Hoping to get a table at our favorite Indian restaurant in Nice, Delhi Belhi, one night after we arrived, we found it fermé pour renovation.
In New York, “closed for renovation” usually means it’s closed. Period. We were incredibly sad, or as the French would say désolé. However, a week or so later, we found the owner working on the space, and he promised it would reopen in a few weeks. Phew.
Frank found Delhi Belhi years ago, cruising through some food site. He wanted to try it to see what Indian food would be like in France. I was skeptical but was won over by the name (which I later learned is a play on the Indian version of Montezuma’s revenge–oops).
We’ve never regretted it.
The restaurant is on a tiny road in the Old Town of Nice, in an ancient building that once was a stable. If it’s early in the evening, the father is sitting outside, taking a break, and greeting guests before he starts to oversee the kitchen. You’ll pass it on your way to the dining room which is dark and cozy with the racks that once held hay, now holding bottles of wine.
Rak, the owner’s son, remembers every dish you’ve ever ordered (even some his father cooked up as a surprise). A trio of sauces is on every table—tamarind, cilantro and a hot mix of onions. We get crunchy papadums to dip into the sauces while we contemplate the menu.
Their samosas come with a crispy pastry shell and a nice filling of either lamb, vegetables or shrimp. We haven’t had the shrimp ones yet, but the other two are both good.
I’ve been on a butter chicken, chicken tikka masala kick, both being equally delicious, but Rak occasionally steers me to the chicken chili fry, which can be incredibly spicy, or taken down a notch or 2. At this point, we’ve probably tasted most of the chicken dishes, and all are tasty, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Recently I expanded my explorations to include an excellent chicken biryani.
On several Sunday evenings, we’ve made our way through a lot of the lamb dishes. So far, my favorite is the Lamb Delhi Belhi, but the madras, jal frezi, or dhansak are all excellent alternatives and Frank swears by the lamb with lentils.
There is basmati rice, and lots of breads to choose from. Onion kulcha has always been a favorite, and now on Rak’s recommendation, you’ll often find us going for the chili cheese naan (just in case you needed some more heat).
Desserts are usually skipped—we’re too full, but we do accept Rak’s offer of a cognac or liqueur and walk home, happy and well fed.