A passionate advocate of Indian cuisine, chef Marut Sikka has authored cookbooks and hosts a popular cooking programâ€”â€śLock, Stock and Two Smoking Tikkasâ€ťâ€”on NDTV. Now, with the debut of Kainoosh (122â€“124, DLF Promenade, Vasant Kunj, South Delhi; 91-11/4101-6844), heâ€™s given Delhiites an exquisite new perch from which to explore the flavors of contemporary Indian dining.
Kainoosh is Sikkaâ€™s first restaurant since he opened the acclaimed Magique in 2007, and itâ€™s clear that the culinary maestro is at the top of his game. To create a setting to match his innovative menu, he has decorated the crisp, oval space with stone jali screens, a gold-foil ceiling, and a striking mural by Rajesh Pratap Singh.
As for the food, it is steeped in Indiaâ€™s rich culinary heritageâ€”but also, perhaps, provides a taste of the future. For mains, thereâ€™s a thali menu, from which you can custom-build a selection of delicacies, six per order. Standouts include prawns scented with clove, cardamom, and cinnamon; sea bass and pomegranate in a yogurt-mace gravy; and jaggery-stuffed bitter gourd.
Yet the best meals here come from nibbling, tapas-like, on Sikkaâ€™s many appetizer-sized creations. Some of these are classics reinvented, such as succulent Kashmiri lamb ribs that are stewed in milk and pepper before being dressed in a green-chili masala and char-grilled in a tandoor. Others are truly revelatory, like oysters in a curry-leaf-and-coconut sauce, or paneer cheese served with layers of Bengali-mustard relish.
Kainooshâ€™s locationâ€”in a suburban mallâ€”is the only letdown. But then, that doesnâ€™t seem to have done anything to stanch the flow of fashionable diners whoâ€™ve poured into the place since its February opening.
Originally appeared in the April/May 2010 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Delhi Debut”)