Looking for a quick answer to the edge-of-seat question in the title? Third time charmingly lucky. Wonderfully lucky. Bursting buttons kinda lucky.
As I enter the French-styled blue door and walk up to the all-new Diva Spiced, there are some familiar faces and an altogether new and refreshing look. From the chic wicker stools, florals on the walls to Anita Dalmia’s very tasteful lamp shades – Diva Spiced’s new avatar boasts of a modern bar and a welcoming dining space. The airy & bright dining space opens into a compact albeit open balcony, lending beautifully to the façade of the building. The tiles remind me of Hoi An – where each space has its unique design of clay tiles; sometimes on the floor, other times on the walls.
Since the kitchen is where my heart is, I couldn’t resist but enter the envious sizeable space (unlike most other kitchens in the city, including mine!) at the end of the meal. The electric environment is buzzing with chefs on the line, waiting for their next KOT (Kitchen Order Ticket). As a DIVA alumnus, bias does creep in when I say – if you’ve been to the school called DIVA, you’ve basically been trained to handle it all.
We sit down and get the drinks menu. Ahaa, there are a few new cocktails on the menu! With a Dublin Mule (Jameson, ginger, orange peel) in hand, we kickstart the food extravaganza. The food menu plays host to familiar and new dishes and the one that catches my fancy is the Kadhi Samosa. Chef Ritu succinctly explains, “It’s DIVA Spiced right? Why should we ignore our own cuisine?” It’s an unusual small plate but who more tenacious than her to be doing that? It was raining outside and I couldn’t be more pleased with my choice – this was REAL comfort food. Close to home and a different take at the same time, the samosas had a flaky crisp outside, an appropriate amount of potato filling, dunked into wonderfully silky kadhi. Keeping aside my fondness for kadhi, I vote this dish to stay on the menu and forecast it to sell out! The best bit is the authentic use of asafoetida (hing) to ably spice the kadhi.
We move on to Crystal Dumplings and uber familiar Bomra’s Tomato Salad. Back in the day, I remember Chef Ritu exclaim, “Don’t over steam them!” every time a newbie gave it a shot, (including yours truly, at a catering event), hardly trusting more than one person with them. No surprises that the dumplings are perfectly pleated and steamed, studded with edible flowers. You need a certain level of expertise & deftness to make dumplings, and these are right on top, ahead and centre. I ordered two kinds – Prawn & Kasundi and Pumpkin, Truffle oil & Mushroom. They both stand out distinctly for me with the sweetness of the pawns offsetting the pungent Kasundi. Even though I am a carnivore at heart, I thoroughly enjoyed the pumpkin one – perfectly plump! Bomra’s Tomato Salad is a refreshing take on tomatoes and always my go-to salad.
We dig into the Pork Baos (the char siu pork with cabbage & cucumber) which come with a surprising hint of cinnamon & crisped sweet potato to give it an oomphy crunch. The thing that baos in our city have are the heavy, dense and chewy nature, which mostly let the dish down. These were light, airy and complement the pork so well that it elevates the flavours multifold.
Stuffed to the core, but I was craving the Chilli Caramel Fish which we would make ever so often at DIVA events! One word to describe this dish? Divine! A seared sole fish fillet with a fresh orange reduction, caramelized and then emulsified with butter, not too spicy. This is topped with wok tossed Pak Choi and orange wedges – our state is of sheer content and full to the brim. Gosh, I can’t do the dessert today, I got greedy and finished all the food on my plate(s) and there’s no room for dessert. I’m coming back for it another day.
I glance through the menu again to summarize my meal – Chef Ritu has incorporated something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a small portion or a wholesome meal – there’s something for you. If you are lactose intolerant or allergic to gluten, they’ve got you covered. When you visit a DIVA restaurant, you can’t be worried about the quality of ingredients used and its evident in every plate that comes out of the kitchen.
And this is how Chef Ritu Dalmia has played it, always.
#DSSCTopTip: Try the Kadhi Samosa and the Char Sui Pork Baos.
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Loose wallet weight: Rs.2400 for two people
About our lovely author, Chef Akriti Malhotra
A Chef and entrepreneur based in New Delhi, whose brainchild AKU’s – The Brrgrr Co. has established itself as the go to place for craft burgers made with handpicked, fresh ingredients. She is hardworking to a fault, jolly (turns frowns into smiles, this one), and playfully curious. She has worked at Daniel, New York and DIVA, and counts Chef Ritu Dalmia as her mentor.