The man behind the high-end traditional restaurant Andaaz recently opened doors to a bistro offering local street food in the comfort of an air-conditioned, colourful little space.
While Andaaz faces Badshahi Mosque on Fort Road, Chit Chaat is tucked away in a service lane on main Jail Road. It assumes its name from the concept of chatting away with friends or family while relishing some papri or fruit chaat.
The place elicited my interest as soon as I entered: my favourite Bollywood music from the 80s and 90s blaring from a speaker in the corner. The wood ceiling, green walls, commercial music and old school treadle sewing machines revamped as tables lent the modest place some street touch. As soon as one places an order, the waiter places an hourglass on the table denoting that the order would arrive before the sand slips down.
My accompanying friend and I started off with the papri chaat and dahi barray. While the names were familiar, the presentation was anything but.
The papri chaat was served as crispy, palm-sized discs of flour topped with chickpea, yoghurt, pickled salad, sweet and sour chutneys and pink crisps sprinkled on top. Trying to stuff it all in the mouth was a struggle, but worth it. The combination of sweet, sour, crispy, creamy was lip-smacking and irresistible.
The dahi barray were soft cakes of green and white lentils sitting on a bed of mashed potato with yoghurt, topped with tangy tamarind and mint sauces, some masala and crisps and pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top. A delicious plate of the unassuming dahi barray with a twist; traditional, yet contemporary.
Bun Samosa sounded unique so we tried that next. The crispy, potato-filled samosa topped with cabbage and ketchup between small, square buns is a quick fix to satiate one’s hunger. Two of these for Rs250 is a fair deal. On finding Hot Dog on the menu, I was a bit surprised, but the waiter suggested I try it. It was nothing like the hot dog I knew all my life: a thick, peppery shaami kebab topped with salad and ketchup between small, buttery buns reminded me of the pappu/kutta burger. I was told this is something inspired by the ‘hot dog patty’ available at the Aitchison College canteen.
The Flying Saucer sandwich is a flame-grilled flying saucer-shaped (duh!) sandwich with a generous savoury potato filling inside. Fresh, soft and light, but nothing to write home about in terms of flavour. The similar Beef Cheese Toastie was delicious though. The filling comprising soft beef, cheese, caramelised onion and BBQ sauce was just slightly on the sweeter side because of the onions, but mouth-watering nonetheless.
Something called a Kathi Roll caught my eye. What was served was light chunks of grilled cottage cheese and assorted vegetables smothered with a delicious in-house chutney, all wrapped in a paratha. Unlike the oil-laden paratha rolls available all over the city, the Kathi Roll was not greasy at all and well worth the try. For paneer lovers, this one’s a must-try.
The Liberty and Pappu burgers sounded familiar too, but the Liberty Burger had a thick, succulent beef patty, mayo oozing out, ketchup and lettuce in regular buns. Appetising, messy, delicious for Rs390, go for it if you want a juicy desi-style burger but not on a roadside.
The Pappu Burger, as the name suggests, has peppery shaami kabab, omelette, ketchup and salad inside a foot-long bun. But this one’s bigger – and obviously pricier -- than what you get out on the street. Also, it tasted the same as their Hot Dog, for both contain the same patty and filling. So, not sure about the idea of having two items on the menu that taste the same even though they may be presented differently.
I had earlier been to Chit Chaat for breakfast also. While the paaye served with either kulcha or paratha were delectable and thankfully not runny, the nehari was a surprise – the unpleasant sort.
It had a very distinct taste of mint that, for me, overshadowed the beefy, savoury, masala flavour of this traditional delicacy. I’ve never had or even heard of mint in nehari so I was kind of put off, but maybe it has some takers out there.
From among the desserts, we had the cronut, while I had earlier had their French toast and fruit cake. The cronut – croissant-doughnut pastry – was soft and fresh and the tangy lemon curd on top was delicious. The French toasts filled with apple needed some more sugar though they were light and fluffy and grilled perfectly.
Chit Chaat also has a wide array of traditional drinks served in plastic bottles but with their own interesting twists: the delicious, fruity watermelon lassi and the Thandai – a sardai with milk, almond and cinnamon were my favourite. Some other drinks were the regular milk lassi but with a hint of cinnamon and rosewater making it even more refreshing; the tangy Jaljeera with lemon, brown sugar, mint, cumin seeds to help digest the food as well as the mango lassi, lemonade with a whole lemon zest blended in and peach juice.
Originally published in Dawn, July 17th, 2017