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Delhi Food and Dining India New Delhi Restaurant Guide

Wasabi Brings Japanese Food to India

This posting doesn’t have anything to do with tech or other geeky stuff. However, being a foodie, I just had to write about my experience at Wasabi in New Delhi.

Wasabi is a fairly new Japanese restaurant located at the Taj Hotel on Man Singh Rd. in the heart of New Delhi. I first heard about the restaurant a few months ago from my wife. I was fortunate enough to have dinner at Wasabi yesterday. It was a special occasion and Chef Vikram and the rest of the staff at Wasabi made it extra special.

We started out with vegetarian sashimi and vegetarian sushi rolls. Vegetarian sushi rolls are fairly common at most Japanese restaurants around the world but this is the first time we had heard of vegetarian Sashimi. Vegetable sashimi is a platter of raw vegetables such as cucumbers, papaya, radish, asparagus, avocado, seaweed, and a few other items. Chef Vikram came up with the idea by adapting the idea of traditional Japanese sashimi to the Indian palate. Raw vegetables might not sound all that interesting until you have the chance to eat them the way Wasabi serves them. All the vegetables are freshly imported from Japan and they taste incredible. Combine them with some fresh wasabi and soy sauce and you’ve got a combination that will surely bring your taste buds to live. Accompanying the sashimi were vegetarian sushi rolls, also extremely fresh and very tasty.

After our appetizers, we were brought a combination of vegetable teppanyaki, a very special order of rice made with matsutake mushrooms, and one of Chef Vikram’s specialties, a tofu steak. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the names of all the dishes. I was a bit more focused on gorging myself on great food. All the food was exceptionally tasty and really had no need for extra garnishing or condiments of any sort.

To top off our incredible meal, we had a bit of the Wasabi Green Tea cake. Wow is about all I can say! Unfortunately, we were so completely stuffed, there was no way we could have any Japanese tea after dinner. I’m saving that for next time.

I highly recommend going to Wasab when you’re in Delhi. The decor is very pleasant, the service is exceptional, and the food is the best vegetarian Japanese food I’ve ever had. Thanks Vikram, Deepak, Sumitra and everyone else at Wasabi!

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India

The Office … Space

Finding decent quality office space for any company is a challenge. However, the space challenges that a startup faces have a far greater impact on the business than most people realize.

In Silicon Valley, it’s mostly expected that a startup of less than ten people will work out of a garage or a basement. However, in other parts of the world, such as India, technology startups are almost required to have a “proper office”.

Because of the bull market in India over the last four to five years, more and more people have gotten into various aspects of the technology business and employees now weigh, environment as high as they weigh compensation. Many prospective employees will not show up for an interview if the location of your office is not in a “suitable” location (locale as well as building).

Many recruiters and vendors will turn down working with you unless you’re in a suitable space, plying that you’re “too small” for them to work with.

In a recent report called The Global Markets Report by CB Richard Ellis, New Delhi was listed as the seventh most expensive office market in the world. Mumbai was at fourth place, London’s West End was at first place. Midtown Manhattan in New York City was at number thirteen (you will have to register to download the report).

With the cost of office space in places like Mumbai and New Delhi soaring, it is becoming increasingly difficult for startups to find affordable and decent office space. In parts of New Delhi, like Nehru Place, rentals are going for Rs. 100 (roughly $2.38) to Rs. 150 (roughly $3.57) per square foot per month.

The problem with most of these spaces is a lack of power backup (availability of electricity in India is not very reliable), a lack of stable current (a UPS and current stabilizer are imperative, especially for computers and air conditioners) and overall appeal. Infrastructure costs for diesel generators and a UPS can run lakhs of Rupees (tens thousands of dollars) in CapEx and a few lakhs (thousands of dollars) in monthly maintenance costs. All of which, a startup typically can’t afford.

I’ve been searching for affordable yet presentable office space in New Delhi since January 2008 with almost no luck. Those spaces that are affordable are very poor quality spaces. Those spaces and locations that are, relatively, decent quality are completely unaffordable.

Not being able to find decent space in Delhi has severely impacted our ability to hire the ten to fifteen people we’ve been aiming for. Hence, it has a hurt our ability to get products completed on time and on budget.

I think, and hope, that is going to change over the next twelve months. With credit tightening, growth slowing, and inflation rising, I believe that commercial office space will become more affordable but will it be affordable enough, fast enough? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Airtel Apple Delhi India iPhone

Apple iPhone on Airtel India Minus GPRS

Well, I’ve been trying for almost a whole week to get Airtel‘s Unlimited GPRS service (or Mobile Office as it’s called on their site) setup. Unfortunately, all the SMS confirmation messages telling me that it is setup and will cost Rs. 499/month for unlimited usage were all bogus.

I’ve confirmed that even though my iPhone shows the “E” implying an EDGE/GPRS connection, the service isn’t really activated. I’ve used the new Airtel SIM card in my Apple iPhone (which is unsupported by Airtel) and also a Nokia E61 (which is supported). It doesn’t work on either phone. I then even tried to put the SIM into a USB EDGE/GPRS device and configure it on my Mac Mini but still no luck.

I believe Airtel’s setup process for GPRS is a manual one. That’s one of the reasons it will take 4 hours to setup the service. 4 Hours have turned into almost 144 hours and countless phone calls to both 121 (customer service) and 12118 (technical support). 12118 tells me that it’s not active and 121 sometimes tells me that it is active, other times they tell me they’ve put in a request to have it activated, and other times they’ve told me that it is active. The support on Airtel’s mobile desk is fairly horrendous as compared to their excellent service for their DSL and landline products.

In New Delhi, at least, you must send the following SMS to 121 from your Airtel phone:

STARTGPRS

I’ve heard that “AGPRS” also works but in my case, neither SMS messages nor telephone calls have actually gotten the service activated.

Once you receive a confirmation message, you can go into your settings and setup the APN as shown below:

Though, the confirmation messages haven’t helped me, it doesn’t have anything to do with the iPhone. It only has to do with Airtel’s inability to get the service fully activated. The process appears to be a two-part manual process and one service rep let it slip that only the first part has been done, hence, I’m getting the “E” on my iPhone but no actual service.

My only advice is to keep hounding them to get the service activated and, if possible, use an Airtel supported handset while asking them to activate the service. If you tell them you’re using an iPhone, their eyes will glaze over and you’ll get the ole heev-ho.

I’ll post updates as they become available.

Update: 29th April, 2008
Airtel was able to finally get it right. It took them 9 days and countless phone calls plus SMSes and a little bit of strong-arming to get them to put me on the phone with a floor supervisor but the supervisor finally got GPRS (Mobile Office) setup on my account. The access point name (APN) on my iPhone is set to airtelgprs.com. All I had to do was turn the iPhone off and back on to get it to work once the service was activated. I just hope some bonehead over there doesn’t turn the service off again …

Update: 5th May, 2008
Airtel has done it again and “automatically” disconnected my Mobile Office GPRS connection. They couldn’t give me any explanation except “the status is wrong”. Even after pressing the supervisor for an explanation, I got nothing. They’re telling me they will resolve the problem in 24 hours, an unacceptable amount of time for “automatically” disabling my service without any notice. As happy as I’ve been with Airtel’s DSL service, I am immensely disappointed with their mobile service. The incompetence continues ….

Update 2: 5th May, 2008
It took Airtel a little over 6 hours but Mobile Office GPRS is working again….for now.

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Bangalore Delhi Food and Dining India New Delhi Restaurant Guide

HungryZone for Foodies?!??!

I stumbled upon HungryZone which was launched by the same folks who came up with HungryBangalore. I never used HungryBangalore before but when I saw that I can get reviews of restaurants around Delhi, I had to delve into HungryZone (there are a total of 10 cities covered by HungryZone).

I was pretty disappointed by HungryZone. I could not narrow down restaurants by PIN code, area, cuisine type, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, or any other criteria. Once I clicked on Delhi, I got an alphabetical listing of restaurants all over Delhi. Almost all of the restaurants had only 1 review.

HungryZon Delhi

To help them out, I looked around and found a restaurant, Machan, I had been to and added a review for it. The basic information that HungryZone provides about the restaurant is a good start but perhaps some more information would be helpful.
Machan Review

The concept behind HungryZone is great but there’s a great deal of footwork required to get restaurants to signup and accept coupons, take orders online, deliver, etc. It’s also a great deal of work to get people around cities in India to contribute their reviews of restaurants. Perhaps, HungryZone would allow users to add a restaurant and a review about it. For example, I went to Chonas in Khan Market today and the appetizers, main course, and service service was great!! Avoid the Strawberry “Cheesecake” though.

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