On a rainy afternoon, few things can offer the same comfort as a crisp samosa dunked in a bowl of hot, soothing kadhi. At Diva Spiced, Ritu Dalmia’s modern Asian restaurant, the Kadhi Samosa listed in the small plates section of the menu is one of the chef’s recommendations, and as we bit into ours, we could see why. The “homestyle” kadhi is as silky as one could hope for, gradually softening the samosa’s flaky crust, but what brings the dish alive, surprisingly, is the asafoetida (hing). That this should be so is a testimony to, firstly, the humble — usually optional — ingredient’s underrated role as a flavouring agent and, secondly, to the chef’s ability to properly recognise and use it.
It is the little things like this that made our lunch at the Diva Spiced interesting. The restaurant, which used to be located in Meherchand Market, opened this week at a new location in Greater Kailash 1’s N Block Market. It’s a bright, cosy space, ideal for lunch. The focus remains on pan-Asian food, although the attempt seems to be to better integrate east and southeast Asian ingredients and techniques with regional Indian food. So the Prawn and Kasundi Dimsum was effectively a Bengali-style prawn inside a dimsum wrapper; it may have been served with an assortment of sauces (the lemon-coriander sauce was especially good), but the pungency of the mustard paste was enough to carry the dish. The Panko crusted Eggplant Bao was another instant hit: the play of textures — with the soft, chewy bao, the crunchy eggplant and the creamy aioli — was perfect. We just wish there had been more than two baos on the plate. The Crispy Duck with caramelised Hazelnut and Chilli Orange dressing also made excellent use of contrasting textures; we wish more places would make use of duck skin, fried till crisp, as a highlight element on the plate.
For the main course, we ordered the Calcutta Malai Curry with asparagus, lotus stem, rice and pachdi and Goan Kafreal Marinated Chicken, sesame carrots and pickled beetroot. The chicken was cooked to perfection, but it didn’t really make the palate sing. That it was not served with rice or any other carbohydrate made the dish monotonous in terms of both taste and texture. With the Malai Curry there were no complaints; there was some initial trepidation about whether, when combined with the pineapple pachadi (served like a chutney on the side), it may become a little too sweet, but those fears were soon calmed down. The curry was indeed on the sweeter side — as it is meant to be, thanks to the use of coconut milk — but the pineapple pachadi added the requisite touch of piquancy and sourness, lifting the whole dish. With the crisp slices of lotus stem and rice, it became one of those dishes that truly feels like a meal. The asparagus added colour and fibre to the plate, but the dish would have been just as good without it.
The dessert, however, left us with mixed feelings. The Coconut and Lemongrass Panacotta wobbled tantalizingly, like a good pana cotta does, and should ideally have been smooth throughout. With every bite, however, we tasted what felt like desiccated coconut — an experience that rather marred our enjoyment of what was otherwise a lovely dessert.
Meal for two (without drinks): Rs 4,000
Address: Diva Spiced, N-6, First Floor, Greater Kailash – 1