~~By Kingson Chingakham
Our love for eastern delicacies remains limited to momos and noodles. But the far east has more options to offer that will give you irrevocable love. Not washing out from the well-conditioned Indian thalis, the Nagaland Kitchen in Delhi adds the charm of the indigenous ethnicity of the Naga through its healthy thalis.
About the restaurant
The demand of north east cuisine is ever increasing in the capital city. The Nagaland’s Kitchen serves as the best destination to get a taste of the authentic Naga cuisines. The restaurant is located in Green Park, at a distance of around 350 meters from the Green Park metro station. The restaurant’s history dates back to 2010 when Mr. Chubamanen Longkumer felt the need of north east presence through its food and culture. He belongs to the Aoe tribe and was born in Dimpaur.
The interiors of the restaurant is well decorated and gives you a maximum distance representation of Naga tribe through the sculptures and pictures of tribes celebrating different festivals and ceremonies. The walls, decorated with- spears, headdress and other accessories made of shells and beads of the different tribes, make you feel at home. The most spectacular design of the restaurant is the bamboo decorations like huts. The restaurant is developed in the studio model and has a capacity of 56 sittings. Besides the Naga cuisine, diners can choose the options from thai and chinese presented in fusion form.
Surveying the menu makes it really easy as the listing has been done accurately. The food and bar menu gives space for small descriptions of the food and drinks, making it easier for the diners to get the best. The choices in each category are well balanced and helps the diners put things together for a meal. The pricing has been rightly done in comparison with other outlets which serves north east cuisines. The bar menu has selections in each price category- there are alcohol, mocktails, cocktails, soft drinks and beverages. There are plenty choices available to choose under everyone’s budget.
Chef Lapcha takes the entire responsibility of the kitchen. He manages both the kitchens in Green Park and Dilli Haat. He belongs to Nagaland and has served three years in Nagaland’s Kitchen. The staff is cordial and can expect good hospitality. The staff wears Aoe tribe’s traditional printed waistcoats. They are well aware with the menu and helps the diners choose the best available dishes to their liking. Questions of Naga cuisines are answered articulately by all the staff members and shows a high level of awareness of the Naga cuisines. They exactly know the right time to check whether the diners need anything extra periodically.
The restaurant calls it the ‘ooh’ factor. It is the raja chilli, an indispensable component of the Naga cuisines, which was once considered as the world’s hottest chilli pepper. So, the eagerness to try the ‘ooh’ factor made me to start with an appetizer- Smoked Chicken with Raja Chilli. The nutshell review is that it gets spicy but definitely keeps you longing for more after finishing your plate. Remember pani puri? It is exactly the same. The dish was not extremely spicy but was well balanced with all the flavors intact. It goes well with Jamaican Green- a blend of pineapple juice, blue curacao and fresh cream. If you feel that your mouth is burning at any point, this creamy drink will help you sooth.
It will be an incomplete meal, if you miss the bamboo shoot delicacies in the Nagaland’s Kitchen. From the main course, what attracted me the most was the Chicken Bamboo Shoot with Naga Ginger. The steam rice in Naga style went together with the dish. The Chicken Bamboo shoot with Naga Ginger definitely lives up to the expectation of stew food . The mustard leaves added extra flavor on it. Surprisingly, the dish is well complemented with the smashed potatoes and the spicy fish chutney. But on the negative side, the small chunks of ginger pieces made uncomfortable while eating. The virgin mojito had some issues because of the extra ice on it. The drink started losing its taste as soon as the ice started melting. Though the appetizer took around 5-10 minutes to reach the table, the main course took longer around 15 minutes.
The blueberry cheese cake was the highlight. It was soft and goey. The texture was perfectly balanced with the fresh sweet and sour blueberries complementing the cheese base. It came with Vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce as complementary. It was an unusual combination though complimentary and did not work out well for me. It is better to avoid the vanilla ice cream.
The presentation of the plates need to be focused more. For example, the smoke chicken with Raja chilli was served on a plate layered by a banana leaf only. It needs to get little more creative in designing and decorating the plates to appeal the diners. The plain presentation sometime do not work even if it taste great. Therefore, Nagaland Kitchen should work on making the food visually appealing.
Other things to try
Smoked pork and chicken thali – Consisting of steamed rice, boiled clear vegetables, simple yellow dal, rosep aon, chutney, mashed potatoes, steamed fish and a spicy pork curry version or simple chicken curry. The zests might get a little too authentic to match North Indian palate. But the meats are traditionally tough and healthy.
Raja Mircha Bloody Mary– At Nagaland’s Kitchen, Apart from the two main ingredients, tomato juice and celery, which are full of replenishing vitamins , this drink comes with Raja Mircha instead of tobasco . Naga herbs are also added. The tickling sensation which the tongue confronts from the Raja Mircha-induced spiciness is to die for.
Pork ribs with raja mircha dip – Crisp skin, well rendered fat and the tender meat on the ribs, paired with the spicy raja mircha dip. The pork ribs are the undisputed winner for the pork lovers.
The restaurant preserves the unique feature of Naga cooking i.e the absence of fried food. All the dishes are stewed, steamed or roasted. I will definitely visit again to taste the spicy raja chilli. The sea food is yet to be explored and would love to see how it is cooked in Naga style. Hopefully Nagaland Kitchen will work on executing the feedback. The blueberry cheese cake is definitely calling me back.
Value for money: 4/5
(The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for restaurant and food reviews)