AFTER touching soil in 69 countries, Gautam Khanna is without a doubt that his “destiny” lies in Trinidad.
When he is at his most peaceful, setting down a steaming platter of one of his speciality dishes before eager diners, his wife, Mallika, is certain she was right to support his dream of leaving their native India to settle% here.
With a series of challenges behind them, the Khannas have, for the past six months, quietly and successfully operated one of Chaguanas’ best-kept secrets, Delhi Palace Caterers on Ramsaran Street.
The cosy enclave of a restaurant is big on taste and style—Mallika Khanna, an interior decorator, has brought the space to life with India’s intense tapestries. An entire wall has been converted into a work of art where elephants carry their Rajas, phagwa explodes in colour and jewelled mirrors catch the light.
Overhead, cheery papier mache chandeliers sway in the cool, spice-scented air and greeting guests at the counter is a modern take on a representation of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity who Hindus believe clears the way of the faithful and ensures success.
Hand over heart, Gautam Khanna said his attempts to settle elsewhere only lead to a compelling need to return to Trinidad.
“I love Trinidad,” he said. “Maybe I owe her something from a past life. This is an amazing place with amazing potential.”
With a large settling of East Indian culture here, adjusting to life here hasn’t been too difficult for the Khannas.
In fact, as they prepared last week to host the opening of Divali DELHI from Page 1
Nagar 2013, at Endeavour, Chaguanas, the husband and wife team said the observation of such festivals as Divali is more vibrant in T&T that in its homeland an ocean away.
“I really enjoy the way Divali has grown here,” Mallika Khanna said.
The Khannas also took their talented chefs to the Nagar, where they are serving up a colourful selection of dishes.
And...about the food.
The chefs at Delhi Palace have the touch. Not too spicy, not too salty, not too sweet. Tandoori Chicken that is never dry? They can do it.
The menu is wide - dozens of dishes in the styles of Authentic Indian, Thai and Hakka, that spicy mix of Indian, Chinese and a dash of Japanese.
Gautam Khanna takes his Hakka seriously. It must excite the tastebuds, he said, and make them more receptive to the hidden flavours of the dish.
“Good spices, when blended proportionately and cooked properly, do not assault the senses. They do not burn, they give off heat,” he explained.
“Instead they bring out the natural flavour of the food and awaken the palate, to taste the food better.”
Delhi Palace is different from authentic Indian counterparts in that the food ranges across India and is not confined to a region.
“Authentic Indian means you must be able to taste every part of India if you wish,” Gautam Khanna said, “Not just the North or the South. If someone says they want American food, it can mean a whole range of dishes, not just one type of food. It is the same with India, the food is different in different regions.”
Vegetarians can also rejoice. At this restaurant the vegetarian dishes are in no way upstaged by the meat or seafood dishes - not when there are mushrooms bathed in tamarind sauce or intensely packed vege-balls in Veg Manchurian.
For the sweet-toothed, or just connoisseurs of Indian delicacies, the restaurant is always ready with a full rainbow of rich desserts Hulfi, Gulab Jamun, Rasmalai, Ladoo, Burfi and Jaleebi, with the latter sweets available in a variety of flavours.
Want to see, or rather, taste for yourself?
Delhi Palace Caterers can be found on Ramsaran Street, Chaguanas, Facebook, at the same name, or at www.delhipalacett.com.