It is not every day that you see someone wanting to serve their family recipes in a restaurant setting. It is even rare if this restaurant is not a quick service restaurant (QSR) but a humble five-table dining space, running from an unlikely location for a restaurant and prides itself as a regional cuisine-specific delivery model.
All this comes to life at Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu, a Parsi home-style restaurant in Adchini in Delhi, run by Kainaz Contractor and Rahul Dua. Both are 28 years old and have a background in hospitality as they did their management training together. Dua wished ‘to open a Parsi restaurant in Delhi’ while Contractor wished to open ‘her own restaurant some day’. Contractor, who shifted base from Mumbai to Delhi to open Rustom’s, says, “My interactions with many people led me to feel that there is space for an authentic Parsi-style restaurant in Delhi. Since this is not a funded project, Dua and I thought the delivery model would work well as it made for sustainable business. To add to the thought, Delhi people order in a lot unlike Mumbai people. At Rustom’s, we have mostly non-Parsis and youngsters ordering in. And we receive maximum orders on Sunday for lunches.” Adapting to Delhi was easy for her as she liked the city and has lived here earlier. The restaurant is named after her father. The duo have showcased Parsi style through the ambience, as it is done up to recreate an old Parsi home. The grandfather clock and the crockery cupboard add antique touches. The tiles they have used are found in typical Parsi homes. The space at Rustom’s is small and hence exudes a home-like warmth. “The menu has pictures of my own family and across the restaurant we have images from Sooni Taraporevala’s famous book Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India. Some pictures are for sale as well,” reveals Contractor.
On the menu front, the place showcases close to 30 dishes. “These have been carefully chosen keeping in mind home-style dishes that can be perfectly executed in a restaurant format or those that are restaurant worthy,” says Contractor, adding, “Of course, there were a lot of trials and toil that went in before the final menu came out. The final dishes are ones that we personally like and believe people will like them too. The dishes are not too unfamiliar in terms of taste. These are dishes that people in Delhi will like. Once people take to the food currently being served, we shall introduce some offal dishes, but that will have to wait a bit.”
Dua’s contribution to Rustom’s, in his own words, was “to make sure the home-style cooking blended seamlessly into the restaurant format, for no one wants to be served ghar ka khana in a restaurant. So I took upon myself to ensure the presentation was not home-style, even if the dish was. I also helped find chefs and train them.” Dua, who has tasted success at Cafe Lota (which he runs with three others), lauds his partner for her food training and says, “Kainaz went to Nagpur to her aunt and trained with her for a month and a half, as also under her own mom to get her recipes right.” Since this is Dua’s first independent venture, it “marks my foray into the kind of restaurants I want to open in Delhi and elsewhere,” he says. Though he reiterates he is not here to please everybody, Dua and Contractor are cautious in their approach. “For now, we have started with what we thought was rightly suited for the Delhi palate. For our Patra Ni Machi, we use Tilapia fish whereas Pomfret would be our first choice. But most people in Delhi turn a nose to smelly fish or that, which has bones. After introducing our patrons to Parsi home-style food, we shall present some of our takes on Parsi food, but that will come in a little later. Our food is more of a tribute to the Parsi community. We are serving, what is essentially Indian food, that is very comforting,” quips Dua.
An offering that renders uniqueness to Rustom’s is the stock of regional products displayed for sale. “Since we are a regional Indian specialty restaurant we do believe in encouraging those engaged in the food-chain at our restaurant by offering their products for sale. We stock Parsi cane vinegar, dhansak masala, sambhar masala, vindaloo masala, Pallonji sodas, carrot and raisin pickle into two varieties—home-made and commercially packaged,” says Contractor, adding, “it is natural when we taste a new cuisine we like to recreate some of it in our own kitchens”.