If you visit Punjabi Bagh and Rajouri Garden only occasionally, you might notice a curious trend in that part of the world. All the new restaurants coming up in that neck of the woods serve a multitude of cuisines. Take the newly opened Bottoms Up on Club Road, Punjabi Bagh. You will get Ramen noodles, Mexican tacos, South African bunny chow, Turkish lahmacun and butter poached shrimp in Thai vinaigrette. But look closely at the menu and you’ll see, between mac n cheese and penne arrabiata lurks pasta with butter chicken. In other words, while there is an Indian dish or three, it is hardly the centre of focus of the menu.
It is the same with virtually every restaurant on that particular stretch of road. The only North Indian restaurant, Bawarchi, has closed down, leaving only Bikanervala holding the fort. For the rest of it, it’s a shock to learn that the bastion of North Indian dining – Punjabi Bagh – is changing its tastes and going lighter, with less spice and hardly any oil. But, what is the reason of this transformation? There are many theories being bandied about. The first one is that the taste buds of children and young adults have really changed. “We find Indian food boring” is a common refrain among the 15-25 age-group. The second is the pattern of dining out is really undergoing a metamorphosis. Today, hardly anyone actually dines with their parents. Thirdly, when you go to a Club Road bar or restaurant, you are bound to meet friends and acquaintances, so the whole experience becomes as convivial as a club. The older generation who are die-hard takers for North Indian food order in from the tiny places that dot the area, who have no seating but deliver quite happily.
The only casualty will probably be desi khana.