With a modern dining room that exposes its busy brigade of chefs through a glass panel on the ground floor, and a cosier, more sequestered space tailored for groups of four or more on the floor above, where jazz plays unobtrusively and mood lighting nudges the gaze towards the table, W. D. House makes one thing very clear: your focus is meant to be on the food.
W. D. House travelled south from Chandigarh, where it is both recognised and glorified, to Delhi last month. Much like its neighbour in GK II’s M block, China Garden, the fine dining restaurant opens itself to patrons from noon to 3.30 pm and then from 7 pm to midnight. This edition of W.D. or Whistling Duck, aims to encourage conversations about the “indigenous modernity” of the ’40s and ‘50s — asserted with a single stem rose perched on tables dressed in lily-white covers and cane chairs, but also with its food. An ambitious menu — that can, perhaps, leave one confused — offers regional Indian, Southeast Asian, and European cuisines.
But, confusion is not a welcome guest here, and is soon defenestrated as head chef Richa Johari takes one through the menu. It is, then, easy to realise that the food here is as straightforward as her. You get what you ask for, but with a twist. Take, for instance, the Rhododendron squash, an enchanting, deep-pink drink made of the sweetly-scented flowers from Uttarakhand with celery and black salt. Or the Pashtun-style Chappali Kebabs, a compound of goat meat, coriander seeds, vetiver roots and pomegranate seeds, that followed soon after. The little frills are only a reflection of Johari’s deft hand with spices, and a result of her attention to detail evident in her zen-like precision to presentation.
Another first course that topped the must-try chart at this restaurant was Tabak Maaz from Kashmir. Succulent goat ribs garnished with onions pickled in mustard were accompanied by a plum and ginger chutney, leaving each bite with a lingering hint of piquant. Even with the Almond Crab Cake — flakes of almond-coated fat crab patties to be paired with a gandhraj (strong scented citrus from Kolkata) aioli — the flavours were neither big nor subtle. An attempt at choreographing a duet of textures came through in all the dishes.
If you want to better your relationship with karela, or bitter gourd, W.D. House should be your choice of counsellor. Rings of bitter gourd coated in batter and deep fried were tossed in a raw mango murabba dressing with raw onion, heirloom tomatoes and cucumber slices. This dish has the potential to convert the most ardent karela dismissers.
Another orthodox yet atypical offering from the restaurant’s kitchen was the Guay Tiew Moo, a dish popular in Thailand. Traditionally made with the meat that must not be named, this one was with pork that sat in the deep end of a bowl, amid lettuce, sprouts, and flat noodles, brimming with galangal flavoured broth with seemingly harmless red chillies that gave the soup a bit of a jolt. For the mains, a dish from Jharkhand, Dhuska — deep-fried discs made with rice, lentils and chillies — was paired with a chicken saag curry.
The dhuska mellowed the sharpness of the mustard oil that the chicken was cooked in, resulting in a harmony of flavours. The other main, a ravioli of blue cheese in a smooth, brighter-than-the-sun yellow, pumpkin puree came drizzled with basil flavoured olive oil and pine nuts. The umami from the parmesan, pungency of the blue cheese and sweetness of the pumpkin worked beautifully together, but the pasta was not al dente enough.
For dessert, we dug into the basil and lime cheesecake topped with a grape and balsamic reduction. The pairing of the basil with the reduction lent a sophisticated touch to the albeit slightly dry cheesecake, making for an intriguing conclusion to the eclectic meal.
Must Try: Tabak Maaz, Karela Salad, Guay Tiew Moo (box)
Meal for two: Rs 4,000
Address: 80, M Block Market, Greater Kailash (GK) 2
Contact: +91 9818997381