Finding an Indian restaurant with superb food has been a mission of mine ever since I arrived in the Bay Area ten years ago. And I finally found it at the New Delhi Restaurant in San Francisco, USA.
I took one of my British friends along, who loves Indian food as much as I do. We found a convenient underground parking lot a block away from the restaurant (next to an Enterprise car office), so it only took a minute or two to walk to the restaurant. Upon entering the restaurant, it was clear that this was a little fancier than the usual Indian joints we had frequented. With its white tablecloths, and a grand dining room featuring large columns with ornate wood carvings, we wondered if the food would live up to the impressive interior. We were greeted by the renowned chef and owner, Chef Ranjan Dey. With a welcoming smile, he showed us to our table. As we perused the menu, we chatted about my experience traveling through India, how he ended up in the Bay area, and the type of Indian recipes we both enjoyed. I kicked off our evening with a New Delhi sunset cocktail and my friend ordered a lychee martini - both were very good. The chef recommended we also try the Murky Bengali Martini. We were curious but unsure whether we would like it, so we ordered one to share. After just one sip, my friend immediately ordered one for herself - it was that GOOD. Spicy and aromatic and like nothing we had ever tasted. A combination of vodka infused with tangy tamarind and served with the largest olives we have ever seen which were imported directly from Jalpaiguri (the city of olives) in Bengal, India. After finishing our martinis, we munched away on the giant olives that garnished our drinks. A few seconds later, our mouths were on fire! Like ghost pepper fire. (I guess we should have read the drink description more carefully). We both like spice and heat, but this snuck up on us like a freight train at full speed. Bam! We missed the bit on the menu where it says the olives are marinated in spicy vinegar and ghost chilis for 21 days. Oops! Still, this drink is a MUST. It will blow your mind and transport you to another land. The flavors are so unusual and delicious in equal measure. If you don’t fancy it was blowing your head off, however, go easy when nibbling the olive. They are not for the faint of heart. The drink itself has a fair amount of kick, which we both loved. Recovering from our olive experience, we happily moved on to the food. Instead of ordering everything off the menu (because it all sounded so good), we went with the chef's tasting menu (which turned out to be a great option). We added a Chicken Tikka Masala too because it is our benchmark dish. First came a selection of yummy bite-sized starters that we washed down with a thirst-quenching Indian beer. Ironically neither of us are beer drinkers, but the beer was refreshing and perfect with our food. At this point, we had already decided we would be returning to the restaurant with our husbands. The entrees continued to impress our palettes. These consisted of Bombay saffron bhuna lamb (slowly simmered in saffron and cumin), delicate, delicious, and melted in our mouths. Murg Akbari was a creamy chicken dish with cashews, raisins, and grated paneer. I enjoyed the combination of flavors and the crunch of the nuts. And the Coconut Cilantro Goan Kofta had a nice herbal zing to it and helped balance out the creamy chicken dish. One of these dishes had quite a hot kick, but I am not sure which one. The Chicken Tikka Masala was excellent too. Rich, creamy, and packed with flavor. We didn’t need it as there was ample food, but we are glad we ordered it. We enjoyed Indian Rice, Pulloa Kabuli naan (which was filled with fruit and nuts), and garlic naan for sides. Our bellies might have been ready to explode at that point, but then the dessert arrived, and it would have been rude not to partake. A soothing Aam kheer (rice pudding with mango), gulab jamun (sweet cake-like ball), and chai tea. While I didn’t manage to finish it all, I enjoyed every single bite, and that warm chai hit the spot and helped wash it down. Overall, a wonderful experience, and we can’t wait to return. Finally, our hunt for superb Indian food is over.