New Delhi, India
September 20, 2012
To get to Diva Piccola, walk straight down the main village road until you’re almost at the gate leading into the historical monuments around Hauz Khas. Keep an eye on your left, above street level. You can’t miss the bright orange ‘Diva Piccola’ sign: the restaurant, with its plate glass windows lined with pot plants, overlooks the street. Just after you’ve passed below the windows, there’s a narrow corridor to the left; head in here, and you’ll come to the staircase that goes up to the restaurant. Like most (all?) other restaurants in Hauz Khas, there’s no lift here. Fortunately, though, since Diva’s one the first floor, it’s not much of a climb for most people.
Inside, Diva Piccola is ‘piccola’ (small): there are only about 35 or so covers. But the décor is unfussy and uncluttered, with a few tasteful (quirky? Fish wearing chef’s hats?) illustrations on beige-patterned walls, dark rope-and-wood chairs, and table runners of thick brown paper. It’s classy, but in a comfortable, unpretentious way.
We were seated, and handed menus almost as soon as we arrived. Diva has a decent wine list, and a selection of drinks, both soft as well as alcoholic, but we settled for a fresh lemonade each. The menu has a tempting range of antipasti, pasta, pizzas, secondi (main courses) and dolce—all of which we wanted to taste—but, since prior experience has led us to realise that we really can’t manage three-course meals, we decided on a main course and a dessert each. My husband ordered a grilled tenderloin with parmesan and rocket, while I ordered a pork piccata with ham and cheese. We were offered a choice of mashed potatoes or spinach with our dishes; I asked for the spinach, my husband the potatoes (he was, shortly after, informed that mashed potatoes weren’t available, but sliced sautéed ones were, so that was changed).
While our food was being prepared, a pretty red-weave basket of good soft focaccia was placed on our table, so we finished that off with generous sprinkles of the extra virgin olive oil at the table.
The food, when it arrived, ended up being good and a little disappointing too. My husband’s tenderloin—medium-rare, as he’d requested—was cooked well, but served with only the minimum mentioned: two long strips of parmesan, a heap of fresh rocket leaves (with balsamic vinegar drizzled over), and a helping of sautéed potatoes. The beef had a very little jus, and though it tasted good, could have probably been better with a little extra jus on the side.
In the case of the pork piccata, the meat itself wasn’t very good: it was thin, like a piccata should be, but sinewy and tough in places. Either a bad cut, or not trimmed adequately. It was, however, covered over with lots of deliciously melting cheese and chopped ham, which tasted fabulous. The large helping of spinach on the side was possibly the best European-style spinach dish I’ve had, sautéed with chopped onion, salt, pepper and toasted pine nuts. Simple, and delicious.
For dessert, my husband and I ended up choosing the same item: Campari and orange cake. Since we did want to taste a larger range of dishes, though, I ordered a panna cotta with berry sauce instead. The dessert took a long time coming—more than 10 minutes, which was really too long, considering both seemed to just have needed plating up, not cooking. My vanilla-flavoured panna cotta was velvety and creamy, the berry sauce a nicely tart and fresh counterfoil to the richness of the panna cotta. The Campari and orange cake was beautifully moist, and had a gorgeous citrusy flavour (a little low on Campari, but I didn’t mind that). It came with a swirl of citrus sauce, which I (from the spoonful I took as a sample) thought was great too. My husband, when he’d finished his dish, did say that he wished there’d been more sauce.
Our bill came to a total of Rs 2,244, inclusive of taxes and service charge. That is a little steep, but the food was, on the whole, good, as was the service (unobtrusive and polite—they apologised for the delay in the dessert, even though we hadn’t complained; a refreshing change from the usual Delhi restaurant). I’d certainly go back here.
From journal The Many Flavours of Hauz Khas Village