Jain-Winley is good

A visit to The Ashoka’s new Marwari restaurant is as smooth as Khandvi.

This assignment, we admit, we faced a certain fear. It’s not that we dislike vegetarian food; We just try and avoid it as much as possible. Still, we headed to Shraman — The Ashoka’s new Jain and Marwari fine dining eatery. The journey turned out to be longer than usual as there was no sign to the restaurant and we spent about 20 minutes wandering through the echoing halls of the hotel.

The interior is done in an appropriate Rajasthani manner. The walls are a pastel blue, with occasional murals and relief tile work. The furniture consists of modern, faux Rajasthani chairs and tables (really, that’s the only way to describe them) and the service staff is polite, efficient and well informed about the offerings.

The menu is divided into three categories: Marwari, General Jain and North Indian. Ignoring the last, we set new territory — diving into the Jain and Marwari sections. The manager, seeing our puzzled expressions, offered some helpful suggestions, which we gratefully followed. We started with a mixed platter of Jain and Marwari appetizers, including pan patta chaat, jodhpuri mirchi ka pakora, kalmi vada, dhokla aur khandvi ki chaat and dahi ka samosa. The dhokla and khandvi chaat tastes exactly like it sounds, with tangy, soft dhokla and moderate khandvi served with mint and tamarind chutney and whipped curd. While the pakoras and samosas are tasty, if a little bland, the paan chaat is the centerpiece. It’s basically deep-fried betel leaves thrown into typical chaat dishes, but the spring aftertaste of the leaves is a great palate cleanser.

For the main course, we were served Rajma Rasile, Gatta Curry, Rajasthani Papad or Mangori Ki Sabji, along with various breads. Considering everything is made without onion and garlic, the robustness of the flavor is much more than we expected. Being typical Delhiwalas, we naturally preferred the rajma – creamier and more aromatic than what we are usually used to. To be honest, we haven’t seen all the fuss behind Gatta curry. On the other hand, sabji — sun-dried chickpea dumplings cooked in a curry with copious amounts of asafoetida, and a last-minute sprinkling of crispy papad — is a great discovery, thanks to its unusual flavor and multidimensional texture.

For dessert, we are thrilled to introduce the traditional Rajasthani dessert Ghewar Malai Mishri. Round wheat cakes drenched in sugar syrup, covered with cream and topped with marshmallows – it’s tooth-achingly sweet and so, we love it.

Although vegetarian, no onion, no garlic root (pun unintended), we’re quite happy with this introduction to Marwari fare. Another big plus is the very decent bill of fare, considering it’s a five-star restaurant.

Meal for two: Rs 1,000 (including taxes) Address: Ashok, Chanakyapuri Contact: 24672384

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