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Budget bites

Restaurants that fill you up without emptying your pockets.

Mumbai | Delhi Zaika
On a Tuesday evening, a few days after the municipal elections, Chor Bazaar's Pakmodia Street exploded with activity. Eardrum-bursting fireworks were lit in the lane in front of a silver carriage, led by two white horses, holding aloft the constituency's victor and an entourage of children.

The assembled staff of Delhi Zaika, which overlooks the street, rushed bottles of cola to the kids on the carriage. The restaurant may be a newcomer here, but it has already established itself as a bona fide neighbourhood institution.

Not to be confused with the similarly named kebab stand round the corner, Delhi Zaika straddles the north end of Pakmodia Street, its large red sign promising "The Pure Taste of Delhi". Skewers of chicken and mutton rest on racks above the steaming tawa out front, fried to order in thick gravies for neighbourhood regulars who stop by to sit or gather out front to wait for take-out. Most dishes come in a choice of three sizes, the smallest an appropriate single serving.

Changezi (order it spicy;medium was too mild for our liking) comes with chicken, fish or fried prawns. A creamy chicken shahi, pungent with green cardamom, came as the special on the night of our visit. Both dishes left plenty of rich gravy for soaking up with crisp butter naan and delicate rumali roti.

Delhi Zaika opens only for dinner, but pass by day and you will see a large handi steaming away in a kiosk across the lane from the main restaurant, under a sign advertising a "Delhi Specialty" : nihari. Served with a choice of butter, nalli, bheja or a "special" combination of all three, Delhi Zaika's nihari does not best the venerable rendition served for lunch at nearby Noor Mohammadi Hotel, but it does offer a worthy alternative for supper (service begins at 7pm). For Chor Bazaar newcomers, Delhi Zaika offers a survey of the neighbourhood's offerings in comfortingly spotless surroundings. Thankfully, though, Delhi Zaika does not isolate you from the experience of the street outside. On that Tuesday night, with our hands clapped over our ears and rogue firework sparks whizzing past our shoulders, we could hardly have felt more immersed in the ebullient cacophony outside.
MICHAEL SNYDER Delhi Zaika, 4 Pakmodia Street, near Mohammed Ali Road, Chor Bazaar, Mumbai (022 6946-5790 ). Daily 6pm-midnight. Meal for two approx Rs 300

Delhi | Dwarka

You're ninth in line. Half an hour lagega, " the man at the other end of the line told us. Since we weren't expecting much, we were surprised at the number of patrons at this three-year-old neighbourhood restaurant. It's easy to miss Dwarka in the crowded marketplace it nestles in. After asking for directions a few times and hunting for a parking spot that we finally managed to find with the help of the restaurant's enthusiastic attendants, we found ourselves in a small but well-managed little place run by Ravi Gulati and his two sons, Sunny and Nitin.

Dwarka has a fairly extensive North Indian menu. But those fond of South Indian (read dosas) might be in for a surprise at the variety on offer. But of course Punjabis love to experiment with their food. So little Pinki and Bunty will get their plates of chowmein - Veg Singapuri Noodles and Honey Chilli Potato here too.

We opted for what Gulati said the restaurant is best known for - Afghani chap (soya bean chops) cooked in a fancy kaju gravy, daal makhni served in copper baltis and paneer lababdar - all the while ignoring the calorie content. Everything here is prepared in desi ghee. But, says Sunny, "We're careful about not making our stuff too rich. After all, everyone is so health conscious these days. " We would recommend what our group really gorged on - the Hyderabadi parantha that's made with a mix of beans and carrots and served with a layer of red-hued onions. As some of us completed our Dwarka experience with some hot gulab jamuns, Sunny told us that the restaurant's chef, an expert non-vegetarian cook, joined them at a huge salary cut. "He was facing a lot of problems till then, but the moment he gave up cooking meat, everything in his life got sorted out, " he says. Perhaps PETA should have him as its next ambassador.
PURNIMA SHARMA Dwarka, X-59 West Patel Nagar (011 6466-7088 ). Daily 10 am to 11 pm. Meal for two approx Rs 400


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