“What’s the karma about this place, and what’s the kismet?” I asked Tushar Jagota, co-owner of Karma Kismet, the new contemporary fine dining addition to Delhi’s lively GK-II M Block market, right off the bat. My host stuttered, perhaps startled at the immediacy of the question, before he started, “it is a little bit of both. The chef, Deepanker Khosla, known for his work with a successful Bangkok-based Indian restaurant, happens to be my brother. It was his and co-founder Chetan Kaushal’s good karma in this industry. I came in as the kismet element, putting everything together anyway, don’t these two things define all of us?”
They do, Tushar.
The two of us were seated at the dining space, which was done up in a mélange of contemporary and surrealistic décor elements. A large backlit Karma Kismet logo—containing an elaborate infinity loop encircled by a Japanese ens? (which represents enlightenment)—lay on the wall. The same wall was tiled with marble, brass and wooden slabs. The ceiling had a ‘dragon’s wave’ or wave-like panels that appeared to be moving if you walked underneath them. While the yellow lighting gave the place a formal vibe and the candles even added a romantic touch, the midcentury décor added a casual undertone.
Many moons ago, Tushar, Chetan and Deepanker had sat over beers and fantasised about opening a good quality restaurant once they were making good money. This thought, which remained in their hearts, now finds substance in the form of a place that seems to have all the right ingredients. Their karmas and their kismets—both had been good.
But, of course, the interplay of these two factors is best represented in the food, as it should be. Deepanker has worked with ITC’s restaurant, Peshawari, and adores the cuisine. Awadhi is equally nawabi in flavour—be it tikkas, lamb dishes or kebabs—even as the two are very distinct from each other. The chef does not hold back on presentation and has even experimented with the ingredients. That’s the kismet part. The flavour, however, remains unmistakingly authentic. That’s karma. Also there is, thankfully, no fusion food—something that neither karma, nor kismet can save.
For appetisers, I was first served galouti ki kismet (a galouti [minced meat] delicacy, but with mushroom). Though I’m biased towards the fungus, it tasted eerily similar to mutton. If anything, I welcomed the tinge of mushroom flavour. Next came the shatavari ki tikki (crispy asparagus shavings, pine nut and charred cottage cheese) and kakori kebab. Here it was a battle of which one was more succulent—it was the underdog shatavari, though, that melted in my mouth. Another time, Kakori.
The mains, I noticed, were more traditionally done. A karam ki raan (a leg of lamb in demi-glace lamb masala) was cut into soft chunks and had an admirable charcoal flavour. The daal karma or dal makhani was simple goodness. However, was the accompanying bread—the 16-layer warqui naan—that really caught my eye. Heavy, no doubt, it felt like the cheese burst pizza of naans and who really minds that?
Finally, came the dessert. Called ‘evolution of the paan’, it was a revelation in itself—a deconstructed paan with leaves, khus extract, betel nut paste, calcium extracts and fenugreek seeds. Karma Kismet doesn’t do molecular gastronomy, but Tushar told me, “Some of desserts are just as meticulously done.”
In the end, Karma Kismet proved to be one of those places that slowly reveal themselves with time—it had complexity and depth, but only perceivable layer-by-layer. And in a dynamic Delhi restaurant scenario, it comes across as so avant-garde that you may think it is ahead of its time, with only kismet to determine whether it’ll do well or not. But, then again, Peshawari and Awadhi food are timeless, and when cooked as well as this, undefeatable. That way, karma prevails and Karma Kismet is here to stay.
At a glance
Cuisines: Awadhi and Peshawari (food of the erstwhile North-West Frontier Province)
Opening hours: 12:30pm – 1:00am (all days)
Bar: Karma Kismet’s first floor has a swanky-looking lounge area with a chic bar designed in a honeycomb-like Voronoi pattern. While the fine dining restaurant space on the second floor is already operational, the lounge and the bar are expected to go live by the first week of April. An elaborate range of cocktails made using molecular mixology will be served there. In a Karma Kismet twist, many of these will be made with Indian herbs and spices.
Cost for two: Rs. 1,500, before taxes
Address: M-25, M Block market, Greater Kailash II, New Delhi