Restaurant Bills Explained – 2016 Version

Service Charge, Service Tax, Value Added Taxes – We bet they have got you all confused. Here is a layman’s guide for understanding & making sense of our Eating out bills.

Menu prices may seem very deceptive once you get the final bill in hand. Suddenly there is a barrage of taxes and charges staring in your face which you cannot make any sense of, however still are supposed to pay. Here is a guide that we have put together, which may help you in making any semblance of your eating out bills.

Difference between Tax and Charge

Charge is not fixed by anyone and outlets are free to write whatever percentage they deem fit on the menu. You can protest against it sure – if you do it before eating, it would be like haggling for the price of food and if you do it after eating it’s similar to you refusing to pay the bill if you are not satisfied with it. Service Charge is the most common charge applied in India and ranges from 5 – 15% of the total bill, 10% being the most common number in industry. Charge is something which is part of the revenue of the restaurant – what they do with it is their prerogative.

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Ottimo at West View – ITC Maurya – Ready to host Royalty

The charm of the location, the view, the knowledge that who’s who of the world dine here – ensures that every evening spent here, is going to be an evening of lifetime.

ITC Maurya has been part of Delhi’s Landscape for around 40 years now. Though a slew of modern and luxury hotels have opened in Capital and NCR, they have not taken any charm away from this luxury hotel, located in Diplomatic Enclaves of New Delhi. Well known for hosting executives, ministers, leaders and head of states from all over the world – the hotel is equally popular with denizens of City of Delhi – thanks to many culinary aces that they keep up their sleeves including Dum Pukht and probably the most famous restaurant in India – Bukhara.

West View been a part of the hotel for couple of decades, it never was as busy or famous as other restaurants in the same hotel, however it always had its cult following – a dedicated audience who swear by the place as well the lavishness of their Sunday Brunches.  Infact when ITC wanted to introduce Ottimo to this property, which has been a great success at their hotels in other cities, they decided to keep the ‘West View’ name (unlike other properties) where Ottimo is a standalone brand, here it became Ottimo at West View.

I have been told that Ottimo means excellent in Italian and is  lead by Chef Vittorio Gecco – who after working for several Michelin Star restaurants around the world, joined ITC and started Ottimo at ITC Chola – their signature property in Chennai.

Now that you know more about the place, let me start at the start. West View has been fully redone and we were invited by team ITC Maurya to experience what they have worked really hard on.

We landed their at 7 pm – just the start of their Dinner service. Walking into the restaurant it felt like a drawing-room or just an extension of the kitchen – a very classy one at that. Occupying a table for two on the west windows of West View – the view and the location started to dawn on us. When you can see a sprawling green forest and a setting sun on horizon, it becomes hard to believe that you are bang in the center of a City like Delhi. We jumped from our seats and leaped towards the terrace area – now called an Infinity Theater and a sky bathed in colors of sunset was out there to welcome us. The terrace now has a few tables along with some greens, which technically are their kitchen garden, also housing a pizza oven in a corner.

Coming to food offered – it can primarily be divided into 3 parts –

  • Ottimo’s Italian a la carte menu- Pastas, Pizzas, Soups & More.
  • The Grill – Array of meats and vegetables for you to choose and ready to go on the grill.
  • Cold Buffet spread – with choicest of cheese, meats and salads.

Rs. 1200 gets you to the cold buffet, while you can order other things A la carte, then comes Rs. 2500 option where you get access to the Cold Buffet Cart, choice of one Soup and choice of a pasta. For Rs.3500 you get access to the Cold Buffet, Soup, Pasta, Grills as well as the desserts. All the prices are exclusive of taxes and service charges may apply.

We started off with assortment of cheese, olives, sparkling wine, bread basket and some goodies from their Cold cart. As expected from an establishment of such repute – all of them were of highest quality and set our tummies for gastronomical delights that Italian Chef was about to dish out for us.  A special mention to the Pesto sauce served to us with our breads – it has to THE finest and most aromatic pesto I have tasted till date, closely followed by Naturellement in Auroville, Puducherry. No wonder both of these restaurants are growing their own basil.

We started again, this time with Risotto – topped with crunchy asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. Simple but robust flavors and beautiful texture defined this European Rice preparation. In pastas, we chose Ravioli – and were served one stuffed with wild mushroom and ricotta and truffle – topped with Parmesan reduction which added the magic to this dish – definitely among the finest that I have laid my fork on.

How can visit to an Italian restaurant be complete without trying their Pizza? – we decided to go for one with Mascarpone Cheese, Tomato, Mozzarella and Parma Ham. Very simple combination, made exotic by availability of  Mascarapone and Parma – both of them still a rarity across pizzerias in town. By this point we were at the end of our appetites, however succumbed to our taste-buds, which demanded more food. Still curious to try the main courses, we went for the lamb chops.

Tender lamb chops stuffed with Parmesan and truffle crusted with almonds and bread crumbs, served with vanilla mash potato, spinach and sautéed vegetables. That is the literal translation from menu – wonder how they managed to get cheese and truffle inside the chop. The texture definitely felt that it has been worked on – reminded of a very fine hand pounded gustaba – coated with crispy  goodness of nuts and bread most probably used as a binder. Beautiful texture of meat was accentuated by the rich nutty crust, while the the potato mash served with it was as creamy as they come. The way zucchini was ‘buttoned’ and served, talked a lot about the art that went behind this dish.

We ended the meal with couple of desserts – Handmade Mango Icecream topped with cherry compote and a Tiramisu – came in a jar and was served with three different chocolates on the side. Not the most bitter or intense Tiramisu, however light, airy and still full of flavors. That said, would expect the Italian chef to produce a show stopper – which this definitely was not. In Mango Cherry ice-cream would love to see more play with the cherries, instead of being a compote or sauce.

As detailed as I have been about the main dishes, I would say that this place is more about a relaxed dinner experience. The kitchen type setup of the restaurant is very inviting, very casual, still exuding that classy feel. You can just go for the cold buffet and the amazing assortment of ‘Tapas’ made of produce from their garden, meats and cheese would keep you great company while you nurse your favorite wine or champagne. Add to that the charm of the location, the view, the knowledge that who’s who of the world dine here – ensures that every evening spent here, is going to be an evening of lifetime.

Parsi Food in DLF Mall of India, Noida by SodaBottleOpenerWala

SodaBottleOpenerWala is a much needed entry into Noida Food Scene and is a place that does warrant a visit for any food lovers who is keen on some nostalgia eating (if have visted Bomday) or just to try a brand new cuisine, which barely 2-3 places serve in entire Delhi / NCR, SodaBottleOpenerWala being the most prominent name among them.

Malls of India by DLF has recently opened its gates in Noida. The mall touted as among the biggest in India, offers a major respite to the much parched food & dining scene of Noida. Even though there is no real ‘break-through’ or standout restaurant, nothing that we have not seen before in Delhi or Gurgaon, however most of the restaurants which have opened or are about to open the shop there, are a first for Noida – Some of the names that pop to my mind – Pizza Express, Chili’s, Kylin Express & of-course SodaBottleOpenerWala.

SodaBottleOpenerWala has been around in DLF Cyber Hub of Gurgaon for several years and recent months have seen them grow into multiple Indian cities, which is a testament of their popularly, acceptance and Operations management. I have visited their Cyber Hub outlet a couple of times and have had decent experiences. As with the gurgaon outlet, the interior of the Noida outlet was also class apart. Stepping in you get almost the same feel as an age-old Irani or Parsi cafe run by some bawa uncle in Mumbai – the table clothes, the wood work, the show cases – all symbolic enough to make you instantly nostalgic about those beautiful family run cafes of Mumbai.

Their menu was another pleasant surprise, nothing seemed exorbitantly priced and rates were at par with any decent full-service restaurant that you would come cross. Another good thing about the menu – it was not full of hundreds of items to choose from. All items were quite unique in themselves and the menu had a limited selection, which makes life easy for greedy food lovers like me. After spending much time we settled on a Combo – we had several to choose from in veg, chicken and prawn versions – we selected one with Veg. Berry Pulao, Vada Pav and Kachumber Salad. To add some meat on the table we also ordered for Bhendi Bazaar Seekh along with Parantha.

The combo came in a 3 box tiffin box – the tiered steel lunch carrier that we have all grown up seeing being used in our family. Just for the convenience – these boxes were our TupperWare before the now so common plastic lunchboxes happened. The box was opened on our table and one of them had Berry Pulao, other Vada Pav and Kuchumber salad came in the Third box.

The salad was exactly like what you would make at home – very basic with not much to go wrong there. Vada pav was served the way it is served on streets of Mumbai. Despite getting the flavors right, it lacked Hot & Fresh feel that is associated with this super popular food item from Mumbai. The pav though authentic in texture felt like it was the last day before it would be declared ‘expired’. Similarly vada felt like refried which I am sure can be attributed to street vendors making it in bulk while the folks at SBOW would have to fry it one piece at a time. Here I would like to admit that I am being extremely critical – the vada pav packs enough punch to fix any cravings you might have, however could have been a bit better.

Just like your basic Homemade salad - nothing more, nothing less. But Good Quality.
Just like your basic Homemade salad – nothing more, nothing less. But Good Quality.
For those who have not been to Mumbai can try this, if you have had Vada Pav in Mumbai, you can very well skip this one.
For those who have not been to Mumbai can try this, if you have had Vada Pav in Mumbai, you can very well skip this one.

Coming to the Bhendi Bazaar Seekh Kebab – nice big pieces of Kebab which look like they mean business – slightly on the oily side these are some of the finest Seekhs you can invest your appetite on. Unlike our routine ‘Indian’ seekhs, there were barely any spices in mince and every morsel gave you a brilliant savory flavor of the mutton itself. Not soft or melt in mouth, but then the bite and chunkiness are hallmarks of a proper seekh and these ones delivered on it. The chutney served with them could have used flavors other than basic coriander which would be helpful for those who seek a bit stronger flavor from those seekhs. The parantha felt like someone took out a frozen sheet and deep fried it. Tasteless and characterless. I would advise you to save your calories and invest them in more Kekabs or other food stuff on the menu.

Seekh Kebab along with Parantha, Chutney & Pyaz.
Seekh Kebab along with Parantha, Chutney & Pyaz.

No visit to a parsi joint is complete without me polishing off a few Lagan nu Custards, which is one of my favorite desserts and having tried them at several places in Colaba and rest of Mumbai I can very well say that no two custards are similar. Eagerly finished the meal here as well, as custard was on my mind and once done, ordered it with a grin on my face. What came on my table left me a little disappointed, the presentation was way too boring, the mint leaves used for garnishing didn’t deserve to be there. It came in a bowl rather than a plate as I have come to expect it. Couple of bites into it and I decided not to go further with it. It just felt synthetic and nothing like some of the finer stuff I have enjoyed in Colaba Cafes. Here I would like to mention that service staff on noticing my disappointed took the custard away and offered me a replacement dessert for the same – I could choose anything from the menu. Super gesture by service staff who were anyhow exceptionally courteous and polite.

Laganu Custard that we returned. Desserts are supposed to make one happy, this one did not.
Laganu Custard that we returned. Desserts are supposed to make one happy, this one did not.

Skipping 5 star brownie & Toblerone Mousse – both of which are not my type of chocolates, as I prefer mine to be dark and bitter, I decided to play it safe and ordered Malai Kulfi from Parsi Dairy Farm. Its an icecream made with a company called ‘Parsi Dairy Farm’ in Mumbai. Simply speaking its milk thickened by continuous boiling and then some sugar – very simple and rustic flavor which has a very home-made and genuine feel to it. If you have not tried this one, then do add it to your list.

They import this Parsi kulfi from Mumbai. Nothing to go wrong here.
They import this Parsi kulfi from Mumbai. Nothing to go wrong here.

Honestly speaking those Kebabs were high in fat content – maybe some from the meat and some added on top, which I didn’t mind at all, however to wash them down a hot drink was need of the hour. Ordered a Phetaili Coffee – which can be termed as Bambaiya slang for Beaten Coffee and a Parsi Choy which is your mint infused tea without milk. Coffee was par excellence and at Rs. 90 offers excellent value for money, while at Rs.70 there was not much wrong with the tea as well.

Oh! and all this while if you were wondering when I was going to talk about Berry Pulao, then this is the time for it. The Showstopper of the meal. As a rice lover I order biryani and pulao almost everywhere – from Lucknow to Ambur to Hyderabad to Moradabad to Kerala – I have been fortunate enough to try several versions in different parts of India and this Berry Pulao is at par with the best in business. Extremely fragrant rice dish loaded with flavors. Berries add super nice texture and flavor to the dish and vegetable version we had absolutely managed to stun us.  These pulaos are served in layers – a layer of cooked protein (Veggies, chicken, mutton etc) topped with fragrant rice, dry fruits & berries. Again like most other parsi dished – not spicy at all albeit slightly sweet and sour thanks to the berries used in preparation of the dish.

Berry Pulao - One item that makes it all worth it. They have got this one right to perfection. Aromatic and Flavorful - pure delight.
Berry Pulao – One item that makes it all worth it. They have got this one right to perfection. Aromatic and Flavorful – pure delight.

Coming to the cost : I think Rs.360 (plus taxes) was an excellent price for the combo, you try multiple things and is more than good enough for full meal of someone with above-average appetite. The Seekh kebab platter for Rs.315 is not a bad price at all given the amount of meat you get in that thing. Have already mentioned that drinks are reasonably priced and so are the desserts with the Malai Kulfi being the most expensive item of the menu at Rs.180 per serving.

SodaBottleOpenerWala Bill

Overall speaking I think the place does suffer from its ‘chain’ syndrome and the food does hit the Lowest Common Denominator due to standardisation at a few places, however it does offer an excellent experience for anyone who is looking for a brand new cuisine  served in a very stylish and premium setting.

SodaBottleOpenerWala is a much needed entry into Noida Food Scene and is a place that does warrant a visit for any food lovers who is keen on some nostalgia eating (if have visited Bomday) or just to try a brand new cuisine, which barely 2-3 places serve in entire Delhi / NCR, SodaBottleOpenerWala being the most prominent name among them.

Just for the record other two being – Parsi Bhonu at Adchini and Parsi Anjuman (which is more of a Dharamshala) near ITO, on the outskirts of Old Delhi.