The curious case of defining 'the best' in food

The papdi chaat that I really enjoyed at Ashok's in Delhi 6
A Delhi based food writer later told me there is much better according to locals

Yesterday Bangalore's Neha Mathur, of Whiskaffair, excitedly posted about a Nataraj in Delhi's Chandni Chowk during an Old Delhi walk organised as a part of JW Marriott Aerocity ( a very good Fam trip concept by the way, highlights the hotel stay and takes food bloggers to the best of local food).

Neha said Nataraj is the place for the 'best chaat' in Delhi.

Kishi Arora, who runs Foodaholic, immediately tweeted back saying that Delhites are no longer enamoured by the chaats at Nataraj and that she felt that the quality has gone down.

Which made me think, how can one rate the 'best' in food? Doesn't the word best imply having tried all options?

The Tweet that sparked off this post

Best needs to come with qualifiers I feel starting with ' the best that I have tried'. Which is why I always prefer to say 'my favourite' rather than best. With favourite comes the underlined message that it reflects one's personal tastes and experiences.

'Best' doesn't tell even half the story when it comes to food.

Food is so subjective and there is so much variety in food.

I am not sure if the palates of world travelled veteran food critics would always reflect the tastebuds of youngsters starting out in life. In crowd sourced, vote based best lists you don't know the biases or contexts of the voters. Popularity is not always the best metre of quality. And don't even get me started based on Google searched based, non experiential, listicles.

A couple of weeks back Amrita of Life Ki Recipe had gone to Kolkata. She asked me for a few recommendations. I suggested Flurys among other places.

Next morning I saw my favourite strawberry cube on her Instagram feed and a comment on how disappointed with the 'old school, touristy' place with sugary cakes.

Amrita's Flurys angst

Yet, when I go to Calcutta a stop at Flurys is a must for me.

Being about 10 years older to Amrita, the cakes she found old school are what I had grown up on. Their buttery, creamy, heavy icings bring back sweet memories of my Adrian Mole years. A time when I was so skinny that I could happily wolf down the rare pastry treat. Flurys was beyond the reach of my mom, a single mother working in a college. So pastries then meant Jalojoga. Going to Flurys today is a 'bees saal baad' moment of Amitabh Bachchan 70s 70 mm flicks. Of being able to live the life one had aspire to.

Amrita came to Flurys without any of my baggage or memories. She tried the cake objectively. She didn't like it. Which is understandable. Thankfully she later approved of my order recco of mutton biryani, chicken chaap, mutton rezala and tandoori roti in Arsalan. Not my favourite place for briyani in Kolkata though my younger brother loves it.

Which is why I would not say that the strawberry cube of Flurys is the 'best pastry' in Kolkata. It is my favourite though.

As is the Kookie Jar lemon tart in Kolkata. Objectively speaking, I can say that it is the best lemon tart I have had so far.

Which is why I always ask 'what kind of biryani do you like' when people ask me about the best biryani in Mumbai.

To me it would be currently be Peetuk Caterer's Kolkata biryani. It reminds me of the biryani I have grown up on from the Nizam's, Zeeshan's, Shiraz's and Bedwins of Kolkata.

 For my mother in law, a Mumbai Parsi, it would be Jaffer Bhai or Lucky with extra masala.

The sort of stuff that gives me nightmares!

I guess they found the perfect solution in the recent restaurant awards announced by Times in Delhi. If you leave the parsi Anjuman Society aside, there are two Parsi restaurants in Delhi. Kainaz Contractor's Rustom's and AD Singh's Soda Bottle Opener Wala.

From what I understand, they have both won for 'Best Parsi' in Delhi in this year's Times awards!

Before signing off, let me remind you that if I describe any dish/ restaurant as the 'best', please remember that conditions always apply.

Have a great Sunday and hopefully some lovely chaat too.

Read: My Delhi 6 or Old Delhi food walk

Here are the best dishes (new experiences) that I have had so far in 2016:

1. Goat cheese ravioli by Matteo Arvonio at Mezzo Mezzo, JW Marriott, Juhu, Bandra
2. East Indian pork sorpotel, The Bagel Shop, Bandra, Mumbai
3. 100 pc dark chocolate cake, La Folie, Bandra, Mumbai
4. Gatte ke sabzi and Satpadi paratha, Soam, Babulnath, Mumbai


Unknown said…
I completely agree. It's really hard to pick which is why I don't hold much merit in any of these lists like Asian's best or World best because food is subjective and I find most of the time things are really REALLY over rated.
Manoj Kaushik said…
Agree both with Kalyan and Kishi Arora....

Best is a subjective term... While everybody says that Sitaram Diwanchand has best chhola bhaturas in Delhi, I like Radhesyam's and they are best for me (Or rather I should say my favourite).

Regarding Natraj Dahi Bhalla, I would agree with Kishi, there are better chaat vendors for example Ashok Chaat of Chawri Bazar is way better.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
That's the thing Manoj. I really enjoyed Ashok. Then an eminent Delhi based food writer said there is a lot better!
Harnoor said…
Nicely said. Agree wholeheartedly. Food, like most things in life, is a very subjective experience. My favourite or best I have had would perhaps be more apt.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
yeah, that's a lot safer and more apt indeed