Same old stuff, in a nicer settingPrazada in Baluwatar has itself a nice outfit, but the food flops in mediocrity.
How does a restaurant set itself apart from the hospitality herd? Some serve new cuisine, others have a fancy lay-out. Some even trick customers into cooking their own food. But all too often, it’s the same old stuff with a theatrical twist.
The first thing that stands out about Prazada isn’t its brick and mortar or even the food; it’s the restaurant’s hefty focus on social media. Its seemingly quotidian Instagram dump shows potential, inserting well-styled photographs of food that looked pleasantly edible, with videos of pancakes being drizzled with syrup and soft-poached eggs being doused in Hollandaise. It’s a far cry from the food pictures that flood Instagram, snapped with a camera boasting a potato’s aperture. That’s step one: attracting clientele with their Insta-food. Step two is their seemingly good reviews. Together, they got me to their door.
Traipsing into the restaurant after much deliberation, the aforementioned images don’t betray the outfit. The restaurant is one of a few contemporarily designed eateries, outside of hotel restaurants. The architecture is modern and the lines of the building are sharp, but what fills them—other than acres of glass—is rather warm. Brick, black-slapped iron and wood come together to give the industrial design warmth, while the mostly-glass exterior wall and surrounding beer garden gives the entire building a certain airiness.
The bar boasts a large array of grog, for bottom-to top shelf drinkers, and there’s hookah for steam breathers. There’s even a separate bar for coffee drinkers, and a separate fishbowl kitchen for the pizzaiolo and his oven out back. I came to realise rather quickly who the target audience of this restaurant is, given the hookahs, the televisions and the fitout. With Lizzo’s ‘Juice’ interrupting a playlist dominated by Billie Eilish, this restaurant is looking for young up-and-comers—hence the social media presence.
Sitting at my table, I gaze across the menu—pizzas, pastas, burgers, and a couple of random other dishes are all thrown in. It’s a multi-cuisine restaurant. In terms of the restaurant’s priorities, it becomes clear that they want to push their pizza, so I consider that, but their Napolitana pie has olives and oregano. I try and ignore this red flag by ordering a Margherita. I see a biryani and order that too. A signature burger, you say? I’ll try that, as it must be good to have the restaurant's name on it. Finally, there are some spinach, corn and cheese momo sitting on the corner of the broadsheet menu. I consider it and considering how they could be either amazing or terrible, roll the dice.
The service thus far has been no short of fine. One of the seven staff serving this relatively deserted restaurant arrives and leaves quickly to give us time to order, and then comes back again.
The food then starts to arrive. The pizza is surprisingly fine, if definitions are to be ignored and Italian fundamentalists ignored. The dough is crispy but droops nicely under the cheesey weight. The sauce is rather nondescript and lacks sweetness or acidity. It is rather banal, but plays its role on the dough. Globs of grated mozzarella are plopped around the pizza, mimicking the traditional style with its wetter, whiter fior di latte brother. The pie is flecked with dried green herbs, probably basil, but that is more symbolic than actually flavoursome. It’s more like a mini New York slice, including the orange oil one associates with it, so I wonder why they don’t just call it that.
The burger is solid enough too. It’s an adequate attempt, but if the restaurant hangs its hat on quality, it’s rather alarming. It’s decked out with all the trimmings: sliced gherkins, American-style orange cheese, some hammy bacon and a buff patty, but the construction is all off. Why place the lettuce on the bottom to become all soggy and limp? The lettuce aside, the chef’s burger seems like more of a rissole, having likely added breadcrumbs and eggs, along with diced onions. It’s a novel enough idea to keep the patty moist, but the end result doesn’t taste much of buff and ends up being a bit too damp, leaving the bacon and cheese to dominate the flavour and the dry bread to absorb every bit of moisture to become a little too sloppy. There were caramelised onions in there too but they were just sweaty, sitting between with burger and the greens. There’s a symbolic salad that comes with the burger, which is drizzled, not dressed, with an oil-heavy dressing so it is rather naked. There are some freshly fried frozen fries too.
The biryani seems more like curry on rice, but upside down in a bowl. Topped with a quartered tomato and egg, and singed onion, and served with a generous plate of salad, the dish is a meal unto itself. The raita pretends to be cooling, but bites the tongue with the occasional green chilli hit, which is a rather necessary addition for this largely greasy dish. While the boneless dark meat used in the biryani’s bottom is rich and juicy, the entire dish is simply too oily. Digging down and pulling out a cross section of the biryani only reveals one or two layers of colour, and oil pools at the bottom. The end result is a claggy rice dominated by something that seems more like a curry than anything else.
Unfortunately, the worst came last. The spinach, corn and cheese momos looked interesting on the menu, but were insulting in the mouth. The spinach dominates everything, even the sweetness of the corn, as it’s overcooked, chewy and sliced in large chunks that even Popeye would struggle with. The cheese is a mere afterthought, just a coagulated mass on the bottom. It’s a resounding failure that I’d say looks better than it tastes, if it only looked good. The momos are like badly tied vagrants’ bindles. The sauce was fine, a rather thick one if that. But if you’re willing to order a dish just for its sauce, ask for a spoon.
While the food is certainly nothing groundbreaking, the ambience is what might keep customers coming back. The outdoor area is nice and relatively quiet, despite being on the roadside. The portions are hearty enough, and the food—except for the momos—scrapes in with a pass. While the restaurant screams entertainment, relaxation and enjoyment, deja vu was looming the entire time—everything screams Roadhouse and Mezze. And while I hoped the restaurant might be a culinary wolf dressed in sheep's clothing, it was old mutton dressed as young and fresh lamb, firmly within the predictable hospitality flock.
Prazada: Rs 210-1200pp