Friday, July 10, 2020

Fine-Dining Indian

I am actually surprised that Chaat, the new fine-dining Indian restaurant at Rosewood Hong Kong, turned out to be quite a success with the waiting list for a table grew to 3-month long. Certainly a bright spot as local restaurant industry is still slowly recovering and I just didn't know locals have such an appetite for Indian cuisine. 

Well I was there for a dinner tasting recently - that saved me the trouble of having to book and wait for my turn to check out the restaurant. The dinner came right before a public holiday in late June so it gave me all the right reasons to eat and drink and catch up with a few friends who also joined us at the table. 

The restaurant shared the same floor with a few other F&B outlets at the hotel and it was packed with customers already by the time I arrived just before sunset. The interior resembles that of a typical upscale eatery (think trattoria or tapas bar) with the bar counter near to the entrance leading up to the dining space inside and the show kitchen on the side with the tandoor oven - I also love the contemporary tone with a mix of copper and wooden colors, with only by the mural on the wall or the spice "mountain" on display behind the bar indicating the Indian theme of the restaurant. 

Our gracious host promised a feast and what a feast we were having. The menu was said to be inspired by Indian street food culture, but don't expect anything be served ghetto style. Chef Manav Tuli was credited for re-opening of London's Michelin-starred Tamarind restaurant and he's trying to replicate the success at his new venture here.

We began with a trio of appetizers - called Small Plates but each could feed at least four people easily. Bhel Puri reminded me of soft tacos sans the pastry, with puffed rice, scallops, onions and spices all finely chopped and piled on top of each other and served in the scallop shell. The lamb samosa was unlike anyone I have tried elsewhere, served in a fancy crisp cone with the marinated meat and yogurt sauce on top. The Raj Kachori was like a gigantic Pani Puri, with crispy lentil, peas and minced meat stuffed in a crispy shell and topped with sweet chutney and pomegranate - I love the creamy and tangy flavor loaded with herbs and spices.

Next were a series of Tandoori dishes, brought straight to us from the show kitchen right behind. Lamb chops were the one that won everyone's heart, with each piece smothered with spices and pistachios on top and grilled with the bone on. The meat's gamey flavor worked perfectly well with the spice rub. I also love the flavor of the Palak Paneer, also done in the Tandoor oven and served in individual-sized cubes with spinach mixed in and pickles on the side. It has the creamiest texture and mildly seasoned. Beef was not a common ingredient found in an Indian restaurant but I love the couple dishes made with beef, including the short rib kebab and the whole tandoori tomahawk with the whole piece carved and served on a wooden platter with the giant bone. 

With all the meat (and the Grouper Tikka which we also had) we were properly stuffed, but then we realized it's hardly half the menu we went through. A series of curry dishes were then brought in in traditional Degchi pots as the meats were cleared away, all done with different spices and presented in various spiciness and richness levels. I personally liked those milder ones - including the Bangali Prawn Curry and the Old Delhi Butter Chicken, both served in a creamy and aromatic sauce with rather smooth textures. Pork Cheek Vindaloo was the spiciest of them all with the punchy taste which worked well with the super tender pork cheek that went through slow cooking process. The traditional Dal (lentils) dish was hardly something that could make an impression, but it's well made with the perfect texture - creamy but with a good bite. 

Lamb Dum Biryani was presented to us in much fanfare in a big earthenware pot, baked with puff pastry on top. The meat was marinated with bold spices and worked well with the aromatic long-grain biryani rice done with a touch of spices. The portion was great for sharing. A few types of pastry dishes were served, including kulcha, naan and paratha, all made and baked fresh from the show kitchen. Hard to point out which one was my favorite as all of them were outstanding. Bone marrow kulcha was the most flavorful. baked flat with the rich filling stuffed in the middle, but I also like the naan with butter and chili mixed into the dough and pulled flat. 

Indian cuisine is perhaps not the most wine-friendly but they did offer something different, featuring wines from unusual places following the old trade routes like Brazil, Portugal or even a few local Indian selection. This time I went for the good old pint of Kingfisher with a couple of cocktails, and finished with the thick and rich Mango Lassi and a cup of traditional masala chai for the road. Dessert choices geared towards western style with a touch of Indian-style ingredients, with the exception of Mango Kulfi, and my favorite was the tangy lemon tart served with a scoop of saffron lemon ice cream on the side. 

The meal was excellent really - love the energetic vibe of the dining space, well-executed food with good variety and most important of all, great company which was icing on the cake. Fine-dining Indian establishment is few and far between in this city and Chaat is definitely a welcoming addition to our dining scene. Can't wait to go back when I managed to get a table. 

(Dinner was by invitation)

When? June 24 2020
Where? Chaat, 5/F Rosewood Hong Kong, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Rd, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon
Menu Highlights? Tandoori Lamb Chop with Pistachios and Chutney, Old Delhi Butter Chicken with Spiced Tomato Sauce and Fenugreek

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