Two girls sitting on a table next to ours greedily eyed the IMLY candies that came arranged in our Bill Box. Not their fault folks, I think this is a normal scene when most of us see chatpati Imly (Tamarind) and we try to get a handful of them and start savouring them.
A few days back when Varun Puri mentioned about his plans to open up a street food joint by the name IMLY I got curious and has been following all the developments. The moment IMLY was mentioned, I started thinking of the mood-altering, tingling, tantalizing tastes of the sweet and sour slender pods of imlies.
World knows about the love of Delhi people for chatpata street good and their quest in experimenting with various forms of street food. And you very well know that no single chatpata food is complete without the use of Imly. It is the main ingredient of all the street food. It’s akin to a staple flavor that we have always welcomed with the tanginess in our mouth.
Varun Puri and Vivek Bhargava recently launched this superb all-rounder street food joint in the heart of New Delhi. This is a restaurant that is designed in a shape of a train taking one through the ultimate journey of the chatpata world all around us. The restaurant is designed in the form of a 250ft long train compartment with an old timer toot-tooting engine, in which patrons travel to various parts of India and try out food of the local region.
Interestingly, you also get to feel the view which normally one sees while travelling by train. The ambiance reminds you of a luxury train chair car coach, the only difference being the food that is served to you. The specially designed cutlery used on the tables also sets up the mood.
Parked at Rajendra Place, Hog Market, Imly has an interesting menu. Dishes from every state are clubbed under separate categories. The menu has a wide selection of street foods from all parts of India – the north, south, east, west and center, the difference being the presentations and the twists in flavours. The menu currently has over 100 dishes currently, and the team aims to add newer selections every month.
Chaat making is an Art in India, and this was so evident at Imly when my first drink, the amazing kokam sikanji in a Bante wali bottle (bottle with glass marble) came on my table. Being an exploratory traveler myself, I wanted to explore more, so I quickly finished my flavoured sikanji and soon the chatpata journey began. It was a journey of real flavours of India. Soon many of my all-time favourite chaats from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Mumbai and Pune and Indianised Chinese started landing on my table.
As soon as I finished my Kokam flavoured Sikanji, another drink, the Sunset fruit juice in a steel Lota was served to me. It was followed immediately by a complimentary Dahi Puchka on a Mini Giant wheel which made the train moving and I embarked on my enjoyable culinary journey. This was followed by Dahi papdi served in a tart-like papdi. From old Delhi station came Gol Gappa in a cart complete with a barrel for the water and crispy gappas atop tiny glasses filled with chutneys and potato mix. This was a Do it Yourself activity which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Whether it was Mumbai’s famous Pao Bhaji, or Chandani chowk’s famous gol gappe to Rajasthan’s famous Kalmi bade to Madurai’s dosa that is served as spring roll – everything landed on my table for me to relish. The Chinese bhel reminded me of the Chinese van serving Chinese food during my days in college at Jaipur. “Chinjabi” i.e Chinese in Punjabi style section features many more such delectable dishes.
Moving to the Rajasthani section, I had the crispy Kalmi Vada which was served with the best ever garlic chutney I had after a long long time. I used to have chutney of similar taste when I used to go to my native town in Rajasthan. The garlic sauce added the charm to the Kalmi Vadas.
I turned the train southwards and tried a portion of Spring Dosa that came with yummy chutneys. On my way back to Delhi in the train I passed through Pune/Mumbai and then through Rajasthan, where I tried the Shekhawati regions Bikaneri Parantha with Gatte ki Sabji and Dahi Gulla. Only a Marwari housewife could have served more authentic Gattas. Though I never wanted the journey to finish but then I had to, so I finally reached Delhi and tried out my all-time favourite Cholle Bhatura.
For me a culinary journey is never complete without a sugary end to my meals. And as a Rajasthani never offers his guest a dessert (you see Rajasthan is full of desserts and desserts are full of sand). They call it mithai, I also call them Mithai section. And Imly has an entire section dedicated to Mithais from all over the country. I feasted myself on sinful Rasmalai Tiramisu, Jalebi with Rabdi and Varun’s favourite, Bundi Pag Rabdi.
Thanking ever smiling Shruti and a great host Varun, I promised them for a repeat visit with my kids, I finally got down at my station – My Delhi.
Décor : 5/5 Hospitality : 5/5 Food : 4.5/5 Location : 4.5/5
Note: Images of the dishes are of actual serving sizes. Review done on invitation from the establishment and views expressed are entirely ours and without any bias. No monetary favour was received.