Whenever Ritu Dalmia sets up a restaurant or cafe, her loyal fan base follows. Diva Spiced, the newest in her pack, is located in Meherchand market, at the same spot which once housed Chez Nini (critics praised it endlessly but it did not survive and shut down a few months ago).
The space is reminiscent of a cube, with glass on three sides and cheerful interiors. What this means is that there is abundant natural light, something that most restaurants lack (the glass used is high-quality and heat proof so be rest assured you won't bake in summer). The 30-cover restaurant's menu serves modern Asian tapas and a smattering of Indian cuisine, in fact anything that has spice in it (hence the name).
You will find most dishes sprinkled liberally with a spice dust in keeping with this theme. We began our meal with crystal dim sums which were disappointing. While they did not lack flavour, they were miniscule and the five pieces per basket just did not cut it.The pork belly on the other hand, served with a spicy yuzu lemon dressing, was delicious and moist and more than made up for the lacklustre dim sums. Moving on, the calamari draws on Kerala cuisine and is liberally sprinkled with rai, kadi patta and some nameless spices, served with carrot and orange slaw. It is a bit confusing to shift your palate between the decidedly Asian dishes and the Indian influences so scan the menu well before placing your order.
Vegetarians must try the corn and tofu cakes served with garlic relish and mango chutney that are moist, fresh and delicious. Other strong tapas dishes include the phyllo pastry samosa with glass noodles and shitake mushrooms served with a sambal mayonnaise.
The noodle bar is a big part of the menu as are the other tapas-style appetizers. You can choose from between soba, udon, fresh noodles and unpolished rice and mix and match ingredients to create your own noodle bowl.
You also have a choice of tofu or meat, vegetables and a variety of sauces to choose from to complete the meal. The Asian dishes aside, try the fish moily where the coconut flavour is delicate. Truly a well-balanced dish.Vegetarians have several options at hand as well. In keeping with her trademark style, Dalmia uses fresh, wholesome ingredients that have been paired ingeniously. She has also drawn on her travels across Asia and you can find influences of this across the menu.
You can end the meal with the chocolate torte which is nutty, warm and delicious or try their Asian version of the Eton mess called Spiced Mess, where the lemongrass meringue and berry coulis are the heroes. This intimate space is a definite shift from Dalmia's usual fare but if you want to indulge in cafe-style Asian and Indian cuisine that has been given a modern twist, this is the place to go to.
BT More recommends Kerala-style calamari Pork belly skewers
Meal for two Rs 2200 plus taxes
Reservations 011 49051837