Itís in the heart of the most desirable real estate in the entire city: Chanakyapuri. It is virtually on the main road; parking is never a problem, more so during the evenings and the food is as good as it ever was. Zaffrani Zaika is a winner because of the location, the value-for-money ó the portions are gigantic and the prices are modest indeed ó and the quality of the food. Such is the care that has been lavished on it that though it has been around for four years, it looks as pristine today as it first did.
You can tell the sincerity of a restaurant by the quality of the freebies it serves. Zaffrani Zaika wonít give you store-bought papad. Instead, it makes a sort of baked matthi and serves that with three dips, all made in-house. And hereís one place you neednít be afraid of over-ordering, the waiters will tell you when youíve ordered too much. Because of their large portion, it is easy to order more than necessary.
The menu travels between Lucknow and Hyderabad and glories in the textures of lamb and chicken as few other restaurants do. Murgh parcha kebabs (Rs 375) are slices of chicken marinated with almond paste, shahi zeera and saffron. They are grilled so that the grainy texture of the chicken is apparent. Zaffrani murgh malai kebab (Rs 350) is taken from the leg of the bird, so that the texture is smooth and velvet.
Seekh-boti kebab (Rs 375) is a rather unusual dhaba-style tandoor dish that youíll see nowhere else in Delhi. The moist botis contrast with the texture of the seekh with their slightly coarse feel, and both of them are a marvellous counterpoint to the Shahjehani shikampur (Rs 350) with the mince ground into forcemeat. Donít miss this one. The delicate whiff of smoked meat is what lifts it out of the ordinary.
The one disappointment of the meal was the Hyderabadi gosht biryani (Rs 475). Why call it Hyderabadi when it is not kachche gosht biryani? This one certainly wasnít; neither was the talent in the kitchen up to cooking the exacting Hyderabad recipe. What appeared had too little aroma of lamb stock and too much of browned onions. It was fullbodied rather than subtle, but the restaurant certainly recommendedit strongly.
Let it be said that vegetarian food is not the glory of Zaffrani Zaika. Paneer makhni (Rs 350) and paneer khurchan (Rs 350) hardly are adequate compensation for the cashew nut-enriched Dilli ka korma (Rs 425) or gosht beli ram (Rs 425). The khubani bhare kofte (Rs 375) didnít have, as I anticipated, a tangy note in the koftas to contrast with the natural sweetness of a cream-thickened gravy. Instead, there was a brown onion gravy that looked as if was expecting to do double duty in another couple of dishes, if need be. Daal zaffrani zaika (Rs 275) consisted of whole green moong ó a nice touch instead of the interminable black daal one encounters everywhere else.
Zaffrani phirni (Rs 150) is recommended. It is not too sweet, it is served in clay pots that have obviously been made to order, and being made in-house, it isnít dry and almost solid the way it often is elsewhere.