Delhi: Exploring Modern Flavors of India at Kainoosh

A passionate advocate of Indian cuisine, chef Marut Sikka has authored cookbooks and hosts a popular cooking program—“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Tikkas”—on NDTV. Now, with the debut of Kainoosh (122–124, DLF Promenade, Vasant Kunj, South Delhi; 91-11/4101-6844), he’s given Delhiites an exquisite new perch from which to explore the flavors of contemporary Indian dining.

Kainoosh is Sikka’s first restaurant since he opened the acclaimed Magique in 2007, and it’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 India’s rich culinary heritage—but also, perhaps, provides a taste of the future. For mains, there’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 Sikka’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.

Kainoosh’s location—in a suburban mall—is the only letdown. But then, that doesn’t seem to have done anything to stanch the flow of fashionable diners who’ve poured into the place since its February opening.

Originally appeared in the April/May 2010 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Delhi Debut”)

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