The Telegraph
Sunday , April 27 , 2014

Vegetarian tips the scales at Smoke House Deli

What do you hear when you have two foodies sharing a table at their favourite restaurant?

“I think I’ve been here more than you,” said jewellery designer Raj Mahtani to Espee’s Sangita Kejriwal, as he walked in fashionably late at Smoke House Deli (SHD) on Thursday evening.

“Well, I come here so often that Abhilasha (Sethia, the franchisee partner) actually told me to stop coming because she thinks I’ll get bored of the food!” laughed Sangita, demanding in jest a jewel from Raj for her ‘precious’ time spent waiting.

The two guests for the evening, Raj and Sangita, who are good friends, neighbours (they stay in adjacent flats!) and fans of Calcutta’s new European food destination at Quest mall, were invited to try out a whole new bunch of vegetarian dishes on the menu. “We received a lot of requests from our repeat vegetarian clientele to introduce more dishes and so we’ve added three appetisers and four main course dishes,” said partners Manjri Agarwal and Abhilasha.

Smoke House Deli regulars Sangita Kejriwal and Raj Mahtani sample the vegetarian additions to the menu

As the starters — Creamy Mushroom Crostini, Tomato Fetta Bruschetta and Vegetable Croque And Cheese — got ready, Raj had a question ready for his hosts. “Both of you are great cooks at home. Now that you’re experiencing the business part of running a restaurant, how much fun is it and how much work?” And as briskly as the starters were gobbled down, the two ladies replied how it was part expected and part surprise. “At times we go, ‘Where is the fun factor of the food we imagined it to be?’ But dealing with crisis moments has given us thrice the confidence and experience,” said Manjri.

Since all good things come in threes, it was time to try the savoury Three-Cheese and Fig Tart, which packed in a threesome of goat, feta and cheddar cheese inside a tart, with figs for flavour, which Raj picked as his menu favourite.

There was more to follow. The Balsamic Tossed Zucchini Galette (galette is the flat round pastry base) was Sangita’s favourite. “I like the crunchiness of the pastry base and the veggies on top,” was her verdict on her new favourite on the menu at what she calls her “happy space” (also known as SHD).

But if there had to be a winner, the Homemade Fettucini in Bhavnagri Sauce it was. The green colour lent to the pasta by the non-pungent Bhavnagri chilli almost makes you think it’s pesto but it’s not! “It was a nice pasta and with less carbs and more greens,” said Raj.

“I think everything you get at Smoke House Deli is fun food because you can have it any time... I like that you can start with a dessert and end with a starter!” summed up Raj. Much like the free-flowing conversation at the table that meandered from the macaroons of Laduree in Paris to the Chocolate Log at The Arts Club in London and back to Smoke House Deli’s Goat Cheese Pancetta!