By Sourish Bhattacharyya
|AD and Sabina Singh at the|
soft opening of the second
Soda Bottle Opener Wala
(SBOW) at Khan Market
A YEAR AGO, no one could have imagined that an Irani cafe would take the city by storm, but AD Singh's Soda Bottle Opener Wala (SBOW) at the Cyber Hub, Gurgaon, set a new gold standard for Delhi-NCR when it had a 20-to-30-minute waiting daily in the eight-odd months it was without a liquor licence. A queue at a restaurant without 'real' liquid nourishment? Nope, it doesn't happen in Delhi-NCR. Well, it did -- at SBOW.
At a time when the sons of the owner of Mumbai's most celebrated Irani/Parsi restaurant, Britannia at Ballard Estate, are debating whether they should shut it after their 90-year-old father, Boman Kohinoor, hangs up his boots, SBOW breathed new life into a Mumbai institution that was dying out. That too, of all places, in Gurgaon, in whose long history dating back to the time when it was given away to Guru Dronacharya as a token of respect by his most worthy students, the Pandavas, the Parsis or the Iranis have been conspicuous by their absence.
It was with great anticipation therefore that we attended the 'soft' opening of Delhi-NCR's second SBOW at Khan Market, where an old favourite of restaurant of mine, Ginger Moon, used to serve some really good Chinese food -- good enough to make me want to keep going back to it. The evening had all the elements of an AD Singh party -- after all, he's the Richard Branson of Indian restaurateurs.
It had the right celebrity quotient -- media baroness Kalli Purie, fashion designers Rohit Bal, Leena Singh and Ashish Soni, and the evergreen Chetan Seth and Manya Patil, to name a few of the notables -- and just the dose of oomph that the doctor would order to light up an evening: a sprinkling of gori chicks and Dwayne Bravo, who had come to unwind with some of his teammates on the eve of India-West Indies ODI. And they were being served well by the inimitable team of Mohit Balachandran (a.k.a. Chowder Singh of the blogging world), who kept plying me with his version of the LIIT (naughtily named Babaji Ka Thullu!), Nikhil Alung, and the light of the SBOW kitchen, 20-something Anahita Dhondy, who won the Best Newcomer of the Year title at the Delhi Gourmet Club's Top Chef Awards.
The show-stopper, though, was what I have named Sabina's Sandwich. A simple boiled egg sandwich has never tasted better. And this one's going to put the famous Kejriwal Sandwich of Mumbai's Willingdon Club out of business. As Vikram Doctor, the food chronicler of the Economic Times, informed us a couple of years ago, the Kejriwal Sandwich owes its existence to a colourful man named Devi Prasad Kejriwal, who was the brother of gaming entrepreneur Alok Kejriwal's grandfather.
The absolutely stunning decor of SBOW,
Khan Market. complements its
well-established culinary reputation.
Coming from a conservative Marwari family, the older Kejriwal was forbidden to eat eggs, but he loved them, and he ensured he got them made the way he wanted them at his three favourite haunts: Willingdon Club, Cricket Club of India, and Kobe's, the sizzlers restaurant. The original sandwich, now also served at Theobroma, Mumbai's celebrated cafe-patisserie, consisted of cheese on toast, topped with a fried egg and sprinkled with chopped green chillies.
What, then, is Sabina's Sandwich? It is an invention of the life of AD Singh's world, his designer wife Sabina, that can make for a Sunday treat your children will love. It consists of two slices of bread, not toasted but lightly fried in oil and butter so that they are crunchy outside and soft within, with a thin layer each of butter and cheese spread to hold together the slices of hard boiled eggs and diced green chillies, their seeds removed to reduce their pungency but retain their flavour. You can add raw onion rings for an added crunch and dust the sandwiches with red chilli powder for extra bite. You need such soul food after a night fuelled by Babaji Ka Thullu.
I don't know what they call the sandwich on the menu, but the next time I am at SBOW, I'll ask for a Sabina and not a Kejriwal!