New Delhi, India
March 11, 2013
The Great Kabab Factory, unlike Arza Bibi Kebab or Khan Chacha, is a fine dining restaurant, spacious, smart and with good, efficient service. A glass plate outside lists the menu for the day (it’s table d’hôte, and changes daily). There are plate glass windows on all sides, and the décor is dominated by dark wood and deep blue—light shades, glassware on tables, even backdrops for beautiful beaten-metal utensils hung on the walls.
We didn’t have any reservations (and it was just about 9 PM on Friday—by Delhi/NOIDA standards, early), so we thought it wouldn’t be a problem. But the restaurant was full, and we were asked if we didn’t mind waiting; a table would be available within five minutes. They were true to their word, and five minutes later, we were seated.
The good thing about TGKF is that you don’t need to do any choosing (except for beverages—alcohol is available, as are a range of soft drinks. Our group unanimously chose fresh lemonade). All you have to do is tell your waiter whether you’re opting for the vegetarian or non-vegetarian menu, and then you can sit back and enjoy the meal.
We ordered our drinks, said we were all non-vegetarian, and then waited for the food to arrive. Our drinks came in a couple of minutes, along with the condiments: quarter plates of sliced raw onions (a must with kababs), and shot glasses with four types of chutney: a tomato one, a green coriander one, a tart-sweet tamarind one, and a thin raita-like yoghurt chutney. Then, a waiter came by with an amuse bouche: sliced cucumber, wedges of fresh tomato and ripe papaya, served with a spoonful of strawberry sauce on the side. This was refreshing, though all five of us thought that a little tartness or spice in the sauce would’ve added a nice contrast to the general sweetness of the course.
Then came the first course, which is the kababs. The way this is done is: they have a fixed set of 5-6 kababs for the day, and those are brought one at a time, fresh and hot from the tandoor or griddle, along with breads of different types. You can begin eating, and once you’ve sampled the entire lot, you can decide which ones you want repeated (you could ask for all; it’s an all-you-can-eat meal, quite literally).
We were served galouti kabab (silken and utterly soft), tangri kabab (made from chicken legs, and absolutely delicious), chicken tikka, mutton seekh (this one wasn’t a favourite; the chilli was too much even for us), and an excellent fish tikka, which had been made by deep-frying thin fillets of batter-coated fish. Along with these we were served small ulta tawa ka parathas (soft and thin), sheermal (thickish, buttery and crisp), and baakarkhaani (thick, dense, distinctly sweet, and studded with fennel seeds). My husband and my brother-in-law opted for seconds for the galouti kabab, but I wanted to leave space for the main course.
After we’d finally said "no" to the last of the kababs, we asked for the main course to be served up. This is where you can order the bread you’d like: plain or buttered naan, tandoori roti, lacchha paratha, roomali roti, etc. Like the rotis in the kabab course, these too are made smaller than the regular size, which allows you to try out different types of breads without feeling too stuffed.
With our rotis came the main curries: a staple (and very buttery and good) dal makhani, a dal tadka (tempered yellow dal, which we passed up), a chicken curry (which we also passed up—we were rather full by now), and an arbi masala, sliced taro roots cooked in a spicy thick gravy. Also served up with this was mutton biryani, which I liked (not very spicy, and with both the mutton and rice cooked to the right degree).
By this time, we were all so full that when the waiter came around asking us what we’d like repeated, all we could do was shake our heads and say no, thank you. So he brought on the dessert course. Here, the first thing to be served up—pista kulfi, on bamboo skewer-like sticks—was the best of the lot: creamy, not too sweet, and perfectly (kulfis that have ice crystals are unfortunately far too common).
Having finished off the kulfi, we were then presented with the rest of the desserts: the waiter came to our table and put down two portions each of four different desserts (he offered to bring us more of whatever we liked out of those, but we declined—all of us were already too full to even eat all of what was on the table). Of these, my sister had a moong dal ka halwa, made from soaked, ground skinned moong (mung beans), sugar—and traditionally, lots of ghee. TGKF’s moong dal ka halwa was a relatively low fat one, but still delicious.
I gave the gulabjamuns a miss (I am not a fan of very sweet desserts), but decided to taste the rasgullas with rabri instead: little balls of cottage cheese, soaked in a light syrup, and served with thickened sweetened milk. Unfortunately, the rasgullas turned out to be blindingly sweet, and the rabri, while good, was in too small a quantity to adequately compensate.
The one dessert I’d never tasted before was a muzzafar; I hadn’t even heard of this earlier. But the fact that I’m an author, and that my main fictional creation is named Muzaffar, made me want to give this a try. Muzzafar turned out to be very thin vermicelli, deep-fried in ghee, with sugar, melon seeds and slivered almonds: tasty, but a trifle too rich for me.
On our way out of the restaurant, we stopped by at the counter which bears complimentary mouth fresheners, including sweetened fennel seeds, rock sugar, and paans. The paan was a befitting end to the meal: the leaf beautifully tender, the filling fine, and in the correct proportions. A good end to a generally good kabab dinner.
We paid Rs 6,168 for the five of us. This included taxes and service charges, but also a 15% discount, which was valid on all American Express credit cards (the TGKF at the MGF Metropolitan Mall in Saket offers 20% on Visa). Certainly a very good deal, keeping in mind the overall quality of food and service—plus the fact that, if we had the capacity for it, we could’ve actually eaten a lot more!
From journal Kabab Town: Finding Delhi's Best Kababs