Delhi is undoubtedly the food capital of India. From street delicacies to the fanciest of gourmet dishes, there’s an eatery that will cater to every whim, palette and craving. Whether you want nihari or waffles for breakfast, ceviche or dosa for lunch, or tempura or butter chicken for dinner – you’ll find it all in this city. Every cuisine has found representation in the capital – from Lucknawi to Konkani, from French to South American and from Italian to Cantonese. Delhi has a soft spot for South Asian cuisine though – the Thai restaurants in the city always have queues – and Vietnamese cuisine is quickly currying favor amongst the foodies of the city. Enter Pho King Awesome, a small Vietnamese restaurant tucked away in a secret locality that is like a tiny oasis of culture amidst the vastness of Delhi. In spite of the name (!), or maybe because of it, this is quickly becoming the city’s go-to place for Pho, Banh and Bun Cha.
The Real Deal
Walking into Pho King Awesome is akin to falling down the rabbit hole. Yes, the locality – Champa Gali – prepares you for the unusual, but the stunning white walls accented with blue doors, windows and furniture makes you think you’ve been teleported to Santorini. You expect to smell the sea, but all you can smell is the delicious waft from the kitchen and the sweet smell of the flowers that seem to be everywhere. The ambience makes you want to grab your phone and take hundreds of pictures for Instagram. But don’t start just yet. Wait for the food to arrive. That’s when you’ll need your phone camera – if you have the will power to wait before digging in, that is.
The dimsums are definitely the superstars on the menu. Or is that the baos? No, it’s surely the curries. Ah, we suggest you try all of them. The dimsums are brightly colored little morsels, bursting with flavors – you’ll definitely need to post these on Instagram if you’re taking pictures. The baos – we tried the Char Siu Pork ones – are one of the best in the city. The Rednang Curry – Indonesian, not Vietnamese – was thick, spicy and hit the right spot from every angle. We also tried the tenderloin Bulgogi and the Vietnamese rice paper rolls. No, we were not disappointed. And for the Pho – for how could we not try the inspiration for the name of the place? – we chose to play it safe by sticking to chicken as the choice of protein. It was fragrant and filling, though later we wished we’d been more adventurous with it.
For those of you who are not really into South Asian cuisine, the menu offers a lot of other options. There are Chimichangas from Mexico, Jhakaas rolls from the Indian streets and a variety of sandwiches and burgers from everywhere! And yes, the vegetarian choices were just as good as the non-vegetarian ones so those of you who avoid meat will have a lot of options on the menu to choose from.
The best time to visit Pho King Awesome is the evening. While it is beautiful to sit outside on their terrace on a balmy afternoon, nightfall sees the restaurant take on a glittery avatar. The eclectic lanterns and lamps light up the entire area with a soft glow and the fairy lights strung across trees gives it a perennially festive air.
Pho King Awesome is the baby of Chef Mukul, who is a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef and an experienced sommelier. He was a part of the team that launched Threesixty Degrees at the Oberoi in Delhi. His inspiration for Pho King is his Vietnamese wife, Mong Thu Tran.
Vietnamese food is an amalgam of French and Chinese culture. While the French left their mark on it during colonialism, the Chinese have always been a steady influence. The traditional recipes and ingredients have been fine-tuned with the help of the colonial heritage and the result is a South Asian cuisine that is unique and flavorsome. Like our Indian food, Vietnamese food is spicy and comforting. Yet, it’s light on the stomach. Most of the dishes are rice based so it’s mainly gluten-free too! The key, as any Vietnamese chef will tell you, is fresh ingredients and a minimal use of dairy and oil. And Pho King Awesome does it better than most.
The restaurant is a true compliment to the locality it is situated in. Champa Gali is a relatively unheard of place in Delhi. It’s a tiny pebbled lane in the middle of slums in Saket. You step in there and it’s like you’ve stepped into another world altogether. Cafes, a tea stall, a reading room, little kiosks offering handmade, recycled goods, fairy lights and lots of champa trees – all these lend it an inimitable character that can’t be found in any other part of Delhi. And Pho King Awesome, with its Greek décor, Vietnamese food and Parisian vibe, fits right in.
Where: Khasra 258, Lane 3, West End Marg, Said Ul Ajaib, Saket, New Delhi
The Nearest metro station is Saket, a 10-minute walk away. Even the locals don’t know about Champa Gali, so just ask for Lane 3 and someone will direct you there. Parking is a problem, so we suggest you take the metro instead of driving down.
Cost: Around 400 per person. The area is alcohol free, so you’ll have to make do with Vietnamese coffee.
Call: 011 33105003
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