Wiser after Embassy disaster

June 12, 2010

To go or not to go by recommendations while dining out… that is the question!

For, this way or that, it can make or mar your meal. Like what happened to us last Tuesday.

I trust the judgement of a colleague, a hotshot food critic of Delhi. It was he who egged me on to try out The Chinese, an authentic Mandarin eatery in Connaught Place. I still remember every morsel i had there two summers ago. It was he who converted all of us in the office to the superlative food of Shahid Bhai, the elusive owner of Chicken Planet, who keeps jetting between India and the US.

So when i have to choose where to take a treat, i remember that he has written highly about Embassy, a continental restaurant in CP that happens to be the favourite meeting point for friends for more than half a century.

Dal meat and khasta roti at Embassy (@Dwaipayan Ghosh Dastidar)

“Ask for dal meat and the best khasta rotis in the city,” he writes in a dining reckoner.

We are welcomed in the eatery by the smiling maitre d’ and handed over the menu card, but we know what to order: dal meat and khasta roti for me. My partner takes chicken masala instead of the murg musallam, which our food critic recommends, just to check out what happens when one tries sampling out what’s not the iconic dish of an eatery.

It doesn’t take long for the showstoppers to arrive on our table, which is decorated with flowers (incidentally, it is the 63rd anniversary of Embassy).

I take two minutes out to take pictures of the dal meat: juicy looking mutton pieces enveloped in moong dal, its yellow clashing vividly against the red slivers of tomato and the green coriander. I realise why food stylists are in demand now a days and why an attractively dressed dish whets your appetite.

I break a piece of khasta roti — a perforated bread made of suji — and scoop up a chunk of mutton. Hmm….

“How does your chicken taste?” I ask my partner, who seems more interested in the boiled egg that tops an albino gravy, than the chicken shreds and a blanched tomato that appear bogged down in a custardy broth that’s chicken masala.

“How is the dal meat?” she quizzes me instead.

“It’s thik hain,” i say, chomping a mouthful, wondering what’s happened to the promised flavourful explosions that’s supposed to greet my palette. The mutton is soft but tasteless, the dal appears soggy; clearly it was not fried before being added to the dish.

The restaurant has missed a trick here. Its fundamental flaw was choosing moong over chana dal in the dish. The former has no flavour of its own; so it’s cannot not elevate the meat to a different level.

Embassy should learn from United Coffee Houses about how to play with chana dal and mutton to create Lahori meat, a dish my dear friend and colleague Abhinay suggested i should have with roti. I did last winter and the result was an unforgettable evening.

Back to our lunch in Embassy, my partner spoons out a bit of the meat and gives me a shred of two of chicken in exchange.

Embassy's chicken masala (@Dwaipayan Ghosh Dastidar)

The taste of the chicken masala doesn’t match its description in the menu card: ‘chicken breast in thick almond and cream gravy tempered with red chilli and egg’. Tempered with what? And to what effect? Where is the masala? I feel I’ve emptied a jar of bland almond-flovoured cream in my mouth. And the texture scares your tongue into thinking it’s slowly sinking in a bog of custard.

My partner can nibble on the chicken only after wiping the shreds in tandoori roti; by the way, the famed khasta roti is way too thick and hard for my comfort. Imagine, dipping a very thick papad into a gravy and munching on it!

We decide to order desserts to salvage the disastrous lunch. The waiter springs a surprise: he serves us complementary pudding to mark the eatery’s birthday. The dish is perfect; we smile for the first time in the afternoon…

So would i go by recommendations in future? Of course, yes. For, the eternal gastronomic optimist i am, i’ve already put this episode behind. May be, the chef at Embassy had a bad day… may be, the next lunch there would be phenomenal.


11 Responses to “Wiser after Embassy disaster”

  1. Sharmi said

    I will never forget that ghastly chicken dish. Not because it was a gastronimic delight. But, because it scarred me. I’m staying away from Chicken Masala for the rest of my life! And, you do the same with Dal Meat and Khasta Roti, too. I guess we need to rush to The Chinese soon to pamper our tastebuds again. Extremely funny writeup, by the way 😀

  2. netdhaba said

    Ya, let’s go The Chinese way for some fantastic Hunanese.
    Sorry for Tuesday lunch but thanks for your comment.

  3. Sharmi said

    I just had lunch at a cool place called Pirates of the Grill (taking from Jack Sparrow and his band of men). The Embassy family should learn how to make their chicken masala from them. Though initially hesitant, I was coerced by my colleague to try the dish and it was worth it. Rich, creamy with succulent chicken pieces, it was exactly opposite to the disastrous gooey tasteless broth I had at Embassy. Let’s go for lunch someday at this Pirates place. It will be fun 🙂

  4. netdhaba said

    Yes, let’s go there. Does ‘Pirates’ have their dal meat?

  5. Abhi said

    Mr & Mrs D, my sympathies! I can almost see your spiced-up angry face after eating the bland dal (dull) meat:)But I’m inclined to check out The Chinese, let’s go for lunch someday! What say?

  6. netdhaba said

    @Abhi: Of course, sir. I always love being treated 🙂

  7. Abhi said

    We are so alike Mr D, I love being treated too:)

  8. Sharmi said

    Huh??? Change of plans??? I thought we were not going to step inside Embassy for a long long time! But, ok maybe we can become the forgive and forget kind…

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