‘Kebab khana hai?’ asks my better half as we drive through the heart of Panjim city. I look at him appraisingly. The best way to my man’s heart is through his stomach. It was necessary to put him back into a good mood as I had spent the better half of the morning denting a massive hole into his credit card.
‘Why not?’ I answer airily. Kebabs will not make you put on weight, said a consoling voice in my head. So here we were seated in an ‘Institution’ for Indian cuisine called Delhi Darbar.
I use the word ‘Institution’ cause everyone is aware that the restaurant was opened way back in 1992 by the Nayyar brothers, Ashwani, Ashok and Munish. They were down here on a holiday in Goa and found a need for ‘good quality’ Indian cuisine and so the concept was born.
‘So how did you manage to stay in the competitive market for all these years?’ I ask as we sit with Ashwani and Munish two of the proprietors in the cool well appointed environment of the restaurant. ‘Change and different concepts,’ was the response. I look across at the striped damask tablecloths with their deep maroon runners, the gold rimmed glassware, a choice of foreign beers…Hoegaardn, Becks and even Draught Stella Artois…everything new from my last visit. ‘We even have a dish washing and glass washing machine to ensure the cleanliness standards of our crockery and glassware,’ I am informed.
So those are tangibles, I thought to myself, what can change about the food…unless they go fusion. ‘we have changed the concept, but not the taste of our Mughlai delicacies,’ Munish Nayyar tells me, ‘so every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights it is unlimited kebabs with a free drink (house specialties) thrown in finished with a choice of 2 non vegetarian, two vegetarian a choice of two Indian breads, Biryani or Pulao and two Indian sweets.
It takes me a moment to have this all sink in. Alright I thought to myself, perhaps I am going to get a plate of seekh kebabs or malai chicken tikka coming in from the kitchens to whet my appetite…perhaps there could be an unlimited dose of the same. I could always say ‘Stop!’
So here we were seated as the service started. But I had misunderstood the concept. Unlimited kebabs meant 5 varieties of Non vegetarian, 5 varieties of Non Vegetarian…and this was supposed to be unlimited.
The non vegetarian glass dish itself looked good enough to eat. The kebabs lay on a transparent gold rimmed plate with a candle lit tomato flickering in the darkness. Chicken Sultani kebabs, Chicken Lasuni kebabs, Chicken Lahori Kebabs, Gosht seekh kebabs, Prawns golden Fry….the list seemed endless. And not to be left out, the vegetarian kebabs…Paneer tikka, Tandoori Gobi, Hariyali mushroom, Capsicum massala fry, hara Bara Kebabs…..I wanted to shout STOP! And this was supposed to be limitless. ‘These are just snacks,’ Mr Munish informs me.
Well, if this was snacks then my stomach needs to be a bottomless well. But first let me dwell on the taste… The Chicken kebabs…soft, succulent…the marination tingeing the meat with different flavors. Every kebab had its own unique taste. I must confess that the Lasuni kebea took my breath away while the Sultani kebab was like a myth out of the Arabian Nights. Exceptional! But have you ever realized that the same color of masala on a vegetable can taste so different? Yes I am talking about the Vegetable kebabs. The Paneer and the Gobi orangey red in color had me confused for a moment till I took the first bite. The Gobi was slightly crispy, the paneer was soft and melting. One masala had the tinge of methi and besan, the other had not. ‘All our preparations have different spices added to it,’ explains Mr Shetty, the manager of the place who is busy capturing the delight on our faces with his camera. A few moments later he had it framed and presented to us. Our motto is to serve our food hot and with a smile,’ he states.
‘Aha!,’ I thought, ‘not only do the staff smile but he has managed to make Joe smile.’ But looking at the photograph I realized that he had brought a smile to my face. And at that moment I was eating the mushroom Hariyali….Ummmmm!
We had gorged ourselves silly but there was still more to come. Remember those Non-Vegetarian, Vegetarian, Biryani, Roti ‘funda’ I had explained earlier? And there was desserts to follow too. How much can one eat? But they have taken that into consideration too. There is live music by Dayanand….old retro Hindi songs....but he is ready for Bollywood Indi-pop music too. That music will sure add the balm to overworked muscles and reactivate those gastric juices to enable you to do full justice to the feast.
A word of wisdom though…. If you are going to visit Delhi Darbar for the Sham e kebab extravaganza, visit your gym before you do. The restaurant has organized on every weekend a feast of culinary wizardry which you will find difficult to resist.