Sid Khullar, Updated: September 06, 2012 15:26 IST
Summary: Flavorless food that doesn't excite anything other than peristaltic movement combined with dour, ineffective service and high prices ensure Chez Nini will continue on top of the charts among Delhi's glitterati for a long time to come. The rest of us will wait for a real French restaurant.
A bunch of food bloggers, some with mates and offspring landed up at Chez Nini last Saturday. I've heard many good things about this restaurant and so had others, prompting delicious hallucinations from the time we took the decision till the time we plonked ourselves down in this little, 30-odd cover restaurant. The interiors at Chez Nini exude a warm, cosy feel that larger establishments will find hard to replicate and their small menu inspires confidence based on the fact that if the menu is small, the folks in the kitchen probably do a great job executing every single one of them.
To begin with, they botched the reservation. Considering it was very gracefully handled, I wouldn't have bothered mentioning it, but for the fact that the entire evening was a let down and the reservation was yet another component of an experience I have no interest in repeating. The staff were clumsy, appeared disinterested and cold, and successfully transformed the lovely interiors into quite the opposite of what I experienced on walking in.
I started with a Salade Nicoise. (350, seasoned leaf and toasted almonds) I do not recall seeing an icon marking the salad as vegetarian; perhaps I missed it. The salad however, was a small portion, spread across a rectangular plate included red spinach leaves, rocket, wedges of egg, olives and tomatoes dressed with a nondescript concoction. The tuna and anchovies I expected were missing.
Our waiter, despite being clearly asked to bring the food in courses, had plonked down my New Delhi French Onion Soup (290, house made melba toast and grilled cheese), shortly after serving the salad. It lay there and was just warm enough to eat by the time I finished my salad. If that was melba toast, I'm Rumpelstiltskin and if that was French... Flavorless hot broth, with a slice of bread plonked in and thankfully some good cheese grilled on top.
Fidgety by this time, waiting to leave, I regretted placing an order for my main course, Crispy Pork Belly. (690, chickpea and lentil rice, eggplant caviar and black cardamom jus) The pork belly was crispy and well cooked, and as with the rest of the food, sans flavor. The dish appeared to be an attempt at the exotic, without a great deal of thought put in, as the different foods on the platter just didn't go together. Stolid chewing all through interspersed with sips of Sula Satori. (glass @ 375)
Flavorless food that doesn't excite anything other than peristaltic movement combined with dour, ineffective service and high prices ensure Chez Nini will continue on top of the charts among Delhi's glitterati for a long time to come. The rest of us will wait for a real French restaurant.
PS: A very intriguing dish was the duck confit... with crisp skin and firm flesh that -needed- a knife.
Author: Sid Khullar