Writing about Roshan di Kulfi on a blog which claims to be devoted to offbeat eating places feels a little odd. To the denizens of Karol Bagh, Roshan di Kulfi is probably as offbeat as Baskin Robbins is to a New Yorker. But not all of us have the luck of living in these parts, so I’m hoping this post will be of interest to some.
For me, going to Karol Bagh was a nostalgia trip. The time I used to frequent the area was when smart kids wore Baluja shoes, Janak Stores was the swankiest address in the neighbourhood, and getting parking in the afternoon was a piece of cake. Now.. well, it’s not. The best way to get here is by the Metro, which makes its Karol Bagh stop right at the mouth of Ajmal Khan Road.
Others might think E. Sreedharan took into account complex geological variables in deciding the location of the metro station. I’d like to think he knows where to get his kulfi. Because to get to Roshan di Kulfi, all you have to do is walk down about half a kilometre on Ajmal Khan Road from the metro station, past such favourites as Suruchi restaurant (for excellent Gujarati and Marwari thalis), Roopak Stores (for all sorts of spices, preserves and pickles), and Ghaffar Market (the original cut-price clothes and electronica depot of Delhi).
The shop seems to have expanded a bit from what I remember, and has decided to bow to the increasingly mixed demographics of Karol Bagh, with a smattering of all manner of cuisine on its menu — there’re dosas, chhole bhature, and even a generic “pizza”. I steered clear of all of these, as also the “Water Ball” (golgappe?) which seemed like something Handel should be dishing out, not Roshan. Instead, I ordered myself some paneer tikka, a glass of lassi, and the kulfi. Of course, I would have probably eaten anything from the hands of the gentleman who served me, who has worked in this same shop for the last 45 years, and smiled and spoke exactly like my grandfather. I should have asked him if he too had found his way here from Dera Ismail Khan when the country decided to tear itself asunder. But now I know how I’ll begin the conversation the next time I’m there.
The paneer tikka was served in one of those disposable plates covered with aluminium foil, with little prongs of coloured plastic to grab the tikkas by. The shredded cabbage that accompanies it has a remarkable neon green colour, enough to make you turn a similar shade and go off your grub for months. But if you soldier on gamely, the tikkas themselves are not bad — at least the paneer has been marinaded long enough for the spices to have soaked through and through. The glass of lassi wasn’t as tall as I’d have liked it to be, and no malaai had been added to the top, but it was still as refreshing as only lassi can be in the heat of summer.
But if the rest of the food is only average, it must be because the owners, much like the customers, can’t get their minds off the kulfi. At 26 bucks a plate [Rs. 45 per plate, as of September 2009] it’s not the cheapest kulfi in town. But nor does it stinge on the kesar and the pista that give it its subtle flavour. The texture is perfect — not as soft as ice-cream, but it disintegrates in your mouth at the slightest pressure from the teeth. And for those of you who hate the rose-water drenched falooda (vermicelli) that accompanies north indian kulfi, you should try it here, where it feels as right as butter on toast.
It’ll certainly be far far less than twelve years till the next time I decide to venture into Karol Bagh!