-By Deepali Gupta
CLUELESS IN MANAJSA
How bad can a restaurant actually be? If it is really bad, it could be like Fawlty Towers: hilarious when you're watching it as a television serial; less so when you are actually in a place like Manajsa in Hauz Khas market where everything that can go wrong does. It was a Friday evening when I visited. The welcome desk occupied most of the entrance. Potted plants filled up the rest of the space, leaving exactly a foot of space for customers to squeeze past. A rather ominous sign, that one.
The neutral interiors provided no clue about the cuisine of the place. I had to read the rather grimy menu (in a new restaurant, dirty menus are inexcusable) to discover that Manajsa served western food with a dash of Indian. The second floor had an open kitchen that had been designed by someone who wanted to teach his client a lesson: a shelf ran across the glass window, so that you could see chefs' toques in the background, but no faces, because the shelf and the dishes on them obscured nearly everything.
It is a curious approach to restauranting when you have to lock your washroom during meal times. Why exactly Manajsa does it is not clear, but there was a five-minute wait till a server produced a key and a further three minutes while he struggled to open the door. We asked for cold mineral water and along came water at room temperature. "We had a party last night, so all our cold water finished," was the explanation. The staff would appear to have been carefully trained in logic. When we asked whether the lobster would be a safe choice, considering that they appeared to be having issues with electricity (the lights and music kept flickering on and off) we were assured that indeed, lobster was a great choice because "today is a karaoke night".
As indeed it was. As a group of energetic youngsters belted out lyrics to the music of the 80s on the floor below us, a window panel peeled off from its moorings and leaned over the band stand dangerously.
After a wait of 40 minutes (in a deserted restaurant), our food came. Till that time, not so much as a bread basket had been brought to the table. My lobster thermidor (Rs 1,195) lacked mustard and the lobster itself was tough. My companion's lamb chops were barely warm. Though the quality of the lamb was good, the chops had been cooked with a generous helping of dried herbs, so that you could not taste the lamb for the herbs. The best thing we ate that evening was the bread: with a crisp crust and a light crumb, it was miraculous that something so good had come out of the Manajsa kitchen.
I asked for the sugar-free chocolate mousse but was told that the kitchen had run out of it. My companion asked for a pannacotta with orange sauce. It was the same story all over again: what should have been as light as a whisper had too much sugar and gelatin in it and the cream was grainy on the palate.
The best moment was when we walked out of the monument of bad design, shoddy workmanship and western food that has been cooked by a clueless bunch.
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