Tale #9 Dishoom

I have this notepad on my desk at work and the cover page of it has a list of all the restaurants I want to go to in London. I constantly add to this list, sometimes scribble places out, but the bottom line is – it’s never blank.

One restaurant that’s been on there for quite some time is Dishoom.

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Having never been to Bombay let alone an authentic Bombay Café, I can’t say whether Dishoom really is a slice of old Bombay, but I can say, if you’re tired of the same menu at every single Indian restaurant in London, then this is definitely the place for you to check out. You won’t find chicken tikka masala or chicken korma on this menu that’s for sure but you will find a whole assortment of Indian delights.

For some reason unbeknownst to myself, this is yet another irritating restaurant that will not take bookings. Call it trendy, call it ‘playing hard to get,’ – I just call it plain annoying. My issue is – unless you go at an off-peak meal hour you will end up queueing for 1+ hours waiting to be fed – then you either start to resent the restaurant for denying you the pleasure of eating there or you’re just so relieved to be seated you think everything tastes heavenly (even if it doesn’t) and you’re grateful you were even allowed to eat there. What is the solution? If you have two floors in your restaurant, make one floor for bookings and the other floor for walk-ins. Only have one floor? Split the tables. Bottom line, let people book. There are so many restaurants I want to go to on a special occasion like my birthday or when a friend is visiting from the States but I have to ditch the idea because I don’t want to ruin the whole evening waiting in some absurd queue while I wonder ‘what the hell was I thinking trying to get a table here?’

I digress..

Arriving at the restaurant at 5:45pm on a Wednesday night (off-peak), my friend Sarah and I were seated within 5 minutes. Not too shabby (if you don’t mind early-birding it).

The tables are a little cramped – I don’t like to be jostled while I’m devouring food, so that was a bit of a downside for me. It’s also impossible for the waiters and waitresses to get to all of the tables (due to the poor layout) so they’re constantly pushing your chair to get to some of their tables. Dislike.

Laying off the alcohol so that I’d show up for work in fine form the next day, I ordered a mango and fennel lassi. I have to say, the fennel didn’t add much to my enjoyment of the lassi. It seemed to me like someone had the idea to make the traditional mango lassi a little sexier and they decided the way they were going to do that was to add some fennel seeds to it. It’s a bit different, a fit funky – Dishoom’s style. But, the fennel seeds just weren’t doing it for me. I ended up drinking the lassi and leaving all the fennel seeds in the rejected mango pulp froth at the bottom of the glass.

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Food ordered: Lamb samosas (Gujarati filo with minced lamb, onions and spices); Kema pau (spiced minced lamb with a toasted, buttered pau bun); Dishoom chicken tikka which used a marinade of sweet vinegar, not yoghurt (laced with ginger juice, turmeric, garlic and green chilli); Masala prawns; cheese naan and basmati rice

The lamb samosas were your average lamb samosas – nothing too ‘wow’ but the filo was crispy and went nicely with the free chutneys we received: tamarind & date, coriander & yogurt, and garlic & chilli. The Kema pau was a different story – it was like the Indian version of an American sloppy Joe but with flavorsome, meaty minced lamb on a perfectly buttered, toasted bun. So in other words, a whole lot of awesome. I could inhale two or three of these for lunch on a Friday and be a happy bunny.

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Much to our chagrin, neither Sarah’s prawns nor my chicken tikka came with any excess marinade/sauce to douse the basmati rice in – both were good, pretty decent. But after a while, with the lack of extra marinade, the chicken became a bit dry-tasting. At first I was hesitant about the use of sweet vinegar instead of yogurt and I’m wondering if it would have been less dry if it had been cooked in the traditional yogurt. It’s probably my Americbritishness that makes me want everything to be drowned in excess sauce. Apologies if this is the case.

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The basmati rice could have been a little fluffier – I usually expect the fluffiest of the fluff when it comes to basmati rice and this fell a little short. The cheese naan was absolutely impeccable though. I get a little nervous about cheddar in the naan because if it’s too sharp it completely ruins the naan and there also can’t be too much cheese in it – it’s a very fine balance. This definitely met expectations and provided a nice compliment to the very spicy chicken tikka.

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For dessert, we got Kulfi on a stick – the original Malai, with a hint of caramel. This was pretty awesome and made me feel like a little kid again. Foods on a stick are extremely underrated (except when you stab yourself on the inner cheek with them). I’m a big fan of meat on a stick so I suppose it’s only natural I’d react positively to sweet, cold creamy goodness on a stick as well.

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All in all, I’d go back to Dishoom, if for nothing other than to try the house black daal, spicy lamb chops and cinnamon ice cream. If I want my typical curry (with lots of sauce) I wouldn’t come here and as stated before, definitely wouldn’t come here if I actually wanted to go out afterwards as you could be waiting till the end of time for a table. I really hope this restaurant doesn’t become a mass-chain – it has the potential to fall that way, but would be a shame as it is a bit different and the varied menu is quite refreshing to see.

And now alas as I have no money and payday isn’t till Monday, the restaurant reviews will be ending for the next week or so. Stay tuned for some more home cooking delights.

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