I've got an introverted energy, combined with an extroverted heart. People interest me - I like to know and understand others – but, it would really be better for me if I could do that from the comfort of my couch while wearing sweatpants. Facebook and I are pretty tight.
Since arriving in Delhi, though, I've been out and about almost every night. Mostly, it's been TLR on Wednesdays for open mic, TLR for lunch on Thursday, TLR for Sunday rooftop beats, oh, and what about heading to TLR on Saturday to catch Su bring the house down? There's been some other stuff thrown in, like enjoying the Skavengers and watching my friend Palash tear it up at the Dillinet Carnival costume contest. But the bottom line is: I've had some late nights.
Late nights equal late mornings, and late mornings equal chai for breakfast. Beyond missing out on the most important meal of the day, I've been having a hard time with food anyhow. This is my third time here in India, (my tenth month) and never before have I had such a difficult time chowing down with Indian food. The spice level is killing me. Literally, I'm pretty sure. Mealtimes aren't fun anymore, (except when I order the Ragu at TLR – try it) but are rather time-consuming tasks regarding my need for caloric intake.
Where this is headed is here: Lucknow Mail.
It's Thursday night, after a solo lunch at (you guessed it) TLR, where I met my incredible new friend Anuradha; after sharing a glass of wine with my friends Palash and Sarah at the Foreign Correspondents' Club; and after heading back to TLR to meet up with Vishwa, who I stay with in Gurgaon.
On the way home around ten o' clock, Vishwa tells me we'll just meet up with his friend at a kebab place before we jam home. It's late, I'm tired, there've been metro rides and autorickshaws and taxis and feet-carrying all through the day, and struggling with some spicy food seems like too much work. Basically, food satisfaction expectation rating = low.
As the headlights swing toward the front of this restaurant, though, my interest piques. In the cyber mecca that is Gurgaon, here we have arrived at the kind of simple, lovely hut that could exist in the backwaters of Kerala or on the sands of Orissa. The exterior wall is covered with whimsical paintings, and a big, cartoon-like roasted chicken makes me smile.
Inside, a few guys sit around a table, and we're introduced to the owner of the place. He's extremely hospitable, as our arrival has been expected, and we're immediately taken to a table, brought a heaping mound of Mutton Biryani, a platter of Mutton Galauti Kebab, and a couple examples of God's gift to bread – Ulta Tawa Parantha.
First things first: Ulta Tawa Parantha is huge and thin and, from what I understand, cooked on a kind of upside-down-shaped pan. This means that one side is browned and the other side is flaky-doughy-wonderful. It's buttery without being oily, super easy to rip and scoop with, and is better than any other kind of bread product in the world. In the universe, maybe.
Next: Muttom Galauti Kebab. Four patties, browned on top, that - with just the slightest hint of a nudge from my fork – melt first onto my plate in a graceful tumble – and then melt in my mouth with the very specific kind of flavor bomb I've been desperately seeking. It holds a great deal of spice, of flavor, but it does not threaten to smoke the enamel off my teeth with its spiciness. I've no idea how these folks took a goat and made it into a magical, silky, robust patty of first class food, but they've done it. And they've done it well.
The Mutton Biryani comes a bit after the kebab and parantha, so I've already stuffed myself pretty properly by the time it arrives, but even so, I take some curious spoonfuls. Second only to the different kind of mouthwatering meat (the closest goat substitute to beef steak flavor I've had) in this dish are some crispy fried onions that are so delicious they make me want to dance around the cozy, clean, little hut, and proclaim some kind of hallelujah for my foodie triumph.
What I'm saying is that you've got to try it, because when you do, you're going to be dancing yourself, and heartily shaking the hands of the heros in the kitchen cooking these treasures up. There're two locations – the one I went to is near Ardee City Gate – 2 in Gurgaon, and there's also one in the RNYC Building next to Signature Tower in South City – 1. Both are open from 12pm to 11pm, and (get this) they offer home delivery.
So long, Pizza Hut, you suckers! I'm happily aboard the Lucknow Mail. Chugga Chugga Chew Chew!
Mutton Biryani – 160 rupees
Mutton Shaami Kebab – 120 rupees
Ulta Tawa Parantha – 15 rupees