Star of In­dia is squids in by fus­ing the old with the new

Naz Din’s culi­nary rep­u­ta­tion is fur­ther bur­nished by a move around the cor­ner from his old place to a mod­ish room of near-cos­mopoli­tan chic

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - FOOD -

Naz Din is as Belfast as Carl Framp­ton. He has the same charm and wit and he pulls no punches. Good job he is a restau­ra­teur, though, be­cause Naz is more of a lover than a fighter. He won’t mind me say­ing that, be­cause ev­ery­body knows how re­silient and sin­gle-minded he can be. Also, his un­der­stand­ing of hos­pi­tal­ity and the need to keep cus­tomers happy makes him a nat­u­ral at this game.

Take his old gaff, Nu Delhi in Bruce Street. In de­fi­ance of all In­dian res­tau­rant tra­di­tion, Naz in­tro­duced masala chips and cock­tails to Belfast, cre­at­ing an at­mos­phere of al­most cos­mopoli­tan chic, which at­tracted cool young Asians among Belfast’s hip crowd.

Then he opened Slums down­stairs, a kind of bur­rito fu­sion take­away and sit-in for the lunchtime trade. I told him Slums was a ter­ri­ble name, but look who’s laugh­ing now.

Then, just be­fore Christ­mas, he moved to a new space a few yards away. New Nu Delhi is now a loft-like res­tau­rant on the first floor of the block which houses Gin­ger Bistro. Of Slums there is no sign. It may resur­face else­where. In the mean­time, fo­cus is on the new Nu Delhi, which I hoped would be an up­grade on the for­mer. It is.

This is a re­lief, be­cause I had in­cluded it in my list of favourite places to eat in 2018, and this was more in trib­ute to the old place. The new one is, frankly, miles ahead of ev­ery other In­dian in town. He could have gone more mod­ern, he could have been bolder in the menu but, hav­ing said that, the Eight­ies-chic thing works for me.

A 48-sheet poster-sized por­trait of a very beau­ti­ful Bol­ly­wood ac­tress adorns one en­tire wall, so just in case you weren’t sure where you were after get­ting out of the lift, there’s no doubt­ing this is a curry house.

The ad­viser and I agree that curry can be the most joy­ous food in the world, but only when great in­gre­di­ents are used. I’ve been to too many In­dian restau­rants where the chicken is cheap, chewy and taste­less and of un­cer­tain prove­nance, and where sim­ple fea­tures like naan and pop­padoms, rice and chut­neys are shop-bought, or just badly put to­gether (and of­ten stale). There is a sim­ple les­son which will very quickly help you gauge whether or not you’re in a good res­tau­rant: raita, mango chut­ney, chopped onion dip, the crunch fac­tor of the pop­padoms and the light­ness and soft crispi­ness of the naan’s ex­te­rior will all im­me­di­ately re­veal the qual­ity of the kitchen staff ’s tal­ents. Here, the tests pass no prob­lem. The server ad­vises me to try the squid. Squid masala? Yes, please. That’s the thing with Nu Delhi: they love to try new things, to fuse the un­ex­pected with tra­di­tion. Most times it works. This squid is a great ex­am­ple. Fried in a light bat­ter, which is full of un­mis­tak­ably clas­sic masala flavours, the squid is ten­der and tasty. Other op­tions in­clude lamb chops, monk­fish and more con­ven­tional bha­jis and pako­ras.

The ad­viser sug­gests that Naz is be­com­ing the In­dian Ed­die Fung, and that Nu Delhi is a suc­cess­ful In­dian rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of Zen. She is on to some­thing. There is glam­our and buzz and the food is good. In fact, the food is ex­cel­lent.

A mixed tan­doori grill fea­tures chicken on the bone, and is full of the deep­est, spici­est, charry tex­tures and hits. It’s a con­cen­trate of all the savoury favourites you’ve ever had (and there’s a lot on the plate).

High­light of the meal is a dark and dan­ger­ous daal makani, made of lentils and chick­peas. The depth and warmth of this hum­ble-look­ing dish is like a blan­ket of com­fort, TASTE OF THE EAST: a shield to ward away all evils, some­thing to pro­vide an un­mov­able bar­rier be­tween you and the out­side world. It is phe­nom­e­nal and the very essence of com­fort.

Nu Delhi mixes Belfast craic and Asian culi­nary ex­cite­ment per­fectly well. I won­der, has he plans to open a Nu Belfast in Delhi?

a pic­ture of a Bol­ly­wood ac­tress at the Nu Delhi res­tau­rant on Belfast’s Great Vic­to­ria Street

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