Chris P. and I made it out to Andhra Kitchen in the week and sat deliberating over the detailed menu for a considerable amount of time. Most customers in the small but packed restaurant had gone for the classic thali (with refills aplenty, as usual), but we decided to go against our instincts and pick a couple of delicious options from the dinner menu. Still undecided, as the table of slightly worse for wear salarymen next to us were getting big refill scoops of basmati, we ordered a couple items to tide us over: a plate of papad, some Hariyali Chicken Tikka and a couple of Kingfishers.
The Chicken Tikka came. If you are a fan of a starter, and especially a chicken starter, you have to try this. It’s one of those dishes that you start eating at a pace but then slow down all of a sudden to savour every bite. We really couldn’t get enough of it, saying we could have easily survived on just that dish all evening. The thing that really lifted the succulent and mildly salty, coriander saturated chicken was the portion of smooth mint sauce that accompanied it – I thought it tasted similar to pureed mushy peas, using that as an excuse to spoon it in by itself a few times to test my theory. With the small portion of sliced onion and a squeeze of lemon, this is a taste sensation you don’t get at many places around town.
Now, I’m no fan of eggplant. Actually, if I ever see eggplant as an ingredient, I’ll avoid it completely. If it ever gets served in a meal, most of it usually ends up unceremoniously shoved to the edge of the plate. The Baingan Bharta Kujaumbu was a revelation of how flavours and textures, when mixed in the right way, can take a recipe to a whole new level and can change your mind about certain foods. With each bite, the juices of the subtly bitter eggplant spread around the mouth, which combined in full harmony with the other multitude of flavours, leading to a wonderful aftertaste. After my measured spoonful, I spent the rest of the time enviously eyeing it up as Chris P. went at the dish with a considerable enthusiasm. The Togarashi was excellently warming and gave an exponential tingle with every bite, with the ginger going into full effect, lighting the central heating system in a wonderfully warm and natural way, but the taste sensation that was the Baingan was the real winner of the night. Chris, having had his fill, offered me the last bit, and I gently lifted the plate from over his side to mine (in my head I was grabbing the whole thing and shoving it in my mouth). With the last shreds of chapatti, I cleaned up what was remaining (I should’ve charged the restaurant for cleaning the dishes that night).