On Saturday night, EazyDiner will announce the names of winnersof the Foodie Awards at a glittering function at the Oberoi, Gurgaon.
These awards have been voted for by thousands of users of EazyDinerand are the only popular food awards in India with any credibility. They arenot linked to sponsorship or advertising and the voting process is sowatertight that even I would not know who the winners are till the envelopesare opened on the stage that night. Only the guys at KPMG who willindependently tally the votes will know.
That is why we call these Delhi’s Food Oscars! But, there willalso be a second set of more arbitrary and subjective awards. For over a decadenow, I have been making my own list of awardees in the hotel and restaurantsector. I do not claim that these awards are totally objective or foolproof.They are just my personal favourites.
So here, in no particular order, are this year’s winners.
Best CasualDining (Indian) Farzi Cafe, Connaught Place
The original Farzi at Cyber Hub revolutionised the way youngpeople looked at Indian food by making it seem fun and funky. The ConnaughtPlace branch is a refinement of the original: hipness in the very center ofLutyen’s Delhi.
Best Indian(Traditional) Dum Pukht
No surprises here. The best North Indian/Awadhi food prepared toancient (and secret) recipes with the best possible ingredients. A class act.
Best ModernIndian (Standalone) Indian Accent
It is a funny thing but shortly after Indian Accent opened and Ibegan giving this award (and two Chef of the Year awards to Manish Mehrotra),people kept asking “where is this place?” or “what is Indian Accent?.” Nobodyasks that now. The best modern Indian restaurant in the world. Period.
Best ModernIndian (Hotel) Amaranta
When Amaranta opened, it focused on fresh seafood that the chefhad flown in from the coast. The fish dishes are still terrific, but the foodhas gone beyond fish to attain a high standard of excellence, overall.
BestEuropean (Standalone) Diva
There have been so many pretenders to her crown over the years,but Ritu Dalmia is still Delhi's first and best Diva! Her flagship restauranthas actually got better even as Ritu has branched out into other cuisines ather other places.
BestEuropean (Hotel) Le Cirque
Could it really be true that the food at the Delhi Le Cirque isbetter than the New York original? Well, that is what lots of people who haveeaten at both seem to think. This is the classiest, most elegant Europeanrestaurant in India.
BestChinese China Kitchen
If you want quality, you must be prepared to pay for it. ChinaKitchen remains India’s best Chinese restaurant because Hyatt Regency iswilling to pay expat salaries to half a dozen chefs from the Chinese mainland.Because the chefs do not speak English, the hotel pays for an interpreter aswell.
The results show in the food: extraordinary and authentic.
BestOriental (Standalone) Town Hall
When Augusto Cabrera left the Oberoi, found partners andset up this massive multi-cuisine restaurant in the heart of Khan Market, Iwondered how he would do. But Town Hall is packed out every day and Augusto’ssushi is among the finest in the city.
BestOriental (Hotel) Tian
Vikramjeet Roy is, without doubt, one of the most talented chefsof his generation and at Tian, his individualistic takes on the food of EastAsia leaves diners oohing and aahing.
Best All DayDining Delhi Pavilion
This is easily the best Delhi cuisine at any upmarket restaurantin India. But what makes Delhi Pavilion work is that the rest of the food isalso wonderful: coffee shop fare with a twist.
BestRegional Indian Sodabottleopenerwala
It is a great day for Indian cuisine when the best regionalrestaurant in Delhi is a perfect replica of a Mumbai-style Irani restaurantwith a mainly Parsi menu.
I like both branches but of late, I have grown partial tothe Khan Market outlet.
Best FoodChain Mamagoto
I went to the first Mamagoto because I was sure that the foodwould be good: I knew how talented the ladies who consulted on the cuisinewere. What I did not expect was, that the owners would be able to turn it intoa chain so quickly and still maintain the food quality.
Opening of the Year Delhi Club House
Marut Sikka is the King when it comes to North Indian cateringand food so I had no idea he would be even more successful when he branched outinto new areas. This is one of Delhi’s hottest restaurants, serving delicioustakes on the food of India’s clubs.
F&BProfessional of the Year Suveer Sodhi
After a disastrous start, Shangri La has finally found its feetagain with three new restaurants. Much of the credit for these openings goes toSodhi whose resume includes the Hyatt Regency, Setz, and Dusit Devarana. A manto watch.
PR Person ofthe Year Mallika Dasgupta
Hotel PR is a difficult art to master but Dasgupta who handlesboth the Trident and The Oberoi in Gurgaon has performed brilliantly perhapsbecause she works so tirelessly and because, as a person trained in operations,she understands what the business is about.
Chef of theYear Ramon Salto
The greatest chefs cook with passion and Ramon has plenty ofthat. He has turned the kitchens of the Gurgaon Leela around by transferringthat passion to his team. Superb food at every outlet.
MostInnovative General Manager Nitesh Gandhi
How does a Trident hold its own when it is next to a hotel asspectacular as the Gurgaon Oberoi? It is next to impossible but Nitesh has doneit, giving his hotel an identity of its own and ensuring that it is not dwarfedby the success of the behemoth next door.
Hotel of theYear The Leela Ambience
I will be honest. I always wrote this hotel off. But thetransformation over the last year demonstrates what a good General Manager cando. Under Michel Koopman, this is suddenly a hotel to reckon with. Terrificfood and great service.
LifetimeAchievement Award Jayaram Banan
His life story is the stuff of movies. He ran away from home asa small boy and got a job washing dishes in a canteen. Today Banan runs anempire of hundreds of restaurants and hotels. Most important: He is the man whotaught North Indians how to relish dosas and love idlis.
GeneralManager of the Year Satyajeet Krishnan
Being General Manager of the Taj must be the most difficult jobin Delhi. Because of tiresome legal disputes these are question marks about thefuture of the lease. Because of these question marks, you are hesitant aboutmaking huge investments in the property. Your hotel was designed in 1978 so therooms are small. And so on.
And yet, Satyajeet Krishnan, probably the Taj group’s mostcerebral and sophisticated General Manager, manages to make guests feel thatnone of this matters. He creates such an air of effortless luxury and warmththroughout the property, that the Taj remains Delhi’s top hotel, no matter whatits problems are.