I was not sure why we traveled to Delhi, India, as part of our India tour. It just seemed like a city we needed to add into our itinerary, despite not knowing why. Delhi is part of the Golden Triangle, along with Agra and Jaipur, and a launching point for most Taj Mahal tours. Other than that, it just seemed like a stopping off point and the JW Marriott Delhi was the perfect place to stay.
Once again, the JW Marriott Delhi staff picked us up at the airport, and quickly whisked us away to the hotel. Once again, we were escorted to our room to complete the registration process. The hotel itself was as you would expect from a JW Marriott – impressive, grand lobby, friendly staff, luxurious room appointments. What I did not expect, though, was how well we would eat at the JW Marriott Delhi.
Introduction to K3 at the JW Marriott Delhi
Once settled in, we made our way down to the hotel restaurant K3 for a late lunch. K3 refers to the 3 kitchens of the restaurant, including India, China, and Italy. Three of our favorite cuisines. If it were K4, and they had Mexican, I would be in heaven.
Chef Girish, large and imposing in his chef whites, greeted us with a grin from ear to ear. We assumed this was just a handshake and a hello before we started to explore the buffet selection, which was immense. Instead, we immediately bonded over our collective passion for food. But, I was a bit distracted during the conversation.
We sat sandwiched between the Italian and Chinese stations of the buffet. Just over Chef Girish’s shoulder, was a display of Chinese style roasted chicken, duck, and bbq pork, some of our favorite things to eat. We had not eaten good Chinese food, particularly bbq, in at least 6 months. I’d been craving proper bbq pork.
I felt bad, realizing it was hard for me to make eye contact with Chef Girish because my eyes were locked with the pork hanging, and dripping fat. Eventually, the Chef caught on and asked Chef Yep to bring over a sampling plate for us. Again, I was not intending on eating Chinese food in India, but the meat platter, along with a sampling of dim sum was spot on. It satisfied an itch I didn’t know I had.
Chef Girish introduced us to Chef Yep, from China, and Chef Ricci from Italy. And, once our bellies were coated with the Chinese bbq, the food really began to flow, right along with the conversation.
I protested offerings from the Italian restaurant, having just flown in from Italy, and gorged on the food of Emilia Romagna. Chef Ricci, though, would hear none of it. Each time we ate at K3, he offered us some little Italian treat, including fresh ravioli and even panzerotti, an Italian street food, and one of our favorites. I was impressed with the authenticity of what we tried from Chef Ricci’s kitchen, and I think he liked chatting with us about Emilia Romagna, a region he is familiar with and close to his home in Marche.
Even with the occasional interjection of Chinese and Italian dishes over our meals at K3, the spotlight was truly on the Indian food. Chef Girish introduced us to his Indian chef, as well as his sous chef, who he seemed to hold a special place in his heart.
Chef Girish grew up all over India, because his father was in the military. We introduced him to the term “Army Brat,” which he embraced fully. As a result of his travels, he’s learned about the food from all the regions in India.
One of the things I loved about all of the Marriott properties was the focus on the local cuisine of that particular state. At the JW Marriott Mumbai, there was a focus on Mumbai chaat and the curries of that region. At the Jaipur Marriott, the focus was on Rajasthani cuisine, and at the Courtyard Agra, on the local Moghli cuisine.
The one thing running through all of the chefs’ kitchens was a fascination with cuisine of Lucknow, a region in eastern India, close to the Nepali border. We heard Chef Amitesh in Mumbai talk of Lucknow, a region we had never heard of. When Chef Girish mentioned it, a lot, I started to become curious. I even asked him how to spell it, so I could research it. Imagine my embarrassment that the spelling was actually “Lucknow.”
Chef Asif, the young sous chef at K3 is also from Lucknow. Although not a classically trained chef, he comes from a family of cooks, where his father and grandfather were both cooks.
The more I heard about Lucknow, the more it reminded me of Puebla, Mexico, which was featured by Anthony Bourdain in an episode of No Reservations as the home of many of the great chefs and cooks of New York. Lucknow also seems to be a hot bed of interesting cuisines and young chefs who are taking their skills all over the country.
Every time we ate at K3, even for breakfast, Chef Girish and his team set out a series of their best dishes for us. Although a buffet, we rarely walked the buffet line. Instead, the food came to us. Our first meal included Chinese bbq pork and dim sum, Italian ravioli, and a spread of Indian curries beyond anything my brain could comprehend.
Our next lunch at K3, happened to be on the early end of their famous Sunday brunch. We were promised a selection of tandoori dishes and biriyani. My favorite of the dishes was a swordfish tikka with garam masala, mustard seed oil, and red chili paste. The fish was so tender and flavorful. We noted that many of the dishes in Delhi included mustard seed oil, which I quickly developed a liking for. It offered a slightly stronger flavor than just using mustard greens.
We also had lamb porti tikka masala from Lucknow.
Lamb biriyani with garlic curd, yellow chili powder, and a local sella rice, which is different from the basmati rice traditionally used in biriyani.
Of course Chef Yep brought us bbq pork at each meal, and Chef Ricci rolled out some Italian treats. And, when we were full beyond belief, a dessert arrived at the table.
Hotel Dining at the JW Marriott Delhi
I remember watching an episode of No Reservations, where Anthony Bourdain warned that normally he and his crew race away from the hotel to eat. They run fast and far away, because often it’s the person who hit the hotel buffet that ended up sick. In that episode, though, he found an exception in one of the large hotel chains in Singapore.
I was facing the same dilemma during the first half of our tour in India. I was, honestly, perplexed at how good the food was at the hotels. I was surprised at how well trained, and how passionate, the chefs were, particularly Chef Girish at the JW Marriott Delhi. The attention to detail in both the Indian and foreign cuisines. The attentive staff. It was well beyond my expectations.
It is possible that our treatment at K3 was a little different than a normal guest’s visit, because of our blogger status, but what it shows is the diversity and quality of the food coming out of the kitchen. I also saw some of the Indian chefs in front of the buffet line offering suggestions to guests, and helping them understand what K3 offered. Perhaps we weren’t as special as I thought.
In the end, we didn’t see much of Delhi during our short stay, but really there is not so much to see. We took an Indian cooking class in a family’s home. We used the JW Marriott Delhi as a jumping off point for our private Taj Mahal tour. And, we ate very very well. For that, I am thrilled we stopped in Delhi, and had the opportunity to meet Chef Girish and his team.
We were hosted by the JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity, and by K3, but all opinions, and all yummy sounds, are of course my own.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.