ITC Maurya Sheraton & Towers Diplomatic Enclave
Sadar Patel Marg
Tel: 91 11 2611 2233
Housed in the ITC Maurya Sheraton & Towers in southwest Delhi, Bukhara has Flintstones–style decor, with stone walls and mock log-top tables. You can watch chefs at work in the kitchen, where meat and vegetables are skewered on kebab spears. Good choices include the murg tandoori (a whole chicken marinated in yogurt, malt vinegar, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, chili, turmeric, and garam masala); the tandoori pomfret, a whole flatfish from the Indian Ocean roasted with spices; and bharvan kulcha, a baked bread stuffed with cottage cheese. In deference to the restaurant's northwest-frontier theme, there is no cutlery, nor finger bowls: Diners are expected to tear their chicken apart with their bare hands, with only an apron for protection.
Go exploring the crowded bazaars of Chandni Chowk if you want to experience Delhi's vernacular food scene. Any local foodie worth their salt will be waiting in line for one of the dozens of varieties of chaat, or snacks, for sale from a cart or a small shop front. If you are concerned about hygiene, stick to where the crowds are, or try one of these recommendations.
On the Chandni Chowk main street, at number 1396 Natraj Dahi Bhalle Wala serves up small plates of deep-fried urad dal; Haldiram's at number 1454 is a tried-and-tested favorite with Delhi-ites. For a plethora of multicolored milk sweets, head to Annapuna Bhander at number 1463, or to the ever-popular Old Famous Jalebiwala on the corner with Dariba Kalan Road for freshly fried jalebis soaked in syrup. For a quick sit-down lunch, try the Gali Paranthe Wali, a small side street near Kinari Bazaar that features a clutch of minuscule restaurants doling out a variety of parathas stuffed with everything from cheese to potatoes, vegetables, and almonds.—Vanessa Able
4/15A Asaf Ali Road
Tel: 91 11 2327 3821
For a truly northern Indian experience, head for Chor Bizarre, on the edge of Old Delhi (other branches have opened in the newly fashionable suburb of Noida and in London's Mayfair). Chor Bazaar means "thieves market," and the chef has indeed plundered dishes from across India. Who knows where the management got the 1927 Fiat, parked in the center of the restaurant, from whose interior Bombay street snacks (chaat) are served? The highlight here is the Kashmiri thali, a set menu that changes daily, depending on what produce is available from the market, and that is named after the brass tray on which it is served. With an advance request, the restaurant will also prepare wazwan, a 40-course feast.
12 Aurangzeb Road
Tel: 91 11 4133 5133
Dhaba starkly contrasts with the Art Nouveau Claridges Hotel in which it is housed. Every effort has been made to recreate a roadside eatery such as you might find along the Grand Trunk Road. The designers have even tacked the side of a Tata truck onto the wall of the restaurant. The chairs are similar in style to the charpoys upon which Indian truck drivers like to recline after a good lunch, and the waiters are dressed in a colorful version of truckers' attire. Feast on yellow dal, tandoori aloo (curried potatoes), and mattar paneer (peas with Indian cheese).
Matiya Mahal, opposite Hotel Bombay Orient
Tel: 11 2326 9880
Hidden away down a narrow passage, this renowned institution has been trading since 1913 and still serves the best grilled meat in town, the chicken tikka being a particular favorite. The restaurant specializes in Mughlai-style food. The Mughals invaded India in the sixteenth century, and their rich, intricate cuisine uses lots of milk, cream, spices, dried fruit and nuts. Karim's is also famous for its brain curry, should you be brave enough to try it.
Opposite Mausam Bhavan
Tel: 91 11 2465 2808
In a city where most of the best restaurants are contained within hotels, it's a treat to experience a stand-alone establishment with as enchanting surroundings as Lodi the Garden. Situated next to the Lodi Gardens park in south Delhi, the restaurant is known primarily for its patio setting, which is adorned with wooden cart loungers and a fountain made from watering cans. The continental menu is unremarkable but a perfectly acceptable accompaniment to a night under the stars. Lunching ladies fill the tables here in the early afternoon. Book ahead for a seat among the wicker lampshades at night.—Vanessa Able
Open daily 11 am to 11 pm.
Tel: 91 11 3933 1234
Hold on to your wallets, this is serious high-end Japanese dining. One of very few sushi options in Delhi, Megu—located in the Leela Palace New Delhi—is the latest addition to the city's international gourmet scene and a popular spot with well-heeled diners. The theme here is contemporary Asian, both in the dark wood latticework of the dining rooms and in the visionary variations of the dishes on the menu (which is identical to that of the restaurant's New York counterpart). Fish is flown in twice a week from the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo and prepared simply as nigiri and sashimi, or more elaborately as a salmon tartare with ikura sauce and osetra caviar, or silver cod with yuzu miso. The beef sizzler is excellent, and the sake and wine lists are extensive and equally dear.—Vanessa Able
Tel: 91 11 2952 3737
Molecular gastronomy comes to Delhi in the form of this newly opened sister establishment to the already wildly popular Smokehouse Grill in the Greater Kailash II neighborhood. The relatively small dining room (42 covers) has a minimalist white Space Odyssey feel, which is particularly disconcerting if it's a Monday night and you are the only diners. Go on a weekend, however, and you won't get a table unless you reserve in advance. Start with one of the smoldering signature cocktails such as the Smoking Martini as you try to get to grips with the menu. Highlights include the "P" Soup (pumpkin, prawn, pickled pumpkin, and pumpkin-carrot air), quail and chorizo ravioli, and crisp pork belly served with tasty bacon jam. Or opt for the all-out 16-course tasting menu and get a soupçon of everything.—Vanessa Able
The Imperial Hotel
Tel: 91 11 4111 6605
This fantastical restaurant, hand-painted by temple artists flown in from Kerala, resembles a temple (or at least an Indiana Jones movie). You'll feast like a king on the eclectic Asian dishes served here, with their Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, and other influences. The irachi stew of lamb and potato in coconut milk, served with rice-flour pancakes, is delicious. Wash it down with a glass of spiced pineapple rasam with fresh curry leaves. For dessert, the Sagu Sagu (Thai rice pudding with cardamom, pandan, cinnamon, and sugar) is extraordinary.
Dr. Zakir Hussain Marg
Tel: 91 11 2436 3030
Currently one of the hottest culinary scenes in Delhi, this depot of dining for the deep-pocketed, whose name might be taken to suggest a menu that is all over the place, boasts a world cuisine—primarily Mediterranean- and Japanese-influenced—the allure of which, to a culture finally coming around to the concept of calorie counting, is its lightness. Food historians, take note that this is where Indians discovered sushi, among whose offerings the Royal Nigiri platter seems to be an early favorite. A favorite, too, and another reason Threesixty°—based in the Oberoi is so popular with the be-seen-or-be-sari crowd, is one of the most extensive wine lists in the city.