[New Delhi] The food at AnnaMaya is a love letter to the ingredients and the people who produce them locally in the country.
Serving a combination of classics and contemporary dishes, the restaurant stands out for being different in terms of the flavours that are served.
Proudly plating dishes 24 hours a day that incorporate Indian ingredients and, in the process, support farmers, AnnaMaya manages to concoct with gusto beautiful preparations that are essential in the competitive restaurant business.
The restaurant’s name is an amalgamation of Annapurna and Maya who are the goddesses of Food and Magic in Hinduism, and incidentally the names of the twin daughters of the brainchild behind the concept, Nikhil Somani.
AnnaMaya labels itself as a “Food Hall” and stays true to its name.
It works magic into its food making it incomparable in terms of tastes while supporting sustainable eating habits.
Situated in the boutique hotel chain Andaz in Aerocity, near the International airport of New Delhi, there is a very inimitable vibe to the restaurant.
It is extremely nonchalant, and since it is open 24-hours a day there is a sense of flow to the entire area which depending on where you sit can alter between a coffee-shop, a romantic corner, a place to have a business meeting, or just somewhere to lounge with friends.
The importance of ingredients is evident in every direction of AnnaMaya.
The divisions are stacked with artisanal sugars, salts, pickles that can be bought and they even grow their own micro-greens in-house.
The interiors of AnnaMaya were a huge hit with me. I absolutely love how open it is with spread out seating and was actually surprised since this much space is true luxury in the city.
The areas are divided with plush retro looking furnishing from the 60s and 70s that add a dash of colour along with comfort.
At the time I visited it was evening and with dim lights there was a moody almost sensual feel to the entire restaurant.
The multicolour glass panes and the open kitchens add a completely new dimension to the surroundings making AnnaMaya very chic in its appearance and simultaneously achieving their goal of being a European styled food hall.
AnnaMaya serves an eccentric mixture of Indian and European dishes that range from burgers and pasta to classics like Butter Chicken, curries, salads, and even have a separate dessert bar.
The restaurant does have a bar and a lovely selection of wines, whiskeys, beers, and cocktails along with choicest healthy drinks for non-alcoholic beverage drinkers.
One of the reasons why I wanted to visit AnnaMaya was to try their Poached Duck Egg (Rs. 780, SGD15.85) that is served with crispy pancetta and creamy spinach.
The dish took a while to arrive because the first attempt wasn’t to the liking of the chef and it certainly was worth waiting for.
Splitting into the egg, the yolk oozed out into this little bowl of delight with flavours that were simply divine.
The highlight of the meal though were two dishes that were brilliant in execution.
The Delhi’s Original Butter Chicken (Rs. 980, SGD19.85) was among the best I have had. It was smooth, buttery, creamy, with tender pieces of slowly cooked free-range chicken and a colour so vibrant and inviting which was all complimented beautifully by the crisp Garlick Naan.
The Spicy Mango Curry (Rs. 980, SGD$9.85) on the other hand was an explosion of flavours.
Although the name has “spicy” in it, but that refers not to chillies, rather to the selection of spices that are used.
What I got was sweet, sour, zesty, zingy, hot, lemony, a real assortment of tastes in every bite. When eaten with Red Rice which has a slightly firm texture, it manages a combination of soft and hard that is quite unique.
A few other notable dishes include the Ladakhi Black Pea Shammi kababs (Rs. 780, SGD15.85) which were a tad too spicy for the kids and the Amritsari Goat Milk Paneer Tikka (Rs. 1120, SGD22.75) a staple of most North Indian meals and buttery soft because of the goat’s milk.
I would especially like to mention that their Heart and Healthy Vegetable Soup (Rs. 580, SGD11.75) was exceptional to the point that my kids drank it up without complaining about the vegetables in it, and that I believe speaks a lot.
The desserts wre equally as diverse as the mains, but my favourite from the lot was the Vanilla Éclair (Rs. 530, SGD10.75) that was soft and oh-so-creamy.
The most commendable aspect of AnnaMaya and the people behind it is their openness to sharing information.
From highlighting their suppliers to even sharing some of the recipes of the best sellers on their website, this kind of honesty is appreciated and a welcomed change.
Then, there is the actual food that Chef Alex and his team has perfected using diverse ingredients like Ladakhi Black Peas, Kashmiri Morels, Duck eggs giving customers an opportunity to experiment with different textures and flavour profiles.
However, there are a few points of note that primarily arise because of the very fact that I also appreciate about AnnaMaya;
Having a restaurant open for the entire day, all days of the week, require a constant update of food and customers can at times be left disappointed when a dish is not available as it happened with me when I was told that there was no Duck Confit.
The grandness of the restaurant can be a little alienating and it took me a few minutes of aimlessness roaming around before someone approached me regarding my reservation.
AnnaMaya also isn’t a very accessible restaurant primarily because of its high prices which can be explained since they source the ingredients from around the country.
In the long run I would love to see food like this being available to the masses.
These are minor issues that don’t take away from the experience of AnnaMaya, it’s overall service, and especially the food that they present.
AnnaMaya for me was nothing short of a revelation.
It redefines the way food is sourced, cooked and presented in a manner that is not common or at least talked about in detail.
Eating at the restaurant almost forces the customer to get involved in the process of how the food is prepared and that makes for a spectacular culinary experience.
As is the case with most “secrets” there is a certain fun to talk about them openly and with AnnaMaya the more this secret is shared the better. I just hope that with inevitable fame they don’t lose out on the spark of an idea that flames their very concept and food.
* Written by DFD’s India Correspondent @tickereatstheworld. Raghav is a travel and food writer who enjoys the thrill of discovering new places and writing about them. When he is not working, he can be found driving around his two kids from one birthday party to another.>