In the past year, coastal food has become quite a rage in Delhi. New restaurants popping up, cafe’s including coastal dishes on their menu’s, it seems like the city has taken a liking for it. Zambar was one of the few restaurants ahead of the game, enticing people to take their palate on a coastal journey with an ambience that could lure anyone in.
My first visit to Zambar was shortly after it opened in Ambience Mall, Gurgaon and I instantly knew it would be a hit. However, through the years it had a little ups & downs but I had a feeling it would make a comeback. A food tasting for their new menu, confirmed it. The interiors showcase the cuisine through decor, with artificial kettuvalam or houseboats signifying the waters of Kerala, beautiful green plants all around, and a recently revamped section that has soothing colours of blue inspired by the sea. Accepting Delhi’s love for open kitchens they have introduced see through glass to satiate the curious souls.
The expansive menu displays South Indian cuisine in its full glory, with dishes from Kerala to Sri Lanka to appeal to your palate. The new additions by Chef Ventrimurugan Natesan embody his journey as a chef in South India and eating his food, you will experience a journey of your own.
Beginning with amuse-bouche, the pineapple rasam will awaken your palate with a soft kick of chilli and sweetness from the pineapple. The addition of fruit in this traditional drink is appealing, with added sweetness that contrasts the sourness from tamarinds well. Paired with appalam (traditional south indian papad) it is the perfect start for a South Indian journey.
Lebensmittel Insight: Rasam is a South Indian soup served in glasses, prepared with tamarind juice, tomatoes, chilli and other spices. While it usually precedes the meal, it can also be eaten along with rice.
If you are in mood for something a little more filling, the country style chicken soup with egg drop is ideal. Served at the right consistency (not too thick, but not fluid like rasam) it has a beautifully creamy flavour with strong hit of South Indian pepper. The shredded chicken melts in the mouth while gently caramelised onions lend the slight sweetness, much required. Overall, it’s one of most beautifully balanced dishes that showcase how Chef Natesan has incorporated South Indian flavours in modern dishes.
Moving on to appetisers, the vegetarian section left me underwhelmed with potato cafreal and vegetable stuffed poppadums – both dishes showcased stellar flavours but had flaws in execution. Potato cafreal wooed me with a strong mint, coriander flavour and soft hints of chilli, but the potatoes were undercooked and I would have loved to see them crispy. Irrespective, the freshness from herbs was an absolute delight and something to remember. Vegetable stuffed poppadum’s is Chef Natesan playing with his curiosity and creating a dish that while representing what he wants, does not have the finishing touches needed. Decoding in simple terms – the flavours are there, a beautiful dip that accompanies the papad, but technique is lost and the poppadum comes out drenching in oil. If he can manage to perfect technique, I believe it will be a sell-out dish in North India.
Lebensmittel Insight: The origin of cafreal can be traced to the Portuguese colonies in the African continent who introduced it to the Goan cuisine (it’s beautiful to see how the interaction between people from different regions results in such beautiful creations)
The non-vegetarian section was a bit more intriguing with more traditional dishes like Sri Lankan kotthu roti. Flaky parrotta stir fried with chicken and egg, it was slightly on the sweeter side but absolutely ravishing. It was my first encounter with kotthu roti and I was mesmerised. Slightly chewy roti, melt in the mouth chicken, creaminess from egg, it all just came together in one spoonful. Next up, the kingfish riechado. I am not going to pretend & judge it, since I am not a big fan of fish with skin on and centre bone intact. However, if you want to experience coastal food in its true form, that’s how its served – with skin charred on the edges, large pieces on the plate. So, dig in and enjoy the beautiful citrus flavour and flaky fish.
Lebensmittel Insight: As lame as it may sound, I first heard about kotthu roti on Tv and my curiosity sensors went off, so I was really glad to be able to try it. This Sri Lankan dish is made with Godhamba roti (a type of Sri Lankan roti similar to parrotta) and served as a filling street food. The name literally translated to “chopped roti” in Tamil.
Main Course was kick started with chicken stew and I was instantly bowled over. A light, creamy curry with hints of black pepper and sweetness of caramelised onions, it reminded me of the country soup I had in the beginning of the meal, but in a good way. Paired with soft appams, I could devour a bowlful of it. Next in, Achamma’s lamb curry made with Chef Natesan’s grandmother’s recipe from Kerala. The mutton simmered in coconut milk was falling apart. The strong dominance of spices (without being overpowering) sang on the palate and paired with flaky malabar parrotta, I was happy as a clam to finish it on my own. For vegetarians, puttu & kadla curry from Kerala is an intriguing choice. While the rice cakes and chickpea curry wasn’t my favourite, I assume it would please people having a better affinity with chickpeas.
Lebensmittel Insight: Appam is a soft South Indian pancake made with rice batter & coconut milk with extremely thin edges and slighting thicker centre in the shape of a bowl. Whereas, malabar parrotta is a layered, flaky roti with crunchy exterior and soft interior, boasting of a slightly chewy texture.
Dessert course is always my favourite and at Zambar even more! The coconut jaggery pudding is something I can never forget. Flawlessly smooth pudding, I was later made aware it’s also called nolen gur mishti doi. This dessert is truly must-have. In fact, skip out a little on main course if you have to and also try their tender coconut ice cream, the refreshing flavour with soft bits of coconut, I could have a pint (or two) of this. Payasam here is just as smashing and if you like this sweetened milk preparation, go all out and order a serving. The more the merrier when it comes to desserts.
Overall, Zambar has a few standouts that can leave you a happy camper while dining here and a few traditional dishes that require a more evolved palate in terms of coastal cuisine. However, there is something for everyone and desserts which will leave you with a smile on your face.