Kausstubh, A vegetarian South Indian restaurant nestled in the ever busy mall district of Saket, New Delhi, is trying to stand out in the crowd like a ‘divine jewel’ as per the literal translation of its name. Vegetarian restaurant and my first reaction was to let this offer to review the food pass, though now I am glad I did not. Following in the footsteps of a fellow foodie and an avid blogger we decided to try the lunch … still not too keen to have vegetarian for dinner, yet. This review is also for my friends who complain I don’t review enough Vegetarian places.
For those of you who have been to the Saket malls often and missed Kausstubh, it is located on the road that houses the rear entrances of the malls behind Turquoise Cottage. A sign on the main road guides you to the inner lane and it is easy to locate, though parking could be a nightmare especially if you are visiting on a weekend.
As soon as you enter the place you are put at ease by the unassuming interiors and the simple demeanor of the staff. The essence of the South Indian culture comes from the simplicity with which the people of the 4 states down below conduct and present themselves. Kausstubh has managed to capture this essence well rather than the clichéd symbolism of using Carnatic music and the fragrant incense sticks. The furniture is very functional with straight lined wooden chairs/ benches with wooden tables. No table cloth or any kind of other embellishments occupy the table, except a long folder describing the authentic dishes they serve and encourage the diner to try. During the Lunch hour the natural light was ample and the artificial lighting seemed enough for the evenings. The walls conform to the simplistic décor and are painted in an earthy tone of beige with a dash of a few colors and paintings of Gods & Goddesses. Honestly, the interiors could have been a little more pleasing mostly in terms of the small details while remaining subtle which was the brief given to us by Himanshu Maheshwari, the man behind the brand. He did mention some constraints they faced and how they had to change a few things due to unforeseen issues, but hopefully the future ones would have something more to talk about in terms of design.
Every time I enter a restaurant and I see smiling faces, I cannot resist but have a meal there. Believe me to genuinely smile and indulge a guest is not easy as it looks if you are doing it day in and day out & I have seen a lot of restaurants falter there. The GM of the chain Kunal and his team were around the floor greeting and meeting diners, helping them choose from the menu and making them comfortable. Kunal though from the Northeast was pretty thorough with his restaurant’s South Indian food selection. A charming personality he has trained his staff well to be courteous but not over-bearing. However, the star of the restaurant Chef K. Parmasivan or fondly known as KP was kind enough to sit with us and explain the food to us. That they were not just serving Dosas and Idlis, but innovatively created dishes from starters to the main course using South Indian spices only but also suiting the North Indian palate. Though this might not be South Indian fusion, like my fellow diner mentioned we are inching towards it. KP was pretty confident of the menu he has created and the conviction reflected in his words, so much so that we went with the fare he had created for us without a single modification.
Rasam is a great way to start a Southie meal and that is what came first along with Buttermilk. The presentation was very authentic in small glasses. Buttermilk was great with the right amount of sourness complemented by the spices and I loved it so much, that I had to order another bigger glass. Rasam for me has to have the right blend of spices and tanginess, this one was a little too spicy and consequently less spicy. I personally would have preferred a little tangier.
The starters set the pattern for what was to come and they literally started our meal with a bang of flavors in the mouth. The fried Cocktail Idli in Gunpowder (Malaga Podi) served with an amazing coconut chutney (Which I kept licking with my fingers) … The Cheese Paniyaram, a spicy Paneer starter much like a chilli paneer but made in South Indian spices was finger licking good … The Kuzhipaniyaram made in shape of a ball with rice batter and black lentils just melted in the mouth was served with Tomato Madurai chutney.
The Dosas were next which I am sure is a formality for all South Indian restaurants. Honestly, for me they did not do much and I would have preferred to continue with the authentic dishes the Chef had lined up for us. We tried 3 dosas and my favorite was the Garlic Dosa served with the standard Sambhar and chutneys.
The Chilli Parontha the Chef told us was the original street food of Tamil Nadu, prepared with deep fried broken Parontha cooked with Veggies and Chilli and served with Onion raita. A healthy option and probably a hit with the North Indian guests, I did mention to the chef that I’d love to try this with some minced mutton. Maybe I’ll try it at home.
We knew the main Thali was reserved for the last and we tried not to fill ourselves up with the starters and accompaniments. The Thali arrived and so did the Chef, to thoughtfully guide us through the process. He explained to us each of the dishes served in small bowls served with a Malabar parantha, Idyappam (kind of rice noodles) and my favorite the perfectly round Appam. The 10 bowls in total contained varied dishes from the 4 states of Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Rasam Smooth but could be less spicy.
Sambhar Very authentic and similar to the ones I have eaten at South Indian households.
Plain Curd Necessary especially when you are consuming so much spice.
Mushroom Curry My favorite on the plate and eaten best with the parantha or just a spoon.
Potato Curry Spicy with cubes of potato totally immersed in the gravy and flavor.
Poriyal Beans, sadly went untouched on my plate, though my fellow relished it with plain rice and sambhar.
Vegetable Korma Less spicy and an amalgamation of veggies cooked together in a single gravy.
Veggie Stew Should not have the Appam any other way but with the Stew. Warm and rich in a white gravy, the stew tasted surprisingly good.
Dal with Palak The Chef advised us to have it with the rice noodles and the flavor was very distinct.
Carrot Rice I tried this with sambhar and the green chilli, which adorned it.
The sweet dishes served were true to the South Indian culture with Rava Kesari and Ashoka. The saffron colored Rava Kesari needs no introduction and is a standard in all South Indian restaurants. But, the dark orange colored Asoka surprised me as soon as I tasted it. I recognized the flavor and on asking the Chef it turned out to be a moong daal halwa. An afternoon well spent with good food, it had to culminate with a strong filter coffee … The South Indian way.
The food was prepared and served with a passion which was completely visible in Himanshu’s vision of the place. From a Marwari family, a community both known for its vegetarian food and unsurpassable hospitality, these characteristics are completely visible in the restaurant owned by them. Kausstubh has a strong presence and for me it is one of the top contenders of Vegetarian food now. I surely would be trying it again soon.