In a happy coincidence, our quest for food on a lazy weekend ended with an order from a recently launched ‘takeaway and delivery’ place called 1900 AD – A Kitchen Love Story. On that day, judging a book by its cover turned out to be the best thing. If it wasn’t for the unusual ring to its name, we probably wouldn’t have made it past the first page of the menu.
The executive chef, Sanjeev Dogra, from Gaggal Himachal Pradesh, has bought the quintessential culinary style of slow cooking from the mountain tops to city’s hurried gourmands. He cooks most things in clay posts and smokes them on charcoal till his olfactors give a nod of approval.
Our short-listed selections included Dum Chicken Curry, Chef’s Special Paneer, Daal 1900, and the thing that we were most excited about, The Khatta Mutton, a signature Himachali dish, also the only regional dish on the menu. That was a disappointment since the chef’s indigenous knowledge could have been tapped into to display Himachali cuisine that is anyway a niche in Delhi. Also, there is no sweet section in the menu, a big letdown if you’re looking for dessert.
The food arrived 10 minutes before the requested time setting a good first impression. It came in well-tied cardboard boxes labelled accurately and neatly. There was no leakage or spillage, and every preparation inside had a seal. An accompaniment of vinegared ring onions, mint chutney and tissues came intact.
All mains were in earthen handis sealed with dough. Each carried a printed label. The pot was received hot and it remained so for 20 minutes until we all sat down for a meal that was to become a treasured one for a long time.
We dug into The Khatta Mutton curry right away. This is traditionally a staple of the Dogri community of Himachal Pradesh and Chef Dogra has used the best of his understanding to make this. No improvisations or innovations… it’s prepared the way it was cooked traditionally in his family.
The dish is not khatta (tangy) in the way you imagine it to be but was well laced with amchur spice (mango powder) that lends it a subtle pungency. The meat was tender and the gravy accompanying it filled the air with a satisfying aroma that could only come from pot roasting.
The Dum Chicken Curry oozes out whiffs of ginger and garlic adorned with fresh minty flavours. The balance of spices has been achieved skillfully and chilli is thrown in moderately.
Both conventional orders but also house specials, the Chef’s Special Paneer and Daal 1900, were predictably good. The former had thick, rich tomato gravy with large chunks of paneer and a generous dollop of butter submerged under it. The piquancy of these dishes is best enjoyed with a simple naan or roti accompaniment to ensure the robustness is balanced with the neutrality of the bread.
The menu comes with a large selection of other popular North Indian food options from Mutton Chaap, Makhmali Seekh Kebab, Allo Nazakat, Soya Chaam Masala to biryanis, all of which is prepared with the minimal use of machines. The most used implement is the motor and pestle which has replaced grinders, and mud pots have substituted a lot of the steel ware.
The food is cooked in desi ghee, mustard oil and rock salt and each is simmered in pots to keep the moisture circulating evenly. And the result is right in front of us. A dexterous curation is rarely found in takeaway/delivery services. Try it.