Friday, November 2, 2012

From Baba Ramdev's Cafe to The Chotiwala

Yo, fellow Novemba lova’s! It’s now been three days since I’m back from my cousin’s wedding in Dehradun. It goes without saying that it was a lot of fun. It had to be, as at no other wedding have I seen the groom blow whistles from on top of the ghodi and make the Titanic pose with the little kid sitting in front of him on the milky white mare, while the rest of the baraatis dance to Chikni Chameli being blared into a microphone by a twenty year old male band-wala. Getting solo pictures of him clicked for about an hour after the var-maala ceremony, posing like Yo Yo Honey Singh, our dulha was the true star of the whole wedding. He even shed a few tears at the time of the bidaai; probably because we didn’t get “Mele maamu ki chaadi me jalool jalool aana” on his wedding cards. But all’s well that ends well.

I won’t make this a wedding post. There are a lot of fun memories which may then need to be reported, and I’ll get killed if I tell you about how we stuck around in the newlywed couple’s room on their first night, demanding a plate each of bread omlette as treat at 5 in the morning. Equally risky will be publically mentioning all the innuendos about doodh and badam that were shamelessly narrated in front of the new bride while she blushed around her hubby-bubby and saasu-in-law. So, I’ll just take you through some random food places visited by my good self (yes, sir ji *grins*) on our way to and from the city of Dehradun.

Baba Ramdev’s CafĂ©, yo!

The family decided to halt somewhere close to Haridwar in the evening for a cup of chai each, when someone suggested that we stop at Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ashram and try out the range of exotic jadi-booti wali chai that he has to offer. In another twenty minutes, our cars drove into the Patanjali Ashram premises. Even though the baba has done a neat job of lifting design ideas from the various Iskcon temples across the country, the cafeteria matches his personality to a tee. There were sweets like amla barfi and lauki barfi for sale, apart from bhalle-papdi garnished with kaale channe. Since no one really had the heart to gorge on food made of pube like herbs, the elders decided to sip some good ‘ol adrak wali chai while we kids thought it would be safest to have an ice-cream cone. It turned out that baba’s staff thinks vanilla is the English for sugar, and we had to lick the off-white cream for a few minutes till we realized that it was actually batasha flavored. The cones went down the bin, and we washed down the flavor with a fistful each of aaloo bhujia that we were smart enough to carry from home. We drove out of the ashram with the elders cursing the baba for being power hungry, and the kids fantasizing about tricking him into doing aasans that would make him kick his own butt.

Jain Shikanji Everywhere!

If you’ve been to Haridwar, Rishikesh or Mussoorie by road, I’m sure you’ve seen huge boards of Jain Shikanji adorning the highway for a stretch of about ten kilometers after crossing Meerut. Jain Shikanji has been around since the time my dad used to visit the abovementioned places with his cousins as a kid. There has never been a trip to Rishikesh when we haven’t stopped at this shikanji stall for a glass of chilled lemon masala soda. Except this time, the elders were in too much of a rush to reach the wedding town to even care to slow down in front of the shikanji stall and naino mein basaao the uncle ji whose photo is the business’ famous trademark. There are a couple of fake Jain Shikanji stalls too, but you’ll know the original one by recognizing the photo of Jain Shikanji Uncle who has full hair, a neat Premchand mustache, and a face that makes you wonder whether he is smiling or has been blessed with looks like that.

There was no shikanji break for us this time, but if you ever take the same route, stop for two glasses of shikanji with a plate of paneer pakoda. My treat.

Cheetal Grand and Moolchand

Cheetal and Moolchand are two places you can stop at for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They’re mini resorts trying hard to look like a Haldiram’s with hotel rooms, and have actually done a better job at it than the real Haldiram. Cheetal has a fancy bird zoo where you’ll often find roosters engaged in hilariously amusing crowing competitions. But I’m no fan of caging pretty birds, so Moolchand ranks no lower in my list despite being a little less popular than the former. The gardens at both these places are really well maintained, with flowers gyrating like in a Rajesh Khanna movie to show a kiss. The staff is way more welcoming than the half pundits we met at Patanjali. Drop at Cheetal for a meal on your way up, and try Moolchand on your way back. Ek trip pe do nishaane, yo!

Vishal Dhaba, Oodi Baba!

There has never been a trip to Rishikesh when we haven’t had at least one meal at the famous Chotiwala Restaurant, which is a five minute walk from the bathing ghats. But on our last trip, we were very disappointed with the quality of food served at both the adjoining Chotiwala’s owned by the two brothers who inherited half each of the original restaurant property. I also realized that I love food more than the sight of a fat, pink colored, glitter covered man with a pony tail sitting outside an eating joint, inviting people to walk in by constantly ringing a mandir ki ghanti. So this time, we did a bit of asking around to find the best eating place in Rishikesh, and I can bet your  first girlfriend’s virginity that you cannot find a better eating place in the whole city than Vishal Dhaba.

Vishal Dhaba is on the side of the Ganges opposite to Chotiwala. We ordered handis full of Paneer Butter Masala, Channa Masala and Kadhi Pakoda and the taste of the food made us all have twice the number of chapattis that we normally have. Huge thalis were given to us for pouring generous servings of the dishes into. The kheer that followed tasted more like a royal preparation of rabri. The food made us so happy that we refused to leave the dhaba till the cook also made a special cup of chai for all of us, thus keeping the dhaba open for an hour more than its closing time.

Chuck rafting; my next trip to Rishikesh will be solely dedicated to Vishal Dhaba. And you must accompany me to experience food orgasm! *Ooh, Aah, Burp*

You may also try the poori-sabzi that they sell at Geeta Ashram. It’s very hygienically prepared and is priced at Mc Donald’s ki advert wale zamaane ke daam. And, oh, you can tell me about some nice eating places that you know of on the same route. I’ll probably be making a trip again soon. :)

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  1. Chotiwala restaurant was supposed to be very famous some years back. As a kid I used to be very excited and fond of that rotund guy with long soon as I touched teens I realized how big a foodie I am n no more cared abt the fancies of that restaurant. I haven't visited rishikesh in a long time...but definitely next spot in dehradun would be the Vishal dhaba! @@@@

    1. Vishal Dhaba is THE place, man. Can't wait for my next trip.

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If you had 5 Jalebis, how many would you give me for writing this post?

None = You don't deserve any >:O
@ = Soggy and stale! :(
@@ = Stale! :|
@@@ = I'll need a samosa to digest this with! :P
@@@@ = Sweet and Crisp! :)
@@@@@ = I'm opening you a Halwai Shop! :D