A Delhi classic gets a (lagan) nu lease of life. ♦
The Zoroastrian fire temple on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg has nourished the souls of the city’s small Parsi population since the 1960s. But it was Dhun Bagli’s kitchen in the Mengusi Parsi Dharamshala next-door that kept the community’s stomachs sated during social functions, and, more importantly, became a culinary embassy to the rest of the city.
For decades, the restaurant at the Delhi Parsi Anjuman complex was the only place for Dilliwalas unfamiliar with Parsi food to become acquainted with dhansak, pattice and salli. Dhun Bagli was a perfect ambassador for the cuisine, with her crisp, pastel saris and matching high-necked blouses, and carefully coiffed grey hair framing her elegant face.
In recent years, however, it had become more difficult to get an appointment at the Anjuman. For starters the restaurant—more like a family dining room—was open only on Thursdays and Sundays. Then it became open on advance order only, catering mostly to larger groups of people out for a special meal.
Meanwhile, Delhi got a few more Parsi culinary outposts. In Khan Market, Sodabottleopenerwala echoed Bombay’s Irani cafes, while a little further afield Kainaz Contractor and Rahul Dua set up Rustom’s in Adhchini. The latter soon became almost as difficult to visit as Dhun Bagli’s kitchen—but only because the tiny space got booked out so quickly.
Eventually, Dhun Bagli retired (she’s still available for catering from her Gurgaon kitchen! Call 98107-88227) and Rustom’s was invited in. This Christmas Eve, the restaurant opened in its new location at the dharamshala (now conveniently near the Delhi Gate metro station, Gate 5).
You Make Me Wanna Say Eedu
Twice the size of its previous incarnation, Rustom’s still feels cozy and intimate, due in no small part to the Parsi memorabilia enshrined on its walls and inside its glass-topped tables. We feel right at home sipping raspberry soda (made from scratch, not the variety that tastes like bottled liquid gummy bear) on top of someone’s funeral fan. A star anise-spiced apple toddy is also amazingly good on a winter night.
There are a few additions to the Rustom’s menu, which has always been homestyle Parsi without frills—excepting of course the divine frilly chicken cutlet. Notably, there are a lot of breakfast options, which should be a hit with the ITO office crowd nearby. (Did we mention the restaurant is now open daily from 9am to 10pm?) The menu includes a few Bombay chaats; sev puri is perfectly nice, but is neglected at our table in favour of creamy akuri with toasted pao.
We work our way steadily through mutton dhansak—served alongside caramelised onion rice with Parsi kebabs and colourful kachumber. The earthy daal-meat is a nice counterpoint to the tangy mint and coriander chutney that swaddles four plump ringan ravaiyyan: eggplants stuffed with a mouthwatering peanut masala. We mop this up, with a smidgen of crimson kolmi nu achaar, with rotli and parathas.
There aren’t many diners on the day of our visit, but the setting fosters a convivial atmosphere, and our conversation trips from topic to topic as our hands hover over the steadily proliferating plates. Finally, patting our stomachs, we enjoy a happy lull with lagan nu custard and some exceptionally tasty infused teas. Visiting the dharamshala for a meal at Bagli’s was always memorable, but we look forward to pursuing a more neighbourly relationship in the future.
Getting there: Delhi Parsi Anjuman, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, ITO. Call 99100-60502 for reservations.
This story was originally published on Brown Paper Bag.