Reaching a dinner venue in Delhi is usually one of two extremes: an elegant climb up a few shiny steps or elevator, or a frustrating adventure. The walk to Number 31 lay somewhere in between, and mostly only involved the very tame act of dodging fast cars with booming music.
On entering, selfie hounds are likely to suss out the bright lantern fixtures as good sources of camera-friendly lighting. These, along with distressed light hardwood flooring and mirror-work wall embellishments, make the place seem larger than it is—and quite unlike its other, cramped neighbours.
Immediately after we sat at our table, we asked for the waffles, a burger and an "Asian bowl", trying to order one dish from every section of the menu. A few minutes later, we were informed that the “continental menu” was only available from 8am to 8pm (we had arrived at half past eight in the evening). Disappointed with not being able to satisfy our greed (and the craving for breakfast for dinner), we asked for the menu again to try and find soothing alternatives. Someday, we would find out what a zucchini waffle is, but this was not the time.
Service was quick; all our dishes arrived seconds apart. Our tiny round table, although lovely, seemed like it might crack under the weight of the entire meal. We asked the staff if we could relocate, but they tried to convince us to remain at the same spot, even if it meant no space to place our glasses or forks and knives. They eventually gave in, though, and moved us to a slightly bigger table.
The miso-roasted eggplant gyoza arrived first: pan-fried dumplings stuffed with diced eggplant, cooked in soy sauce. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite hit the spot—we couldn’t taste the promised miso element at all. The dish somehow felt like it wasn’t living up to its full dumpling potential.
Sushi, however, rarely lets anyone down and this one was no different. The sushi platter arrived with eight salmon and tuna rolls, artfully placed beside some ginger and wasabi. It was undoubtedly the best course of the night. The softness of the salmon and tuna was accompanied by an unexpected crunch—which came from pak choi. It added an unusual, pleasant layer to the sushi.
The other star of the evening was the pork belly, which was served with spring onion sticky rice, green apple, pickled cucumber and pak choi on the side. It’s hard to go wrong with pork belly, and as much as the competence of the dish could be linked to the safety of having ordered it, every bite did melt in the mouth.
An ice cream spring roll sounded like it’d be an appropriate transition into dessert. However, what arrived was an underwhelming spring roll shell filled with ice cream, with no other exciting ingredients that might’ve added more punch. We reserved our fantasy of being able to have hot, crisp, glass noodle-filled spring rolls with ice cream on the side for our private thoughts.
While our evening proved enjoyable, it was evident that being new, Number 31 was still on its way to buttoning its sleeves and straightening its collar. If they ever do achieve that level of finesse, the place could easily become a worthy competitor to other, more loved Japanese restaurants in the city. They'd only need to train their staff to be more empathetic and hire a chef who specialises in dessert.
Opening hours: Everyday, 8am-11.30pm.