New Delhi, India
November 15, 2012
We put that down to teething troubles, and decided to give Chilis another chance. Surely they’d have got their act together by now? And, looking through the glass walls into the cheerful interiors (red-and-white patterned tiles on the tables; cheery posters advertising their burgers; even a cute model aeroplane with a fat red chilly as a pilot), we could see very few tables empty. Chilis is obviously popular.
So, in we went, and were quickly seated, and menus handed over. The Chilis menu has appetisers, soups, salads, chili, main courses, burgers, and sandwiches, and cheese, jalapenos, chipotles, beans, and other flavours typical of Mexico (and known to Indians as being so) dominate the menu. The front cover of the menu featured a garlic and chile-rubbed chicken breast (with a chipotle aioli and melted cheese, among other interesting-sounding sides), so I picked that as a main course. My husband chose a similar dish, but with tenderloin as the meat. For a starter, I ordered a crispy onion strings and green pepper stack, while my husband settled for a cup of chili (you can order a bowl as well—it’s a large soup plate, and good for a main course, if you order a side with it). For drinks, we skipped the alcohol (lots of tequila on the beverage menu, though), and ordered a fresh lemonade each.
Our drinks arrived a couple of minutes later, and the waiter came back to check how my husband wanted the tenderloin. He looked a bit puzzled when he was told "medium rare", but noted it down—and was back again after a visit to the kitchen. "We only do medium, medium well done, and well done," he said. "Which do you want?"Chilis obviously has a chef who has no idea how steaks are cooked.This time, since we weren’t in a mood to argue and ask for the chef to be called, we simply said, "Medium."
About five minutes later, the starters arrived, and were actually quite nice. My husband’s bowl of chili, hot off the stove, was chockfull of beans, beef, and a good dollop of melted cheese top—very hearty and warming. My ‘crispy onion strings and green pepper stack’ was crisp, all right, but wasn’t a stack by any stretch of imagination—more a heap, actually. The batter was light and crisp, like a tempura, and the little bowl of ranch dressing was a good dip.
Digging into our starters, we figured we’d done a good thing by giving Chilis a second chance. "They’re pretty good, actually," I said.
And, Chilis proved me wrong with the main course. We had very similar dishes—a garlic-and-chile rubbed bit of meat (chicken for me, medium-done tenderloin for my husband), grilled and served with a drizzle of chipotle aioli and some melted cheese, with mashed potatoes on the side, corn/bean/bell pepper salsa, green beans, and bacon bits. The problems? Here:1. The meat was overdone in both cases. My chicken was overcooked to the point of being dry and bordering on stringy; my husband’s steak was well-done, not medium.2. The mash was dry and slightly chalky. A huge portion (about the size of a tea cup), but quantity doesn’t make up for quality.3. Like the potatoes, the green beans too were abundant—a huge heap of them, sitting atop the bacon bits. But some beans had discoloured spots, some were tough, and a couple were stringy.4. The bacon appeared to have been chopped, fried to a crisp, and then left to sit. By the time it was served up, it was soggy; my husband said that some of the bacon on his plate was even tasting a bit rancid.
Neither of us could finish the main course—we left a good bit of the mash and the beans—so dessert was still a question. Would we, wouldn’t we? I, however, had noticed a ‘Southern peaches’ featured on the back cover of the menu, and being a fruit fanatic, decided I had to have that. My husband said he’d skip dessert and have a spoonful from my pudding instead. This turned out to be a wise decision because the Southern peaches was an enormous portion. The dish itself is similar to a peach cobbler—made with canned peaches, baked in a batter, sprinkled with powdered cinnamon, and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and some chopped walnuts. I hadn’t been expecting a slab of dessert four inches across and about two inches high, with a scoop of ice cream that would fit into a teacup with difficulty.
Fortunately my husband was willing to help finish it off, so we spilt the dessert two ways—and still had trouble eating all of it. While it was pleasant enough (my husband thought there should’ve been more fruit), the walnuts were definitely rancid and detracted from the otherwise ‘not-bad’ aspect of the dish.
We paid Rs 1,748 for our meal, inclusive of taxes and service charges. By Delhi standards, that isn’t cheap; and, considering the substandard food we’ve had here on both occasions… we aren’t going back.
From journal Delhi: A Mixed Bunch of Restaurants