Saturday 28 June 2008

Curry Naz - Osborne Road, Southsea

Funniest thing I heard this week was a colleague of my sisters claim that the curries round here are 'nothing like the curries in Luton'...'I've tried the Madhuban and I don't see what the fuss is about, etc etc'. The grass will always be greener on the other side for some - even when the other side is Luton, known for its Airport and Vauxhall plant: concrete and industry.

Whether or not Luton deserved the title of 2004's 'crapest town' is irrelevant when considering the merits of 'Curry Naz', a traditional kind of curry house. Smart yellows and blues, an atmosphere that leads one to sweetly reminisce of rose tinted pre new labour days! The restaurant’s been a stalwart on the Southsea scene of some time, a reputation built on tasty food and inobtrusive service. Staff, polite, discreet, calm and experienced appeared at the table with food, left quietly, appeared again in between a lull in conversation to ask if everything was ok, before slipping away until they judged our eating to be over.

The meal began with run of the mill poppadoms before a decent starter of Jeera Chicken. Strips of tandooried chicken breast in a salted smoky marinade, scattered with cumin seeds. Next up, juicy Balti Lamb Jalfrezi, demonstrating a super concentration of flavours. Well developed curry aromas, spicy scorching green and red chillies, gingery twangs (coriander seeds) and mustardy pangs made for a great dish. A rich, cinnamon strong Keema Peas (another old favourite on the menu) achieved similar standards. Bhindi (Okra) with just a little charcoaled sweetness and fluffy pilau were quite acceptable, though a Roti was a little crisp and mean.

Minor issues aside Curry Naz appears a jolly reliable purveyor of almost excuslively North Indian cuisine akin to that which thrived in this country 20 years ago. Tops the Golden Curry on the evidence so far. TBC!

FOOD: 3.5

Willp2328 score: 7/10

Monday 23 June 2008

Gulshan - Reading

Outside Gulshan reads a sign, it says: 'Caution this area is prone to high winds'. I wondered whether Reading's rapacious curryholics were to blame. Stepping through the doors, confronted by the sight of ex boxer turned panto star Frank Bruno grinning maddly at us. Imagined him leaning back on the bar. 'Where's yer drink Frank?'...'It's behind you!'

The tone was set for an amusing evening - Chris and I were off to see Paul Merton's improv chums and our waiter contributed in no small part by belching loudly upon delivering our main courses.

Chat-e-phal was what I began with and my was it strange. Served at room temp in a gaudy looking indian bowl were diced potatoes, pumpkin, chick peas, grapes and wait for it...a glacier cherry, all drenched in a watery sour balsamic tamarind dressing.

Lamb Sag was however, well above par, not that my appetiser had been unpleasant (just retro in the extreme - circa 1970). Hefty pieces of meaty mutton in a savoury preparation punctuated by citrussy coriander seeds, along with a fine roti and moist flavourful pilau rice, orange and saffron yellow were more to my taste.

Not bad for Reading (!).

FOOD: 3.5
VALUE: 3.5

Willp2328score: 6.5/10

Friday 13 June 2008

Shapla - Alresford

In a renewed effort to make Petersfield Curry Club's Blog amusing I shall begin every restaurant review from now on with a joke.

Where better to begin than the funniest joke in the world. Here it is...
Question: "What do you call a Frenchman in sandals?"
Answer: "Phillippe Philoppe"

So good I might as well offer up the second funniest joke in the world too...
Interviewer: "When did you first discover you suffered from dyslexia?"
Interviewee: "When I went to a toga party dressed as a goat".

More next week!

Concerning last weeks curry club visit to Shapla, the food was once again well above par. A good meal was highlighted by a super Korai dish of shrimps in a fluid, minty preparation with the creamy, nutty savour of ground cashews, as well as Saag Aloo, buttery spinach and waxy potatoes rounded out by delicious roast garlic and Meat Madras, the perfect definition, sour with lemon and tomato puree, firey with pepper and smarting chilli powder. In addition pillow soft Naans (not chewy in the slightest) and bits of a mixed starter including plump slippery tandoori marinated King Prawn and a cumin flavoured sheek kebab were great. The only lowlight was a Stuffed Mushroom of deep fried disappointment.

The service was a bit harrassing but this didn't spoil a very pleasant evening. Shapla remains able to offer a selection of curries where the variation in taste and texture is clear.

VALUE: 4.5

Willp2328score: 9/10

Wednesday 4 June 2008

The trouble with Salt n' Garlic

Cooking without garlic is unimaginable for some. Italian chef Antonello Colonna says “to eliminate garlic is like eliminating violins from an orchestra.”1 The problem is that it has a very strong, predominating and permanent flavour – it hangs on the breath for hours. Garlic is seen as integral to indian cooking, salt too, in balancing a dish, better defining the spices. However, the combination of garlic and salt can quite often undermine a dish if used too liberally.

My Jaipuri curry at Jaipur, Southsea, lost the gentle woody taste of cinnamon, the toasty crunch of cumin seeds and the buttery perfume of bay leaves as a result. Only warm bitter cloves registered. Salt n’ garlic lamb - fine, except where other ingredients are compromised. Across the indian restaurant scene there has to be a little more respect shown to, in essence, the world’s greatest and most various cuisine.

Spices in a curry will be more evident the longer left to blend. Restaurants cannot keep customers waiting but they musn’t feel pressurised into rushing. There will continue to be a compunction to offer ‘traditional’* curry to satisfy the masses who won’t order anything that isn’t CTM (easily abbreviated, instantly recognisable, reputedly tasty) but chef’s could still cut menu’s (out with the English dishes for one!) and have time to prepare special sauces in advance as well as concentrating more on spicing.

Joe public like salt and garlic but if only they could taste the difference.

In truth a number of curry house chefs aren’t the masterchefs they claim – most can cook meat and veg OK but many can’t get flavours and aromas from whole spices or herbs, typically fenugreek. A solution? Use more powdered spice, be generous with herbs, take time to taste one’s effort, make sure not to throw in too much salt and garlic! Everyone would sleep better for it. There are time and monetary costs involved but an over reliance on garlic and salt could keep the Indian fare in Britains 7000+ curry joints from being considered worthy of it’s name.

*the irony being these dishes are usually the least authentic on offer

1 'Is Garlic Essential in Italian food' - Napa Valley Regsiter: June 26, 2007