Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Review - Dishoom, Wahaca

I found my lunch pal outside Jamie’s. Upon entering Dishoom, she commented that she had seen this place but had assumed it couldn’t be this since I’d described our lunch destination as reasonably priced and this place looked expensive. I know what she means, the décor is all very sleek and black and shiny. Except it retains an informal vibe by having the kitchen open for all to see the roti-making. The kitchen counter runs parallel to the entrance window so it vaguely makes you think that you ought to go up there to order; the countless waiting staff inform you otherwise. One of the waiters told us that the emphasis at Dishoom was on sharing so most people got 2 or 3 plates between the two of them and shared. This wouldn’t work for Lunch Pal and I: we have very different spice thresholds. So she went for the Malai Chicken Roll. I was tempted by the Dishoom Roll but I thought it might be too similar (not that that would be a bad thing) to a what I’d had at Mooli’s. So in the spirit of trying things I hadn’t tried before and might not try again, I went for the daily special. Lamb Kadhu Masala. The waiter described it as mediumly spicy. After this I was tempted to ask what he’d recommend that was REALLY spicy. My main motivation for this was that at most restaurants, I can barely taste the chilli in their supposedly really spicy dishes (I swear I'm not bragging.) Dishoom’s medium spicy, however, preserving the authenticity of a café in Bombay, definitely satisfied me. Hot and slightly numbing on my tongue, it was the spiciest restaurant meal I’ve had in a long time. It was almost painful on my burnt roof-of-mouth. But it wasn’t killing everything else: you could still taste the tangy tomato and the tender sweetness of the lamb underneath it all. And I was pleased to see no one had bothered to extract the ‘alachee’ (cardamom): my experience of eating in Indian Subcontinent countries (every single damned year ‘til I was 18) involves lots of picking out whole spices. It’s more fun that way. And biting into one accidentally isn’t exactly pleasant but makes you feel more alive (my most memorable experience of this sensation was the Wasabi Hit of the Unfortunate Bill Splitting First Time I Tried Sushi)
OH AND THE ROTI WAS AMAZING. Still not as good as grandmama’s but I think that judgment is based on sentimentality rather than anything else. My judgment of the food at Dishoom is left untouched by such romance. With cold blood, I can still say the food here is excellent both in terms of taste and value for money. 
Good-street-style-food-in-a-trendy-bar appears to be my theme for the week. I took a trip to Wahaca in Covent Garden with a Dinner Pal. 
Taking a tip from someone who does all things food related better than me, we avoided ordering anything with beef in. Pork pibil, chicken burrito, chorizo and potato quesadillas and summer vegetable taco.  
It wasn’t particularly special to look at and had lots of flags sticking out of it but it tasted pretty damn good. The burrito was probably the least exciting things but it was still very good.
The black beans make it stand out from the other burritos I’ve eaten: they were soft and creamy and almost syrupy. But not in a gross way. The pork pibil was served with the same herby green rice and unctuous refried beans that helped to stuff the burrito. The pork was salty and sour in the right proportions and of course had that lovely fuzzy texture.
The summer vegetable tacos were the spiciest of the four dishes and the chilli cut through the cheese topping it. My favourite of the four dishes was the chorizo and potato quesadillas. The only word I can think of to describe them is soft. The outside was soft. The inside was soft. The potato was soft. The chorizo hidden amongst the potato was soft. Good soft. Like something brushing your cheek lightly as you fall asleep soft.
The drinks ('how old are you? ...20') were pretty snazzy too. Mine was the pink hibiscus margarita. I avoid mojitos because too much mint gives me a headache. Or at least I convince myself that it does. All this for £15 each! It totally deserves the Cheap Eats award.

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