Every once in a while, someone comes up to me and conspiratorially recommends what must by now be the worst-kept secret in South Delhi’s “offbeat” food scene — Khan Chacha’s kabab corner in Khan Market. Frankly, I find said place more than a tad over-rated — the kabab rolls tend to be all shmushed up inside, and you can barely discern anything more than a floury-meaty taste.
But there is a new spark on the posh Delhi kabab scene, which judging by the throngs outside the shop, is giving some serious competition to the venerable Khan: Salim’s Kabab Corner is also located in the middle lane of Khan Market, but at the opposite end from Khan Chacha — which is to say, it is behind the McDonald’s outlet, and in front of the new Big Chill. The kababs here are any day as good if not better than those at Khan Chacha’s — I particularly recommend the Kakori kabab, which just disappears in the mouth. Though the kakori is available in rolls as well, it should be had in its solitary splendour, unmixed with the interfering flour of the rumali roll. The afghani chicken is also superlative, and others have told me that the fish tikkas (available only in the winter) are Salim’s best offering.
[update Feb 2011: Khan Chacha and Saleem’s have both shut their original shops in the middle lane of Khan Market. Khan Chacha has opened a full-fledged restaurant in Khan Market itself, and Saleem’s is slated to open an outlet in Defence Colony by the middle of this month.]
I must confess I became a fan of Salim’s fare quite quickly, and it was not long before I got talking with Javed bhai, the amiable owner of the place. And sure enough, what I suspected turned out to be true — the family hadn’t exactly come into the food business when they opened the Khan Market outlet 2-3 years ago.
The very next day I hot-footed it to Al-Zahid Nemat Kada, the family’s spanking new outlet in Sadar Bazaar, an upgrade from the smaller place they’d had for years in a small alley in the same locality.
Unusual for a place in this price range, Al-Zahid has a welcoming clean feel about it, with an equally clean open kitchen separated from the eating area only by a large glass window. The crowd is largely comprised of an earthy bunch of traders from the surrounding wholesale markets — which admittedly might make it a little daunting for the solitary female to venture here.
Javed bhai happened to be at the Sadar Bazaar outlet the day I landed up, and I left it to him to recommend the dinner fare. He promptly asked me to try their Methi Chicken, of which my friend and I ordered half a plate, along with some afghani chicken for starters, mutton biryani, and rumali rotis.
The first thing we noted was the sheer size of the helpings — as we had quickly anticipated, we ended up getting more than half our order packed for home.
I have returned to Al-Zahid several times since that initial venture, including a trip with Harneet and Shashank, two extremely discerning foodies from our EOiD community. The vote has been unanimous — every single dish has been good, but the Methi Chicken is positively divine. It comes in a delicious heavy creamy sauce, laced with crushed cashews and little methi (fenugreek) leaves. The chicken is well-marinaded and soft, having absorbed the best of the flavours from the sauce. My sister, whom I once dragged to Al-Zahid at close to midnight, was reckless enough to exclaim that the Methi Chicken was the best chicken dish she had ever set her teeth on. Several other dishes are also recommended — the burra kababs are succulent and nearly as good as those at Moti Mahal (and prepared more carefully than at the Salim’s corner in Khan Market, where they’ve occasionally been somewhat burnt on the coals by a negligent cook), the biryani was better than average. The breads we’ve tried have also been good — the rumalis are flavourful thanks to being made in-house, which is getting rarer by the day; the paneer naan and aloo-pyaaz naan are both delicious and heavy, and probably best had with just raita; the laccha parantha is also good. The fish tikka, available only after early September through the winter, is delectable. Khamiri rotis are sadly missing from the menu, as are the kakori kababs which are so popular at the Khan Market outlet.
And there you have it: Yet another delectable secret of Delhi’s food scene, which as Harneet and Shashank determinedly said on our way out, must immediately be shared with everyone!
Location: T-216, Nawab Road, Opp. Sardar Mitti Tail Wala. Map
Price Range: about Rs. 250 per person
Timings: 6pm to 12 midnight