By some odd coincidence, this is the third consecutive week that I’ve had a weekend lunch at a restaurant that had first started off in Hauz Khas Village. Yeti proved that a change in location could actually work for the better, with a more spacious, airy feel and better accessibility (and food as good as before). Elma’s was a disappointment, which made me realize how far a restaurant could fall.
Rosang Café began, for my husband and I, with a clean slate, since we’d never been to the Hauz Khas Village Rosang Café. My husband read about this one—in Green Park, which also houses the Japanese restaurant Tamura and another North-Eastern restaurant, The Nagaland Kitchen—and we decided it sounded tempting enough to try out.
Rosang Café in Green Park has one problem: the parking, which is a mess all across the complex (and so not really this restaurant’s fault). On the other hand, the good thing about the café is that it’s almost at street level—just a couple of steps up from the road, so if you have problems with climbing lots of stairs, it’s convenient. Inside, it’s a small, comfortable little space, just a few cosy wooden tables, bench-like seating (some with backs, some not), upholstered with white-and-red, very ‘typical’ North-Eastern fabric. There are pretty bamboo blinds on the windows, some truly lovely framed photographs of people from the North-East, and a manager who’s friendly and chatty.
The menu makes Rosang Café unique, in that this is the only restaurant in Delhi which serves food from all the eight North-Eastern states (Sikkim included). It’s a mouthwatering menu, covering everything from what the typical Dilliwallah expects of the North-East (momos, noodles, and thukpa) to lesser-known delicacies, of which I’d only tasted, in the past, iromba, bilahi masor tenga, and dohneiihong. After much pondering, discussion and dithering, we ordered a starter—pork spare ribs—followed by bai (a Mizo vegetable stew), arsa chhum (a no-oil chicken stew with herbs and lime leaves, also from Mizoram), and wild red rice. To drink, both of us settled for a fresh lime soda each (note: Rosang Café doesn’t serve alcohol).
The fresh lime soda arrived soon after, and was decent as far as flavour was concerned, but with only one swiftly melting cube of ice in each glass. It turned out that they were out of ice. Not a surprise, considering Delhi had just hit a 19-year high as far as daytime temperatures go, just the previous day. We let it pass, also because the soda itself was cool enough.
What really impressed us was what followed: the pork spare ribs. This was a portion consisting of two ribs, each with a gloriously thick frill of fat bordering the meat, rubbed all over with a fiery-looking red spice and herb rub. Alongside was a chutney made of raja mirch. My husband, thanks to a boss who hails from Darjeeling and knows his bhoot jholokia from his dalla and his raja mirch, has acquired a taste for fiery chillies, and got thoroughly excited at the sight of the chutney.
I’ll confess I approached the chutney with some trepidation: it looked evil. But it was actually less fiery than I thought it would be: in fact, a very judicious mix of chillies and something else (I couldn’t figure out what) to dilute the heat. The spare ribs themselves were out of this world: beautifully cooked, tender, the fat almost custard-like in its doneness. Both of us agreed these were possibly the best pork ribs we’ve had in Delhi.
With that superb start, Rosang Café had raised our expectations, at least as far as the food was concerned. Fortunately, the mains delivered. The wild red rice (a lovely dark maroon) had an interesting texture, pleasantly different from regular white rice. The bai, a mixture of vegetables (I could identify green beans, spring onions, and thinly sliced baby aubergines among them), came with a thin, watery gravy, which looked deceptively mild. A bite or two, and I realized that among the veggies also lurked thinly sliced green chillies which packed quite a punch.
Also with some chillies (though fewer than the vegetable stew) was the arsa chhum, the no-oil chicken stew. This too had a very thin, almost broth-like gravy (which, like a good broth, had tons of flavour). The chicken was beautifully cooked, and the thin strips of lime leaves gave the dish a wonderfully aromatic taste, somewhat reminiscent of Thai food.
And could one leave without dessert? Not us, especially when there was kheer on the menu (there are other sweets also available: a sesame flat cake, and a sweet sticky rice cake). But we are firm fans of kheer, and an unusual kheer—a wild red rice kheer—certainly appealed to us. We ordered one each, and were told that it would take a while, since it would be prepared fresh.
Ten minutes later, straight off the fire and therefore requiring a little blowing on to cool it down, came the kheer. At first glance this looked like a plum conserve sprinkled with raisins: a rich maroon-purple in colour, the rice coarsely ground and cooked with milk, sugar, raisins, and ghee. It was rich, but (I suppose because of the unique flavour of the red rice) had a flavour quite different—in a pleasant way—from North Indian kheer. My husband, whose sugar threshold is low, thought it too sweet, but even he agreed that despite that, this was a nice dessert.
We paid Rs 1,749 for our meal. Considering we’d consumed a three-course meal (and were full to the brim), and keeping in mind the good quality of the dishes (and the excellence of those spare ribs!), I’d say this was good value for money. What I also liked was that a good bit of the food is actually pretty healthy, chockfull of protein and fibre, and in many cases (like the arsa chhum), also cooked with no oil. My only grouse was that, while we were distracted due to our chatting with the manager, the waiter poured mineral water for us without even asking us if we wanted bottled water (and, of course, billed us for it). Not done!
Still, this is a place I’d gladly go back to. Highly recommended, provided you don’t mind chillies.
S20, Green Park Extension
(Uphaar Cinema Complex)