I personally don’t know any South Delhi folks who were getting anxious that we didn’t have our very own Emporio, but if you do – tell them to take a deep breath. Chanakya will not only satisfy their craving for heavily perfumed halls and international luxury brands, but will also give them a hotel feel in case they um, plan to live here. I may sound snarky, but I don’t entirely mean to – Chanakya is plush, polished, chic to the tee, and its movie theatre is, according to one uncle next to me, ‘as good as anywhere in Europe.’
But for the less status-conscious ‘uncles’ I went with, Cha Na Kya – broken up for you if your Hindi has dulled with the sight of a Dior show window – represents the tragedy of gentrification. With the success of the glitzy mall comes the erasure of so many memories: the first-screening of Mera Naam Joker, which happened right here, the showing of Dirty Dancing, for which the Chanakya earned a dirty, cool reputation. Let’s not forget the dozens of excellent Chinese dhabas right outside that awaited movie-goers and extended the night – they still exist of course, but now compete with all the ‘world is your oyster’ restaurants inside.
Chanakya was also iconic because of the places around it. For so many of my gay friends, it was the landmark for anyone trying to find their way to the sweaty, steamy Pegs ‘n’ Pints: a liberal, safe haven at some point. For others, it was the passage to Yashwant Place, the leather heaven, a place to take a nice rest in between getting belts, bags, and slightly funky smelling jackets fixed.
Now you walk in to the swanky place, and you almost feel like someone’s going to ask you to check in and hand you a card key. The marble floors are shiny and slick, and the ceilings are sky-high. While stuff is still opening, you won’t miss the sweet top-floor spot Nicobar has claimed, and the other giant designer brands that blink at you.
We’re too late to window shop, so we go down instead, to the massive dining area called “MKT” (but pronounced market). It’s cornucopian. Organized like a flattened out globe, its got mini-restaurants dedicated to different cuisines: one corner is all-Asian, the other is Indian, another is Italian, and in the center stands FoodHall, kind of like the United Nations. And here at the model UN are tiny little islands, that cater to super special needs. Though we’re a little uncomfortable with the ratio of imported to local foods – with the former being favored by far – we’re really impressed with the cheese counter, a Promised Land for all fromagers. We bag some emmental with succulent olives and some Kashmiri kalhari.
MKT is still in opening/soft launch phase, so last order is at 8, or 8:30 if you really push. We make ourselves comfortable at the Asian section, which seems busiest of the lot. We are promptly handed five, fabric covered menus – they not only offer what’s available in all of Asia, but the rest of the world too. In other words, if you’re dining companions want sushi, but you want penne, don’t fret.
We go with our waiter’s recommendations and order a bunch of things: sushi, spicy udon noodles, truffle dumplings, prawn in chili oil and more. The service, despite it being teething-problems week, is excellent. The food comes out in nice-sized plates, perfectly hot.
While we’ve got minor complaints – like too much salt in some dishes - overall, the food is fresh, vibrant, and happy. We particularly enjoy spicy Udon noodles, the un-fussiest item. But the review gets tough once we get to drawing comparisons with the dhabas outside.
We’re not saying this is better or worse, we’re just using noodles to understand what has happened here. To the mall, to the city, to time. It’s a lot.
Getting there: 3A-16D, Tikendrajit Marg, Chanakyapuri, Rs. 3,000 for two, no drinks but many doggy bags.
This review was contributed by Meher Varma.
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