Connecting Expats In Delhi
With all the new, adorable restaurants cozying up like rapidly replicating bunnies in Hauz Khas Village, it's not altogether unlikely that you might climb a tucked-away set of bright yellow stairs and end up in an emerging Latin American restaurant. But, when I did, it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless.
Fellow First City Magazine columnist, Susanna Wickes, and I were coming from a meeting with yet another First Cityist, who had to drop off a card to a guy at a place. “Do you know where II-II (Two to) Tango is?” she asked.
Filing through my brain, and the pretty advanced knowledge I have of places to eat in the village, I quickly came up with nothing. So, we looked at the address she had written down, wandered around for a bit, and found ourselves staring into an alleyway void of anything even remotely Latin.
“Maybe up these stairs,” I suggested. And with a glance over my shoulder at the girls, whose expressions both indicated I was probably wrong and just climbing up too many yellow stairs for nothing, yelled down an encouraging, “Come on!”
A big pile of packing materials lay scattered in the center of two spaces on the second floor, and it was upon glancing into one of these spaces that we found the minimalistic and pretty II-II Tango. Two simple gold pillars added class to three white walls and a fancy-bold red one. The carved wooden chairs about sturdy wooden tables were regal – “Ooh, these are like thrones,” Susanna said, in her Scottish brogue.
Very soon after we stomped our way into the place, oohing and aahing and running our hands all over the lovely contents of the room, II-II Tango owner, Bhuvanesh Khanna, greeted us. An immediately friendly presence, he told us they'd be opening soon, that he was just teaching “the boys” about the recipes, that he owned another restaurant here in Delhi called The Brick House Diner, and, oh, would we like to come back that evening to sample the menu and give feedback?
Susanna and I already had plans to stuff freshly baked goods into our mouths while having a chick flick movie marathon with our friends Anu, Tessa, and Sonal, but quickly decided that sampling free food trumped those plans. So, at the agreed-upon time of 8pm, we climbed the same set of yellow stairs with our friends following curiously behind.
The lights were dim, candles flickered, and a young man in the corner picked out Spanish tunes on a guitar.
At 8:01, we were charmed and excited.
At 8:45, having only been served water, and having seen no sign of Bhuvanesh, our stomachs growled and my friends wanted to leave.
At 8:46, Bhuvanesh entered with a platter of fresh rolls, a huge square of butter, and an olive-and-anchovie tapenade, cheering us immensely and immediately.
He served us white wine, mutton sliders with mango salsita, chicken sliders with guacamole, bleu cheese-covered arugula salad with cherry tomatoes, quesadillas with emu steak, mushroom-infused risotto with grilled chicken, and, just when we thought we'd burst, a thick slice of buffalo steak.
He invited us back the following night, and (immediately upon our arrival) served chocolate tarts and apple pie, and perfect pancakes with both chocolate and maple syrup.
And while we savored our pie and tarts and perfect pancakes, the guitar player played, and the candles flickered, and Bhuvanesh told us about himself, his plan, his menu, his philosophies.
Having worked all over the States, in upscale hotels, he'd had it made. He lived in a company-provided house on the beach making a very comfortable salary, but it wasn't enough. He wanted self-satisfaction. He wanted to leave a legacy. He wanted to come back to India.
He seems to talk about The Brick House Diner as though he wishes he would have done some things differently, which may be why he presses us so thoughtfully for our feedback on the II-II Tango menu. He wants to know what we liked, what we didn't like, how the texture was on this, what the bleu cheese ratio should be on that, and we tell him what we think, and he seems like the kind of guy who isn't just nodding to nod. He seems like the kind of guy who's going to open an amazing Latin American restaurant in Hauz Khas Village.
Check it out starting on Thursday the 24th, and don't skip the sliders. The mutton sliders with mango salsita were my absolute favorite, and you may be surprised how closely emu steak imitates beef. The olive tapenade was loved by all, even though I don't usually care for olives, and Bhuvanesh carefully constructed vegetarian options of each course for our veggie pal, Tessa.
An important note: put on the cologne before you go, because this is definitely the place to start, or to add some Latin fire to, your romance. Ooh-la-la!
II-II Tango Restaurant. 13B, 2nd Floor, Hauz Khas Village. +919560544944
-Brandi Dawn Henderson