Flavours from the north
by Katey Baddeley 8 August 2012
When considering exotic cuisines from abroad that promise a world of beneficial and healing health properties, you’d probably consider something like the “Mediterranean” diet to boost brain function, the French approach of everything in moderation (including moderation), or a lifetime of nothing but the atmospheric altitudes of Tibet before considering a healthy and frequent dose of Indian restaurant dining. Ordinarily I wouldn’t either, but that was before I had the extremely fortunate and enjoyable opportunity to experience the food, service and atmosphere of brand new Bollywood Masala restaurant, on Giles street in Kingston.
The second in Canberra (her older sister is still doing a roaring trade in Dickson), the attention to detail here is superb. The establishment’s signature hand carved wooden doors from Rajasthan dominate the back wall with confident authority and provide a constant point of awe-inspiring intrigue for the entire evening - if you can peel yourself away from the fantastic food, I urge you to take a closer look. The menus are a custom made canvas print of those fabulous doors, swinging open to reveal delicious temptations, printed in enticing script on luxuriously thick paper. Setting a theme of almost fantasy-like excitement – I could have been happy to just soak in the soothing atmosphere of rich woods, plush seats and calming tunes to the entertainment of my interactive menu for the rest of the night – until I actually read the menu.
The food here is salivating. No creamy, greasy curries chucked together with commercial powders or flavourless naan bread the size of a small car are even to be contemplated. The focus (thankfully) pinpoints north Indian specialties such as tikka and tandoori, made from the best spices planet earth has to offer which are then roasted and ground in-house by Indian trained chefs Baljit Singh and Darshan Singh.
For an entree we were served the Tandoori Taster plate. Described as the healthy option for one, it’s the perfect dish for the decision challenged populous and really sets the scene for more substantial mains to come. Our tasting plate contained the hottest (but most delicious) roasted chickpea stuffed mushrooms I’ve ever tried (Kudrati Kebab), sweetly succulent tandoori lamb cutlet (Barrah Kebab) which deserved the bone gnawing treatment it received and, two varieties of tender chicken pieces – one marinated in an earthy garlic base and the other in a combination of sweet coconut and fresh, punchy coriander. Both were flavoursome, warmly spiced, slick with flavour and cooked to such a delicious state of tenderness it was easy to imagine the chicken receiving massage therapy before it’s plate anointing treatment.
Mains were nothing short of spectacular, a true reflection of traditional Mughlai style cuisine. The Bollywood leg of lamb arrives deconstructed, a towering bone taking centre stage, surrounded by melt in the mouth shreds of meat which have been marinated in a tangy yoghurt based sauce, touch of rum and a host of tastebud invigorating herbs and home ground spices, which accentuate the quality of the lamb and cooking process, as opposed to overpowering it. The quirky tendriling curls of cooling cucumber created a magnificent balance of texture and sensation, softly twisting my arm into cleaning the entire plate.
One of the accompanying sides really grabbed my attention as soon as it landed with a softly appealing whump on the table top. The Exotic Saffron rice arrives at your plate displaying the spices it was cooked with. You can see the brilliant fiery stain of real saffron threads, smell the earthy yet sweet sticks of cinnamon and actually see whole cloves dotted through the grains like an intricate tapestry of subtle flavours. I don’t usually get so excited by rice – but this one really was an exception and proved magnificent company to the Butter Chicken.
Described on the menu as an all-time favourite, Chooza Khas Makhni (Butter Chicken) still deviates sharply from the stock standard ordinary. Served in a pristinely elegant white dish and unbelievably rich in colour, it was something to eat slowly, silently and savour. The sauce was thick and encompassing but no-where near claggy or heavy, coating the juicy chicken pieces in a luxurious silky equilibrium. The dainty triangles of Peshawari Naan, filled with spices, dried fruits and nuts proved the perfect tool for mopping remaining dollops of flavour laden sauce.
Regret is usually an emotion plaguing my system after an Indian feast, but there were certainly no curry hangovers here. All ingredients are fresh, cooking methods traditional, spices (sourced from around the world) properly roasted and ground in house and, everything just tasted how authentic North Indian cuisine should – fresh, healthy, punchy, addictive. The wine list has a great selection, the staff are friendly and owner Arjan Chehl is dedicated to providing the best of the best to his customers. Bollywood Marsala in Kingston serves up the best Indian food and atmosphere in the Capital – you heard it here first.
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