Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why the ageless Aka Saka @ Defence Colony, Delhi thrives

What makes for its longevity of a business, more specifically a restaurant? How many restaurants have are still going strong after five decades?

Coming in to Delhi after ages, it was with a sense of shock that we stumbled into Aka Saka. Surrounded by cafes, lounge bars, multi-cuisine restaurants, specialty restaurants, Udipi style restaurants, fast food joints, coffee shops, delis and take away dhabas, it’s still holding ground fairly well.

Other eateries come and go, but Aka Saka @ Defence Colony Market, New Delhi - like the pole star - has been running in the same premises for as long as one can remember. It has successfully catered to the changing taste of multiple generations by not changing! It used to be a favourite of IITians, maybe it still is, I don’t know.

While the less fortunate ones had to make do with bun omlet and chai at the dhaba outside the boundary wall of the campus, those with a bit of money, a motorcycle and a girlfriend, would head out of Hauz Khas and make a beeline for Aka Saka. There were no malls, no signature restaurants, no multiplexes, no cable, no internet, no mobile telephony in those days. Just the simple pleasure of feeling the bitter winter wind against your face as you rode – helmetless – on your Yezdi or Rajdoot or Royal Enfield.

As I said, if you had a two wheeler and good company, you’d head for restaurants like Aka Saka. It served what at that time we called good Chinese fare but was, as we discovered in retrospect, after becoming wiser with the ways of the world, good Indian Chinese fare.

We went there to dine on nostalgia and also get a glimpse of what we may have missed in those far off student days. Well for one, it serves, I discovered, hearty fare. Chopsuey, Chow Mein, all the things in garlic sauce, Manchurian, Talu Mein soup... you know what I mean. It has no exotic stuff, no pretentious dishes, and no Pan Asian ambitions. The portions are huge and a one by two Talu Mein soup is a full meal. It was actually two full bowls of soup. And of course it was tasty. As it must have been all those years ago.  Stooped, middle aged waiters serve you and the decor is quite late twentieth century. But it manages to compete quite well with all the upstarts that abound. The other tables were occupied by – what else – young couples.

What’s the secret of its longevity I wonder? Perhaps its it's unpretentiousness; or the great value for money proposition: it serves good quality, good portions of Indian Chinese at reasonable prices.
And it’s quite open and unabashed about itself. We enjoyed the meal.

So if you want to:  
  • Eat decent Indian Chinese,
  • Enjoy large portions without going bankrupt, 
  • Understand what makes a restaurant last for ever, 

then you must go to Aka Saka @ Defence Colony Market, Delhi.

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