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Still wearing the smile from our fantastic experience at Yuzu last week, we wonder if Mercury’s gone out of retrograde early when we find that The Salad Story also looks like a charming, intimate hole in the wall. (TSS is an up-and-coming south Delhi chain; we’re not used to such things in NDMC territory.)

In fact, things are really looking up we enter for a late weekday lunch, and are greeted not by people we don’t want to see (the essential Khan Market condition) but cheery hand-painted walls featuring juicy watermelons and other voluptuous fruit, and a studio apartment-sized open kitchen. The happy sunlight, business transparency, and contained ambition – the place barely seats ten --- makes us settle in fast and feel good quite quickly.

But happiness fades like a chrysanthemum left out in the heat, the owner gone globetrotting for weeks. TSS has a long and windy menu, making the salad story more of a draggy novel rather than a cute short. It also feels the need to go a bit beyond the salad story: wraps and rice based ‘meals’ occupy prime space on the menu card. Contrary to what we were hoping, even on its own turf, salad here is not the protagonist, but an introverted co-star.

In keeping with our intention to make the salad lunch a real thing, we get a classic Caesar – always something simple to test the basics -- a de-constructed nacho bowl, and a black rice and red lentil salad that promises to come with unique, cilantro-based vinaigrette. While we wait, we sip on pretty good cold pressed pomegranate juice and rather decent lime and ice tea; no complaints, even if there’s nothing to quite write home about in either case.

Disappointment kicks in when the ‘stories’ begin. The first big blunder hits tsunami-large when the Caesar comes out accidentally dressed in Doritos. We’d laugh it off, but it’s a bit unforgiveable given that the croutons are dry, have not a trace of olive oil, and not even a hint of anchovies present. Sniff. Next, when the deconstructed nacho bowl does arrive – looking like its confused Caesar twin – we’re happy to find a real avocado, as promised. But the story just does not hold with the skimpy quantity of cheddar we’re provided, in place of the big dollop of sour cream of which we dreamt. Both bowls, next to each other, look too much like a bunch of things thrown together at random: maybe one ingredient each by one of the five guys behind the small counter?

The staff also almost forgets about our lentil bowl, which retrospectively, maybe they should have. Drier than hospital food, it’s devoid of cilantro and punch; this situation is not helped by the frugal sprinkling of walnuts on top.

We may have left sooner and less cranky if the last thing hadn’t happened: failed credit card transactions and a charge notification. By now, we’re not sure why friends had such good things about The Salad Story, which has been up and running since spring this year.

We want very much to blame our squarely mediocre meal on teething problems, but we’re struggling to both find something else to blame and a way to take sweet revenge on the so-called pals who pointed it out to us. We’d loved to cut this story short, so short that it wasn’t worth a story at all. Like all things, there seems to be a lesson here: please, please edit, and hard.

Getting there: 70 A, Khan Market. A meal for two costs approximately Rs. 1,500.

Accessibility: Wheelchairs may enter. There is no bathroom.

bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.

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