as Amma’s dulcet delivery to as tough as Mammootty’s glare. Though some of the pieces really make you work, the dish is wonderfully flavoured and we dispense with it post-haste.
Having partaken of the bounty of Kerala’s land for our starters, we dive into the sea for our mains, ordering the Toddy Shop Aila Mulakittathu (a spicy mackerel curry) and the elegantly alliterative Kayal Konchu Curry (backwaters prawn curry cooked with cocum in a spicy, thin gravy) along with the vital appams. The mackerel curry comprises a whole mackerel, tail up, in a consommé-thin red gravy and far more brackish than the fish in it, which is soft and flaky though lanced throughout with wiry bones. Though light and spicy, the noticeably nautical flavour of the curry will probably make it more palatable to those who prefer their seafood to actually taste of the sea. The prawn curry on the other hand is pure unadulterated, brow-mopping, tissue-reaching spicy and makes a splash with the appam. The unique flavour of the dried cocum berry, so soil-like in taste and texture, adds volumes to the dish, like a secondary character in a good book. As an aside, the appams at The Toddy Shop are textbook, ephemeral on the outside, substantial and filling in the centre. Stuffed to the gills as we are, we beg off dessert. We’ll be floating by soon enough anyway.