It’s always lovely to meet old friends, even if the circumstances are unprecedented. This writer has had a relationship with Impresario restaurants before brands like Mocha, Social and Smoke House Deli (SHD) conglomerated into Impresario restaurants, under the aegis of Riyaaz Amlani. With the affirmative opening of Delhi F&B haunts, we floated into the Saket outlet of SHD, we had the pleasure of meeting Shamsul Wahid, Group Executive Chef, and an old acquaintance, who fills us in on what’s happening inside the world of dining out. “We didn’t expect business to bounce back as it did, in some locations.
While Saket is picking up, Vasant Kunj and other outlets, both SHD and Social, are already operating at 50 per cent, which is as much as we are allowed.” Indeed, the brand has been seeing as many dine-ins as take outs as Delhi moves on from the lockdown. That being said, the chef reckons it will take another six months for things to start resembling the old normal.
And, Wahid says that while the permission to resume alcohol sales has definitely led to a rise in diners, restaurant regulars have been dining in since the Smoke House Delis re-opened. Indeed, as we observe over the course of our Tuesday lunch, tables fill up, surely a good sign for the city’s restaurant business. Returning to our business, we start with the Panko Crusted Chicken, essentially a localised version of the famed Chicken Katsu, Japan’s version of fried chicken.
And while KFC might have dropped its slogan, the chicken at Smoke House Deli is finger-lickin' good. Crisp outside and tender on the inside, it goes smashingly with the smoky Kiwi Cantaloupe Melon and Jasmine cocktail, muddled with Vodka. The drink’s smooth ginger finish helps ensure this chicken flies down the gullet. Switching gears, the next course comes in from the sea, in the shape of Grilled Prawns in Garlic Butter Chilli, accompanied by toasted garlicky bread.
While the latter makes the perfect vessel to transfer said prawns to our mouth, we reckon we’d have no problem getting the fresh, springy shellfish to its final destination all by itself. We get lamb for our mains, to wit, Smoked Lamb Shanks with a quenelle of mushroom and rosemary risotto. Perhaps a tad chewier than we are usually used to, its definitely not lacking in flavour, and we do end up making pigs of ourselves, but with aplomb.
For dessert we re-encounter an old favourite, the Flourless Chocolate Fudge with Vanilla ice cream. This is one of the Deli’s signature desserts and as we dig into its gooey goodness, we have no trouble remembering why. It’s moist in a good way, chocolatey in every way, and sans gluten too. What else does one need?
Price for two: Rs 2,500 (including alcohol and taxes) At: Multiple Outlets across Delhi