It’s the breathless refrain every expat asks every other expat in Delhi: “You haven’t been to Karim’s yet?!?”
The unmarked alley entrance means you’ll never stumble upon it. This is the allure of Karim’s: to go there is to discover a secret of the old city.
Some people will tell you it’s the oldest restaurant in Delhi. Other people will tell you that they invented Mughal-style food. The truth doesn’t really matter. Only the food does.
You don’t know what to look at first — the kebab guys, the bread guys, the guys carrying more dishes than seems possible, the motorcycles honking as they weave through what you’d think was the middle of the restaurant, or the proprietors of each of the four dining rooms who, inexplicably, appear to be in competition with each other for your patronage.
Every time we go, we learn a new secret. Last time we learned that the Karim’s Veg dish, with paneer, dates, and some sort of nut-based gravy, is the stuff of dreams. The time before that, we learned that they serve breakfast. This time we learned that the half-inch of oil puddled atop every bowl of stew isn’t supposed to be eaten. It’s there to show you that the food has been cooked so well that the fat has liquefied; the fat itself is meant to be drained into a separate dish.
Our parents are coming in November to visit. In the days they spend with us before embarking on their packaged tour, we’ll make sure they know this secret of the old city; and when they meet up with the rest of their tour group, they’ll be the ones breathlessly asking, “You haven’t been to Karim’s yet?!?”