Kamla Nagar – Local Joints – Delhi



Note: This review is from a time when I lived in Delhi (from 2003 till 2013).  It may be permanently closed now. Read only for readings sake.

The funny thing is, there’s about 6 or 7 restaurants on this 21 UB street, or in some places known as 21 UB Food Street. I’ve been to almost all the restaurants on this road, and they’re all similar on most counts. The menu, prices, decor, the way the waiters look and serve etc. Hence I’ve decided to throw them all into just one article.

The restaurants we’ll be looking at are Noodles, Soho (Changed to ‘Smart’ Soho, then Ying ‘Yeng’, then something else), Banzai, and the super new freakish Nine 75.

Noodles, Soho and Ying ‘Yeng’ are all fiendishly similar and just to emphasize how similar, the other day my friend and I (I’ve referred to this friend earlier in my Zen review as the poor sanskrit honors look student) were standing outside Noodles waiting for a table to get free, when a Soho waiter who had come out for a smoke told us to come sit in Soho instead. Soho is right next to Noodles by the way. So what he told us was,

“Come sir, table is free, all same all same!”

“All same?” I asked.

“Yes sir, same food, same taste, both are same”

With that we went into Soho instead. This street is plagued with students at any given point of time. Backpacks, bags, cheap deo, etc. are common sights and smells on this road. The reason being, all these restaurants are dirt cheap. Kamla Nagar is close to Delhi University so it’s an extremely popular place for students to hang out, be nuisances, shop, flirt, pose, loiter, procrastinate, you get my point. Soho, Noodles and Banzai go first in my review.

Service is either good or horrible. There’s no standard here. For those of you who say “Noodle’s is the best”, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve just probably been there more often. I’ve had bad food in all three, I’ve had decent service and bad service in all three, I’ve found hair in my food in all three and I’ve eaten a full stomach’s worth of food below 100 ruppees per person in all three. It’s just a place to go to if you want to spend loose change and eat. There’s nothing to think about, there’s no ‘ambience’ there’s no quality to judge. You go, you order, you eat, you leave. Like a college canteen for instance. You don’t complain if you see a suspicious stain on your spoons, you just ask for another one, by now, you kinda know what I’m driving at.

By now, I’ve probably eaten everything on the menu, excluding the vegetarian section. The only time everything went wrong was when I tried dishes from the ‘chef’s special’ menu in Noodles. The waiter was a bit confused when I tried telling him we wanted it. He struggled with the spellings and he had trouble coming to grips with the fact that we actually were ordering the chef’s special dishes. I imagined the following happening in the kitchen when the waiter went with our order to the chef.

Chef – What the f*ck is this?

Waiter – What could I do, they wanted the chef’s special!!!

Chef – But I don’t even know what this is! I told that idiot owner a hundred times not to try and be different, but he didn’t listen! Go back and tell them it’s out of stock!

Waiter – What? All the dishes they ordered? They’ll just leave! Just try and make it ok? Just add more masala to the normal dishes, problem solved.

After 30 minutes, I knew something was wrong. Dishes are usually served in 5 minutes or less at these places. I shouted at my sanskrit honors friend and blamed him for wanting to try something new in Noodles. 40 minutes we called the waiter and asked him what the hell was going on.

Me – Where’s our food? It’s been over half an hour!!!

Waiter – Sir chicken crispy karane mein time lagtha hai (It takes time to make the chicken crispy)

At this I just started laughing. 45 minutes later we got our chef’s special dish. The chicken in pak choy sauce tasted like the chef made the dish using dead sea water (the dead sea has 6 times more salt than normal sea water). I almost threw up after a spoonfull. The crispy chicken was like the chicken was Ethiopian. There was no meat on the bones. The chef had basically fried the life out of it.

So to sum it all up. Just order simple dishes in these places, chilli chicken, crispy chilli potatoes, fried rice and or chow mein, just be safe, you’ll be ok.

Now to the new Nine 75 restaurant. I was walking past it and was shocked to see 21 UB street housing a mexican, italian and continental food restaurant. I was even more outraged to see pizza’s for 90 ruppees and enchiladas for 100 ruppees. They’d kept the prices as low as the competition down the road! But when I tasted the food, I realised what I was paying for. I could’ve made a better pizza blindfolded without any cheese and a tin of tomato puree and a leather shoe for pizza base. It was a joke. We tried a dish from every section in the menu. Mexican, Italian and continental. There’s a chinese section too but who wants to try chinese food in a mexican restaurant right? The food was a downright joke. The milkshakes were tasty and thick, we ordered a chickoo and a vanilla milkshake and both tasted the same.

Now comes the punchline. The whole restaurant is designed to look extremely free style. The kitchen is visible behind a glass wall, you can see the chefs and kitchen staff working. It’s hilarious cause the places that usually have this design are usually upscale and you see towering flame rising under a wok, you see chefs tossing lavish ingredients till the roof, and you generally can’t take your eyes off what’s going on.Now, here, it’s the same thing, I mean the ‘can’t take your eyes off’ bit. The chef’s are bickering and quarelling all the time, their armpits are super sweaty and they struggle to keep up. It’s utter chaos, you can hear the gaalis (curses) and see them drop ingredients on the counter, pick it up and throw it right back into the dish and you can see them slap the cleaners and tell them to get the f*ck out of the way. Wow, it’s a lot to take in, and I’d suggest you go into Nine 75 in the evening during rush hour to catch the evening kitchen smackdown. My suggestion is do NOT order pizza. Even with extra cheese (it costs 10 ruppees or something for extra cheese) it’s a joke. Pasta looked ok, I saw some people eating it. Milk shakes are ok.

Nine 75’s weird.