By Kishori Sud
New Delhi, July 21: When food looks beautiful, tastes scrumptious and the ambiance transports you to the world where it originated, it's an indication that something is just right. Thus, at Habibi in West Delhi, you can feast on cuisine from Syria, Lebonon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco, as also Afghanistan.
As you enter the first floor restaurant, the brown, golden and maroon-hued interiors give you an Afghani feel while the music tunes you into the food you are about to opt for.
As people around you merrily puff away at their hookahs you take in the menu full of tongue-twisting but interesting names given to the lamb, chicken and vegetarian concoctions. It does take a few minutes to decide what you really want.
On Head Chef Amanjeet Singh's recommendation I tried the basic hummus and bread, Moroccan lamb soup, fattoush, zattar manakish, Afghani khaboos, Moroccan khader curry and the Habibi chicken.
Falling in love with the zaatar manakish, I effortlessly finished the entire quantity that was served.
Zattar manakish is a traditional Lebanese variety of pita bread spiced with zaatar. The delicacy is similar to a pizza, made of soft pita base topped with zaatar spice mix -- a slightly sour mixture of sumac berries (dried and powdered), thyme, oregano, sesame seeds and some salt.
"I am not selling regular hummus and dishes. The Afghani food here has no garlic and onion. It is loved by Punjabis, Jains and Israelis as well. Anyone can have the Arabic mains. Arabic food is mild food. We spice it up on request," Singh told IANS.
Habibi also has on offer authentic hookahs, among them the Egyptian Khalil model. Then, most places offer basic flavours such as Kiwi, mint, paan and chocolate but Habibi offers its homegrown varieties like green mirage Khalil.
The presentation of the food was very different as well.
For instance, in the middle of a covered clay dish was a small shot glass with glowing charcoal. When the lid was lifted, aroma tantalized, raising expectations.
The biryani here is not your regular orange-coloured variety. Rather, it was white rice with a gravy of onions and spices and a huge chunk of chicken. Since I am not a fan of spicy food, this was my kind of biryani, but our Punjabi food lovers may not like it that much.
The jujeh kebab -- an Iranian dish of grilled chunks of chicken -- was mouth-watering, a quick melt in the mouth treat.
Other interestingly named creations were baba ghanoush, mohamara, warak inab, cheese rokakat, bamya bil lahem and lamb majbous.
If you have a craving for sweet dishes, I would definitely recommend the baklava and the basbusa here.
The baklava was a little soggy but less sweet than is normally the case; so you could down it in one go.
Basbusa is sweet semolina cake with rose water and honey with a strong taste of coconut. This is one preparation I would like to recommend to everyone.
Habibi also offers Tanoura (Sufi whirling) dancers and belly dancers every Wednesday and Friday.
Where: C-13, First Floor, Opposite Metro Pillar 414, Vishal Enclave, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi
Meal for two: Rs 1,200 plus taxes without alcohol.
Timings: 12 p.m to 12:00 a.m
Update: 21 July, 2016