This story isn’t just a food review, this is cognizance of what human love and endeavours can achieve. Here is the story of a military family that is making humanity proud and bringing identity to Manipuri cuisine.
The first time I went to experience Manipuri cuisine in Delhi was in Dilli Haat and it has been a routine since then that whenever my home-state cuisine calls me, I usually drop by Dilli Haat to savour the home-away-from-home metaphorical taste in one of the stalls there.
However, the last time when I was roaming around in Dilli Haat, I bumped into a pleasant surprise.
I discovered Look Act East Kitchen – the first fine-dine modelled Manipuri restaurant in Delhi. Trust me, this was like discovering Aladdin’s Lamp.
Seeing the great ambience, my culinary Sherlock Holmes was awakened and I desired to meet the people behind it as I felt there was a lot under the wraps for me.
Turned out, I was right.
This accidental discovery led me to meet the founders of the LookActEast Hospitality Services and this led to my sojourns with the taste they were curating and the idea of serving knowledge about the rich traditional heritage of Manipuri cuisine.
The Look Act East Kitchen was founded in June 2015 by Jeena Sorokhaibam and her family. And since then, she and her husband, Lt Col SD Singh (Retd) knowingly or unknowingly have become the ambassadors of the love for food – Manipuris or no Manipuris.
Jeena has truly lived the idea that food should know no boundaries. An academician all her life, it is her ardent love for food that has transformed her into a Chef that leads the charge right from the frontline.
During my conversation, she related to me that it was a gradual growing-of-age experience. Due to her husband’s tenure in the Indian Army, she has been travelling across the length and breadth of the country.
She was also instrumental in organising various events and parties in the Armed Forces circuit.
After about three years of R&D, product development and lots of entrepreneurial challenges along the way, a fine-dine Manipuri-cum-Northeast restaurant was opened in the heart of Delhi offering exquisite dining experience with an ethnic yet contemporary ambience and providing an online delivery service within an operating radius of 10 kilometres.
Her passion for cooking led her to open a restaurant serving ethnic cuisines to the ‘in-house guests’ of the parent brand ‘LookActEast Hospitality Services’ with its offices at Delhi and Imphal.
Owing to popular demand and to reinforce the success of LAE Kitchen, Dilli Haat (INA), a second restaurant was opened at Hudson Lane, Delhi University in Aug 2018. This branch offers pan-NE Indian cuisines due to the demographic profile of the target audience.
Now, this story gets more interesting from here.
Post starting the second restaurant in Hudson Lane, the couple created another brand and this time, with a whole different motto.
‘SALUTE 21’ was launched in Hudson Lane in the same complex offering North Indian, Chinese and Continental Dishes.
Why Salute 21?
This one is aptly named by the founder Lt Col SD Singh (Retd) to pay tribute to the Indian Army that made him a man of mettle. The Army gave him the opportunity to serve the country for 21 years in the 21st Battalion of the Mechanised Infantry.
In my conversation with him, the man and the soldier are an inseparable essence. The interior of Salute 21 is also designed to give you the feeling of sitting inside an Army post. There is an abundant use of the popular Army or battle camouflage colour and ropes.
Relating to why the ropes are so important, the retired Army man said that the rope was the centre of an Army training. He said, there are so many sentiments attached to it, the Army assesses and builds a man around these ropes.
As his way of thanksgiving and giving back to the community-organisation-Alma Mater that had taught him many great lessons of life, Lt Col. SD Singh (Retd) offers 21 % Instant Cashback to the Armed Forces fraternity and 15 % to the alumni of FMS, DU and IIM.
As a part of CSR activity, a part of the sale proceeds from the restaurant is also given for the betterment of the War Widows (Veer Naris) and Specially Abled Children of the Indian Armed Forces.
Apart from this memorable rendezvous, what are the other USPs of the place?
- The food, of course, that is cooked under the supervision of Jeena, the founder herself so it scores perfectly under categories like taste and hygiene.
- The staff is young and eager to serve.
- Some innovations have been achieved in terms of platting the Manipuri food.
- If you love fish dishes or other non-vegetarian food in a smoked way, this place is perfection personified. You will find the tenderest meat in these two restaurants.
- LAE Kitchen daringly curates some of the yummiest Chinese food, try their steamed chicken momos and chilli chicken.
- Both the restaurants have great ambience, Army men and ex-Army men will feel nostalgic here in Salute 21.
- There are varieties for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food lovers.
Running by its fame and name, it hosted the birthday party of the very pretty Soma Laishram, the princess of Manipuri filmdom. The restaurant had also organised a Meet Soma event wherein many journalists and bloggers showed up to meet the actress and learn her beauty secrets and they also savoured on Salute 21’s sumptuous offerings.
So, call them for food delivery or go experience this Northeast hospitality. You will only surprise yourself with the flavours that treat your palate.