There are certain places which are so inextricably tied to our personal experiences that just a glimpse triggers a rush of memories. Chor Bizzaare, the wacky path-breaking restaurant at Hotel Broadway, Asaf Ali Road near Delhi Gate in Old Delhi which opened in 1990, is one such place which holds a special spot in my heart as it was here, in the same year, that my husband proposed to me. By taking me to this particular restaurant he wanted to impress me and he succeeded. The bric-a-bracky interiors, a maverick setting with mismatched crockery and cutlery, an eclectic menu, a vintage car doubling as a salad bar, a four poster bed serving as a diner’s table, the pure kitsch so captivated my imagination that I went back several times just to explore and to re-live memories of that special moment.
It was also my first brush with Kashmiri cuisine. Not just mine; it was the first time that the people of Delhi were exposed to the concept of “Wazwan”, a lavish community repast comprising of 36 courses and “Tarami” a large ornamented plate heaped with rice and first few courses, with each successive course following separately allowing one to savor the distinct flavors. With the Rohit Khattar’s Old World Hospitality deciding to open Chor Bizzare at Mayfair, London in 1997, it also became the first Indian restaurant company to open a branch of a successful restaurant overseas.
It is a restaurant which had stood the test of time and is now in its 25th year. Although Chor Bizzare positions itself as pan-Indian or should I say as a pan-subcontinent restaurant, it is Kashmiri cuisine which remains its biggest draw. The name itself is a pun on “Chor Bazzar” which is “Thieves Market”, present in most Indian cities reminiscent of a flea market. If you have been to Porta Portese in Rome you will get the picture.
What makes Chor Bizzare special other than its eccentric interiors and the fact that is one of the very few places in Delhi where one can get to taste authentic Kashmiri delicacies like Goshtaba (pounded lamb dumplings in yogurt gravy), Hak (a local variety of greens), Rista (meat balls in red gravy) Nadru Yakhni (lotus stem in yogurt gravy) & many others, is that there is also a large repertoire of vegetarian dishes and chaats. The chilli and oil content is considerably toned down which allows the subtle & complex flavors to emerge and you can literally get the distinct taste of aniseed, dried ginger, dried mint and cardamom in your mouth. Rogan Josh is not floating in oil and Tabak Maaz (lamb shank) is grilled rather than fried making it tender and not chewy. A unique feature of Kashmiri cuisine is that the food is mostly cooked in mustard oil and there is no use of onions and garlic. A lot of dishes are yogurt based and even though some are fiery red in appearance, they are rather mild as kashimri chilli is not that potent. Chef Rajiv Kumar Malhotra, the corporate chef at QSR & Casual Dining at Chor Bizzare and Drift, Habitat World IHC and Old World Hospitality, knows enough about this cuisine and the subtle differences between the Kashmiri Pandit and Kashimiri Muslim styles of cooking to keep the flavors authentic.
What bigger testimony to its success than the fact that Chor Bizzare is celebrating its silver anniversary this year in times when the shelf life of most restaurants is a few years if not less. To celebrate this momentous milestone Chor Bizzare has created a Pop-Up at Drift Epicentre Gurgaon for a limited period (till 30th September) where the residents of the millennium city can get to taste most of the signature dishes, even though the ambience is different from the real McCoy. Décor wise the only concession to the original is in the placemats which have pictures of the iconic salad bar and other bric-a-brac and memorabilia.
The Pop-Up is certainly a great opportunity to become acquainted with the cuisine of one the most beautiful regions of India, Kashmir.
By : Lavina Kharkwal
Chor Bizzare Pop-Up ( Aug16- September 30)
Drift Epicentre at Apparel House
Sector 44, Near Huda City Centre Metro Station
For Reservations : 0124 2715100 / 2715227 Mob : 9999326400