Monkey Bar – Now in heart of Delhi

Recently Monkey Bar opened an oulet in CP, which is a much needed relief to the area as this colonial era market has a severe dearth of modern and new age dining spaces. And being fan of their Vasant Kunj restaurant especially the look and feel of it, I had high hopes from this one too.
Me and Ashish stepped into it last night, which was a Sunday, wondering if it would be too crowded. However thankfully it was not much crowded last night and getting a table was a breeze.

The look and feel of the place was much jaded, used and abused warehouse look. Open AC ducts, raw walls – The kind that seems to be in vogue for last few years – but boring, very boring. Again nothing wrong with it, but here the comparison is with their Vasant Kunj branch, which is housed in a glass pyramid and is super sexy to say the least. But then it might have been plain luck in VK that they got the building which used to house legendary Ministry of Sound at certain point.
Coming to food and drinks, here are the things that we tried..
Red Wine Sangria
We started with Sangria, which was offered to us in 3 variants – with base of red, white or rose wines, we chose red and then regretted not ordering the pitcher or the bigger portion they serve. The Sangria was amazingly delicious, which I attribute to the fruits being soaked in it since morning rather than bartender making it with fresh cut fruits. The wine absorbs the fruity flavors and the fruits get some of wine, just the way I love it. This was a small serving, however at the price they are selling it, its quite acceptable.

Next came in the Dabeli and it was much better than what I expected. I mean its a classic street food and I did not expect a fancy restaurant to do it so well – however from the bread used to the tanginess to the overall kick – this Dabeli can give run to the best in business.

I am someone who loves his kebabs and recently made a trek to Lucknow to sample what the Tundays and Dastarkhwans had to offer. Seeing a dish called Galouti Killer on the menu, it was hard for me to not order the same. They are beef based and menu mentioned Tenderloin meat being used without adding any additional fat, which essentially means gibberish to a novice like me.

Galouti Kebab – Three such pieces in serving.
Bread that came with Kebab – Decent.

The kebabs were actually super fine, very tender and melt in your mouth. I am assuming it takes lot of expertise to get beef to that level and the effort was very apparent in the final product. Again the kebabs can give a good run for money to the finest in the business.

Go Veg – The only Veg Burger option.
Inside the Veg Burger.

We decided to close the evening with a burger and Go Veg being the only vegetarian burger on the menu, we decided to go for it. The burger was huge by all standards, came with a decent serving of coleslaw and quite decent portion of french fries. Oh and there was ONE strand of a vegetable that looked like pickle.

The bruger was a disappointment – dry from inside, no juice, no flavors. The bun used was of good quality and loved the bread to protein proportion of this burger, however it was the patty that let us down. It just had no flavor. Though most of the Chefs cringe at the thought of Veg burgers, however its still something they need to work on and get right. Anyone can do a beef or meat patty, the veg patty is where the rocket science is.

The service was top notch, our server served us with a smile and even took our silly jokes in good sense of humour. Overall a very pleasant experience.

The Bill for the evening.

I am looking forward to going back again and trying more of their menu, however if I had a choice I would prefer going to Monkey Bar, Vasant Kunj  just for the feel of it. Otherwise in CP, this is amongst the best options to visit for a drink and some good food. The best part – It is not so expensive.

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The Brick House Diner – The new Big Boy of Burger scene in Delhi

UPDATE – 26th January 2012 – The Brick House Diner is no longer in business.

It has been a natural inclination of us FEDs to visit or raid outlets which have an established name including some valued treasures which have reached a legendary status in the food scene and their claims and reputation can never be questioned by any critic or enthusiast. But this time we found ourselves in the mood for some questioning. We thought, with so many new and exciting places springing up around town, why not try and see what they have brought to the party. After-all, it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it, right?

We decided to venture out of our comfort zone and carry out a raid on a brand new and un-heard of place without any expectations what-so-ever. So, our little experiment led us to “The Brick House Diner”. 

This is what you call a burger in all its glory, The Ghost

Since this is a new place, not many had heard of it, and there was just a little if any information available online about it, but their claim of making the “Best Burgers in Delhi” tempted us foodies to go ahead and find out whether their declaration holds any water and how their food appeals to the palate of the FEDs.

 This place is in Satya Niketan and just in the beginning of the little market opposite Venky, look to your left for their neon sign when you take a left turn from Ring Road after Moti Bagh Gurudwara.
The FEDs
Whenever the FED group gets together, the fun- friendly “college canteen-ish” atmosphere is instantly created and this time was no different. We worked our way through the menu which is vast and very expansive. I was a little put-off and confused to see items like Aloo Pranthas and Egg Bhurji on offer. I do love my pranthas but I wouldn’t head to a diner if I ever have a craving for them.

For starters we decided we’ll trust the owner Bhuvnesh, and he got us a sample of a few of his Tapas grilled items. The non-vegetarians had more options to sample but sadly the vegetarian choice was neither varied nor very exciting. We tried the Shrimp, Lamb, Chicken, Pork and Buff. Each of them had a different and distinct marination but the one that stood out for me was the Pork with the Buff being second. The shrimp was passable but the Lamb and the Chicken was avoidable.

The Shrimp Tapas
Pork Tapas
Buff on Skewer
Lamb Tapas
Chicken Tapas
Along-with the starters we sampled two drinks, The Cafe Frappe which is essentially the machine vended Nescafe Frappe with a few additions to make it stronger and less sweet and it was not bad actually. The other was a Litchi flavored Iced Tea which was again alright but the fun part was a nice little “litchi-jello” shot inside the drink which many of us confused for an ice cube. What I observed is that none of us ordered the drinks again with our food and instead preferred the regular soft-drinks, so nothing extra-ordinary in the drinks space. Perhaps some interesting milkshakes would do the trick. 

It was time now to get down to business and do what we were there for, Take on the burgers. 

Once again, there was not much choice available for the vegetarians, and I had started kind of feeling bad for them. But that was only until I was served with “The Ghost”, that’s what they call their biggest burger. It’s this monstrous thing loaded with three large lamb patties, cheese, sautéed mushrooms, a fried egg, fresh lettuce, caramelized onions and, as if that wouldn’t choke an artery, I asked for some extra bacon strips to be put on it as well. The things that we have to do….phew..

After getting over the sheer size of the thing, we figured out the best way to tackle it. Opening your mouth wide enough to get the whole thing in is impossible, but how much ever I did was absolutely wonderful. Their meat patties are fresh and so are the other ingredients. All four of us who opted for this burger were glad that we did. Their patties are not at all greasy and they definitely have got this one right. It got all the marks in my book.
The Ghost
Interestingly, the owner informed us that they are coming up with a Man vs. Food type “The Ghost Challenge” wherein if anyone can finish (get this..) 5 of these burgers within 45 minutes he gets to have his (or her) picture put up on their “Wall of Fame” and the meal is free of charge (not calories) but if, by any chance, you happen to be human and you cannot finish that much food, your picture is put up on the “Wall of Shame” and you have to cough up the money. Feel free to take them up on it.
Another lamb burger that deserves mention is the Baconator which had a single lamb patty and a few strips of bacon plus the other regular toppings. After-all, you can never go wrong with bacon right?

The other non-vegetarians amongst us who were averse to eating red meat naturally opted for the chicken burgers but I frankly didn’t see that much happiness on their faces as there was on the red meat eaters. One of them told me that the Classic Chicken burger was average at best.

Ghost against a regular Burger
Delightful French Fries
Not to be left behind, upon seeing the enormity of the ghost burger, the vegetarians requested a “Veg Ghost” which the owner very graciously attempted but sadly, as it was an impromptu request, it was not a very good one. In fact, they purposely took the Veg Ghost off the tab and insisted on not charging for it as it was not satisfactory. Shashank gave them some of his expert feedback and Bhuvnesh the owner took note and promised to re-work the thing from a scratch.

They do praise their pizzas, and they are different from what I’ve had anywhere as they make the dough with a unique mixture of regular pizza dough and the dough used in Kulcha’s. They are worth trying out and they have a wide variety of toppings on offer.

Veg Harvest Pizza
Pesto-licious Pizza
We tried their pastas and were not disappointed. The non-vegetarians all loved the Ala Carbonara Fettuccine as the plate was wiped off clean, they have got the cream reduction rather perfect on that one. The Spicy Chicken Sausage pasta made with penne and fusilli was also done right as was the Pasta Bolognaise with a marinara base and an interesting mix of seasoning.
Ala Carbonara Fettuccine
Spicy Sausage Pasta
I noticed a few other interesting items on their menu, like the 16oz Rib Eye Stake, which I would have tried but couldn’t because I was stuffed to capacity. 

Bhuvnesh the owner graciously gave us a complementary taste session of his passion fruit puddings in 4-5 different flavors. They were very light and refreshing and were like a healthy alternative to cheesecakes. All of us unanimously voted for the Litchi one as our favorite.

Passion Fruit Puddings
What they have got bang on target is their pricing. Their prices are modest and definitely fall in the Value for Money category. Their biggest burger The Ghost is priced at a modest Rs 300 with the others ranging from Rs 60 to 150. The pastas range is from Rs100 to 200 and the quality that you get is no less than what you get in some of the other snooty high priced restaurants. 
Happy faces with Chef and Owner Bhuvnesh
The fact that stands out most in our experience is the fun that we all had in sampling the different dishes. It is a nice place for a big group of friends to just gather together and have a good laugh. The thing most appreciable is the willingness of the owner to constantly get a feedback so he can go back and improve his food. Being new there are quite a few areas which need improvement and he sure seems up to the task.

The thing that will make me go back to the Brick House Diner is definitely the burger, but moreover it will be the laid-back non-commercial unpretentiousness of the place.

I would rate the Brick House Diner a 3 out of 5 with a strong potential to improve further.

UPDATE – 26th January 2012 – The Brick House Diner is no longer in business.