Zayqa offers great value for money
As frequent travellers to India, everyone in my family has a fondness, nay, a passion for
Indian cuisine, especially gravy items such as daal makhni and paneer makhni. So when we heard there is a new Indian joint in Banani, where Cheez (another favourite joint) used to be located, my brother and I had to check it out.
The restaurant in question is named Zayqa, and it proclaims itself to be a family-friendly diner of sorts, with budget-friendly meals. As per our usual MO, we did some research online before visiting in person, so by the time we did end up there, we were excited at the prospect of trying out the thalis featured on their Facebook page.
We were greeted by a cozy looking place with attractive interiors, and the location made me think that if the food turned out to be as good as it looked, then it should become popular amongst the corporate crowd that frequents the locality. As we took our seats, we had the opportunity to chat with the owner who talked about his passion for food and his intention to create an atmosphere where a family could enjoy a quick and affordable meal.
I opted for a thali, while my brother chose a fish reshmi kabab, a murgh malai kabab, and we added our usual picks of daal makhni, paneer makhni, butter naan and rumali roti on top. Our entire order arrived piping hot within 20 minutes, which was a definite plus in my books.
The murgh malai kabab was well marinated, tender, juicy and nicely charred. I could actually taste the malai, and the finely chopped green chillies gave it that subtle kick of spice. The real champion amongst the kababs was the fish reshmi kabab. The marinade was the same as the murgh malai kabab, but the fish simply melts in the mouth. If you don’t like your kababs too spicy, then this is something I heartily recommend – it will be a treat for your Soul.
After this, I got on the thali. The featured thali contains seven items like palak paneer, chana masala, mixed vegetables, sambar, yogurt and salad with a huge rumali roti. My brother and I shared the food, and were quickly won over by the palak paneer and mixed vegetable. Thick palak spinach spiced with fenugreek and garlic, the strong flavours mellowed out by cheesy cubes of paneer, this item was so on point, it transported us to the authentic dhabas of India. We instantly fell in love. The mixed veggies tasted like something you would find in every Indian household; familiar and comforting.
The chana masala was a bit on the spicier, but the flavours were well blended, and one can always add the yoghurt to tone down the spice level. If there was a weak link to this thali, it would be the sambhar, but the owners seem to be tweaking the recipes, so maybe the next time will be better.
We finished our meal by dipping our butter naans into the daal makhni and paneer makhni. The butter naan was generously buttered, charred and soft in the right amounts. My first taste of the daal makhni immediately reminded me of Delhi’s Nathus Sweets, which makes a real dope daal makhni. Zayqa’s one was just as good, thick, rich and robust enough to feed two. The paneer makhni had a sweet and spicy curry base that perfectly offset the cheese. Washing the whole meal down with a sweet and refreshing virgin mojito was a very satisfying experience.
Fantastic food, reasonable prices, and a warm, cozy atmosphere, the experience of a meal at Zayqa was all positive, and I would totally recommend it to anyone looking for a budget-friendly Indian meal. Zayqa is located at House 6, Road 17/A, Block E, Banani
Ariz Hoque is a bookseller by profession and a food blogger by passion. Find him on Instagram as @kacchigenie