I’ve been hoarding this one for ages.
I first encountered Daddy’s Deli in 2002. At that time, friend-of-many-years Rajesh Nair was subsisting on their egg and chutney sandwiches and chicken subs – to the point where the delivery boy would arrive with a garland and agarbathis and perform a brief pooja prior to handing over the food. Um, yes – of course I’m joking, but only just.
At that time, the Parsi owners, Zarine and Nozer Daroga intended Daddy’s Deli to be just that – a deli that dished out sandwiches, subs, and burgers. When they outgrew the Richmond Town property, they shifted to Koramangala, and after a brief and unsuccessful stint there, to their current location in Indiranagar. Along the way, Daddy’s Deli morphed into a full-fledged restaurant serving home-style Parsi food.
Parsi Cuisine: Persian Culinary Art Meets Gujarati Palate
Our first visit to the restaurant’s current location, many months ago, was instigated by JJ Cherian (of haleem fame). I was surprised to hear that Daddy’s Deli was still alive – and apparently kicking – in another location. Here’s the sum total of my knowledge of Parsi cuisine:
Parsi cuisine is the result of the Persian culinary tradition colliding with the Gujarati palate. Persian refugees fleeing Arab invaders were allowed to settle in Gujarat on condition that they laid down arms and adopted certain local customs. Over the years, they assimilated the Gujarati language, sartorial style, and, of course, culinary practices, while maintaining their own distinct identity. Thus cereals, pulses, and the sweet and sour flavors typically associated with Gujarati cuisine meld with the dried fruits, spices, and meats favored by the Persian settlers.
These sometimes startling ingredient combinations have resulted in delectable dishes like dhansak (literally translated as lentils and greens, but featuring red meat); jardaloo ma murghi (chicken cooked with dried apricots); and kummas (a kind of cake made with yoghurt).
The four of us trouped into Daddy’s Deli at lunchtime on a Saturday afternoon armed with empty bellies and a bare-bones knowledge of Parsi cuisine. The restaurant is tucked discreetly away in a service apartment called Executive Inn, also run by the Darogas, on the part of Indiranagar 12th Main that’s closer to the ESI Hospital.
Since our first visit, the ground floor has been turned into a café serving the original Deli menu plus an all-day breakfast. The Parsi restaurant is located on the first floor (lunch 12.30pm-3pm; dinner 7.30pm-11pm). While it isn’t fancy, it’s cheerful and charming. The tables are set with crisp linen; inset shelving at the rear houses a collection of ceramic plates; a selection of old National Geographics shares space on a sideboard with Readers Digests and racier, Cosmopolitan-type magazines.
Zarine took our order herself, ably guiding us through the menu, bantering with Giant Vacuum Cleaner and Mr. Small, and reacting with increasing alarm to the growling sounds emanating from The Spouse’s innards.
If we once again ordered too much, there were plenty of good reasons. As a “typical” Parsi dish, the dhansak was a must; we all love brain, so the brain cutlets were essential; the sali murghi featured grated potatoes, one of the hallmarks of the cuisine, so that was a must. And so on and so forth…
I think Zarine was disbelieving when I told her we had a collective appetite the size of Texas. She was left in no doubt an hour or so later, when our plates were cleared – they didn’t need to be washed. And now that she knows us better, over several visits, I suspect she asks the chef to get ready for the long haul as soon as she sees me arrive.
We began with Chicken Liver on Toast (Rs. 150). The toast, I am happy to report, was not your standard “sliced white” – it looked more like bruschetta bread, a sturdy French or Italian loaf that didn’t disintegrate with the liver topping. The liver itself was cooked firm, nice and peppery.
Next up, Brain Cutlets (Rs. 150). A full-on food brawl ensued, because there were only two cutlets, and four people (make that three people plus one Vacuum Cleaner). Spouse and I won, by virtue of being the ones footing the bill.
The cutlets were large, and coated in an egg batter that could have been more crisp and less oily (on a subsequent visit, many months later, this problem had been rectified). The cutlet itself was creamy, with just a hint of green chilli and onion to liven things up. I don’t quite know how this was accomplished in a cutlet of that size, but the brain wasn’t scrambled – there were large enough chunks of it that the texture was apparent. [Amusing aside: apparently people often enquire whether the restaurant uses “chicken or lamb brain”. Chicken brain?? Hahahahahaha.]
Main Course, Of Course
We were now ready for the real food, and ordered dhansak and kebabs to go with it, khichri kheemo, patra ni machhi, and sali murghi with rotli.
The patra ni machhi (Rs. 200), literally translated as “fish in leaf”, was amongst the best I have tasted. The fish (pomfret, that day) was fresh and steamed until it just lost its translucence – not a second longer.
The coriander, mint, and coconut chutney marinade added flavor without overwhelming that of the fish. A deft squeeze of lemon rounded out the whole very nicely indeed.
… And Now The Dhansak
There are as many dhansaks as there are Parsis – and although the Parsi tribe is fast diminishing (estimates hover at just over 80,000 Parsis worldwide, with less than 1000 the majority based in and around Mumbai), that still makes for a wide range of dhansak variations.
Daddy’s Deli serves a version (Rs. 250) that features pumpkin but not gourd. It’s a thick, rich blend of spices and four kinds of lentils, enriched with lamb broth and served with brown rice – caramelized, not unpolished – and a kachumber-style salad. I loved the dhansak’s texture and depth of flavor. The deep fried kebabs (Rs. 200) that accompanied it were tasty, but quite frankly, incidental to the dhansak.
So did I like it? While I’m sure dhansak aficionados will have their own views, I haven’t sampled enough variants to have become as ultra-picky as I am with everything else. That said, I’ve eaten the stuff before, home-cooked by friends. I’d give the Daddy’s Deli version an 7.5 on 10. Have I tasted better? Maybe – but the Parsi lady who fed it to me died a few years ago at the age of 92, God bless her soul. Besides, it’d be more accurate to say I’ve tasted different versions of dhansak. Go, try it, and if you like it, thank me. If you don’t – talk to Zarine, not me 🙂
I loved the Kheemo Khichri (Rs. 250) for its flawless blend of spices. It’s easy, when you are cooking this kind of seemingly simple dish, to misstep: the spices end up scorched or, more often than not, raw. Sometimes the flavor of one spice can overwhelm the others; sometimes, the whole can taste so bland that you’re left wondering whether salt was the only condiment that was available in the kitchen. Daddy’s Deli obviously knows what it’s doing with this one. It was perfectly balanced, with just a hint of sweetness that I couldn’t quite figure out. And the khichra – yellow rice – was an apt accompaniment. I ended up doggie-bagging some of this, and eating it later with bakery-fresh pav. Delish!
The bright red Sali Murghi (Rs. 200) was smothered in crisp potato straws (the sali) that provided a nice crunchy texture and starchy offset to what would otherwise be an ordinary chicken curry. The subsequent mandatory “finger test” showed that the restaurant does not use food coloring – my fingers came out of the fingerbowl unstained.
Yes, they serve a limited range of interesting vegetarian options, including Parsi-style okra; spinach with baby potatoes; yellow rice and spiced gourd; and steamed rice with pumpkin and brinjal. Have I tried any of them? Do pigs fly?
We ended this meal with Lagan Nu Custard, a baked custard of bread and milk traditionally served at Parsi weddings. Mr. Small managed to put away two of the large wedges, as well as an extremely creamy home-made kulfi. Both (Rs. 75 each) are highly recommended. So is the chocolate mousse, at the same price, which I sampled on another visit. SUPER WOW. I have also heard rumors of an awesome cheesecake – but try as I might, I cannot find it on either of the menus.
If the Parsi restaurant gets full marks, the lower floor café falls short.
The good: it’s a nice place to hang out, the WiFi is free, it’s open 9am to 9pm, and the service is friendly and willing. The Parsi breakfast dishes are apparently a good bet – a friend reported that her kheema-pe-eeda (Rs. 150) was “as good as any I’ve had in Mumbai” and kept her going till her 4pm cuppa. I myself have sampled scrambled eggs and toast (Rs. 75), good; frankfurters (Rs.75), okay; and a pot of tea (Rs. 40), good.
The bad: The waffles (Rs. 120), on two separate occasions, were either burnt, or stodgy. The chocolate milkshake (Rs. 60) was watery and overly sweet (I suspect it was just chocolate powder/syrup and sugar added to milk). There’s no fresh juice.
And the downright ugly: The burger (Rs. 120). The bun was dry and crumbly (something they are aware of and addressing by changing the supplier); the patty had been coated in an egg batter and fried (shudder); its inside was therefore raw; and it had been topped with a slice of cucumber. Giant Vacuum Cleaner’s 6″ Roast Beef Sub had a lot of potential, because the beef was
excellent; unfortunately all that potential was drowned in a flood of mustard that attempted in vain to moisten the dry bread roll. Uncool.
Perhaps, in time, the café issues will be remedied, because it is a fairly new venture, and I do know two things: one, Zarine really takes customer feedback seriously; and two, Daddy’s Deli is one of those family-run businesses that actively wants to do right by its customers.
Until then, stick to the Parsi fare, and you can’t go wrong.
#3289, 12th Main
HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar
Bangalore – 560 008.
Closed on Mondays.