The new best Indian in town
By Leon Ferrari
AS a Londoner by birth, I rightly consider myself something of an expert on Indian food. The roast beef of Old England has long been replaced by chicken tikka masala, as our national dish. Never mind that half the concoctions on the classic British Indian restaurant menu are not available in India, but were invented by Bengali chefs to satisfy an undiscerning British palate. Including chicken tikka masala.
Curiously, as the British expatriate population in Budapest declines, the number of restaurants offering Indian and regional cuisine is increasing. So is the variety: we now have Pakistani and even Nepalese.
This is welcome testimony to the increasingly cosmopolitan Magyar palate, for foreigners alone are not enough to keep all these places afloat.
I await a south Indian vegetarian restaurant to complete the set.
Until recently I was a big fan of Kama Sutra, on Oktober 6th street. The food there is usually authentic and very good.
But just as importantly, Kama Sutra is extremely fashionable – and, as someone raised in a capitalist consumer society, I am easily seduced by the latest lifestyle trend or “in” place.
The mere sight of a couple of slinky television presenters at a nearby table is enough to ensure my repeated custom. But recently I feel that, despite its glamorous clientele, Kama Sutra has lost its way somewhat.
A couple of recent business lunches there have proved uninspiring. No matter, for I hereby proclaim that Kashmir, also in the funky District V, is the best Indian restaurant in Budapest and the winner of the “Leon Ferrari Curry Cup”.
The food here is first class. Vegetable samosas were crispy, deep-fried packets, with a nice bite, but not too spicy.
MOST AND TENDER
Tandoori chicken was superb: the basting was crisp and dry, and the meat was moist and tender, falling off the bone.
Lemon and mint rice was fluffy but not too soft, with quite subtle flavors that were not overwhelmed by the main courses. Lamb Kadhi was served in a thick, spicy gravy.
There is plenty here for vegetarians as well: Aloo Bainjan, a mix of potatoes and aubergines was excellent. Aubergines are very tricky to cook without turning dry or absorbing too much oil. The smoky taste of the aubergines was highlighted by the moderately spiced potatoes.
Tarka Daal, a thick porridge of lentils was the spiciest dish, but then there should always be at least one selection with a good kick to it.
My compliments to the chef: overall each dish had a distinctive taste, the spicing was sufficiently robust to bring out the ingredients’ different flavors but subtle enough to keep their individuality.
Service is attentive, and the décor is very pleasant – stylish but timeless, with muted browns, dark reds and pastels. It’s all very cosy, especially with the sitar music playing the background.
There were a couple of niggles, however. The menu is elegantly designed but brown type on beige paper is very hard to read, especially in the restaurant’s atmospheric (ie dim) lighting.
And there is an extra 10% charge added to the bill to compensate for the recent increase in taxes, although a sticker on the front of the menu does provide due warning.
Kashmir has plans: later in the year the owners want to offer Indian breakfasts, an all you can eat buffet, even a wine dinner with the Zwack family. Indian food and wine is not one of my favorite combinations. Wines are usually overwhelmed by spicy food. The sharp bite of a chilled Dreher or a palate-soothing fruit lassi seems a better accompaniment to me, but I am ready to be persuaded.
Either way, as Arnold Schwarzenegger promised: “I’ll be back.”
Pest, District V,
Arany Janos u 13.
Quality of food ****
Value for money ****