[New Delhi] Diva Spiced, backed by the culinary powerhouse that is Ritu Dalmia, is a quaint café that capitalises on the ever-growing trend of serving South East Asian food in a simple yet modern setting.
With importance given to fresh produce, the menu is curated in such a fashion that it not only captures the essence of the region but also makes a characteristic mark of its own.
Situated in the up and coming Meharchand Market, a place with a growing hipster vibe, Diva Spiced sits comfortably as a laidback destination to have a quick meal over a few drinks at any time of the day.
Ritu Dalmia, for those not in the knowing, is one of the leading chefs in the country.
Her Italian restaurant Diva, only a little drive away, is considered among the best in the city.
It is the casualness of Diva Spiced that makes it favourable. An accessible location as well as a select menu, in addition to perfect service, makes eating here a pleasant affair.
The décor is well balanced, colourful yet not eye-popping.
Asian motifs dominate one wall while the other consists of a mirror, giving the somewhat compact space a more significant feel.
The ambience further gets help from the broad front and side windows, and even though the view is nothing to write home about, ample light pours in giving the interiors a fresh look throughout the day.
Some of the foods, unfortunately, leaves a lot to be desired.
The problem with having a well-known chef in the background is that expectations are sky high, and when not met, it is easy to be disappointed.
The dishes were satisfactory, let’s be clear about that. It looked vibrant when served, and the brilliance of the ingredients came across in each bite.
However, it lacked the expected boldness of South East Asian cuisine.
Take the delicious Prawn and Kasundi Dimsums (Rs 490, SGD9.75) which were divine, but could have done with a stronger, more pungent taste of the kasundi mustard, a favourite of mine, that is a somewhat gentler version of the wasabi sauce.
Typically, I have to request Indian eateries to make the food less spicy for me.
I didn’t over here, even though the name of the restaurant has “Spiced” in it. Thankfully, the food was light on the spice scale. It wasn’t bland, and flavours were there, but then nothing stood out either.
The Grilled Chicken Teriyaki and Bean Sprout Kimchi Bao Burger (Rs 630, SGD12.50) sounds exquisite but was a little bready and tasted as any other grilled chicken sandwich one would find elsewhere.
In fact, my daughter, who was to share half of it, left it all for me after one bite.
The Pork Belly with Five Spices, Sticky Rice and Gomae (Rs 680, SGD13.50) was much better.
The Belly was cooked beautifully, but once again, it missed the mark because of the overall dryness of the dish and lack of daring flavours.
Another aspect of Diva Spiced that was unsatisfactory were the prices.
I understand that adhering to serving only fresh local food makes it hard to source ingredients which can get costly, but the quantities served are just about fair and the bill, in the end, pinches a little.
I do feel that Diva Spiced has its heart in the right place and they do demonstrate a passion for good food that many top restaurants lack.
Regarding the taste and flavour profile though, the food misses the intensity, the smell, the fearlessness that makes South East Asian cuisine so popular across the world.
* 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.