Rasoi by Vineet Bhatia

My expedition of discovering London’s best Indian eateries has been quite a roller coaster this year. Just a week short of going back home to India, I thought I’d give it one last shot at one of the  more upmarket and well known haunts, Rasoi by Vineet Bhatia. A chef who’s been making marks since being one of the first Indian chefs to win a Michelin star for his restaurant Zaika, and also started the trend of modern Indian food, Vineet went on to open Rasoi after Zaika and was soon given a star again. To curry or not curry? What on earth is a curry? That by which name Indian food is so well known, and as Lizzie Collingham in her brilliant book “Curry: A biography” explains, is not a defining term for a dish, but rather a western generalised description, an Asian version of gravy, coined during the days of the Raj. Nevertheless, an anthropological discourse on food is not the order of the day, and before I get even more carried away on the matter, lets see what there was on offer.

Tucked away on a side street close to Sloane Square, entering Rasoi is like entering someone’s house. You ring the bell, the door opens, you’re shown through the hall into the ornate and very small dining room, a bit too dimly lit for this occasion. It was a little bit eerie being the only table in the restaurant, but also liberating in a way that meant we didn’t have to lower our voices, be discreet in our conversation or knock elbows with the table next to us. Reading the menu, however, is a chore – so many dishes for the eyes, so limited by space in the stomach, what was one to do. The menu also is quite wordy, which can be a bit distracting at times. Yet, after much deliberation, we settled on some dishes and waited eagerly to be fed.

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Pre-starter
Lamb
Chicken

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Pea & Coconut Soup, Dahi Bhalla arrived first. Whilst topping the chart in terms of flavour, one still has to ask the question: “peas in winter?”. The dahi bhalla, a lentil dumpling topped with tamarind yoghurt looked very questionably like an object of genetic mutation. It’s a fantastic street food which had a horrific makeover, tasting predominantly of tamarind and not much like the multi-flavoured delicacy it was pretending to be.

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My starter of Grilled lamb chop, pea & lamb timbale, goats cheese and cashew samosa sounded and looked great, but it was only the lamb chop that was worth eating, even if it was a little well done. The lamb mince was powdery and overpowered by lime leaf, while the samosa was a gooey mess of melted goats cheese and cashews. Hmm. Bad choice.

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Moving on to my main course of Cobnut Chicken, Achari potatoes, Dal, Onion rings, things improved, but only slightly. The chicken was overcooked and as a result, shrunken and dry and thus, quite inedible. The rest of the dish, was in perfect order, but then again, there’s no way the potatoes or the dal should, could or would have been anything less than perfect. S had the braised lamb shank (rogan josh), which was shockingly orange, surprisingly tough (well, it was cooked through, but not the tender, melting expectation a dish of its nature draws) and the sauce was oozing oil, bland and uni-dimensional. With her lamb shank, S also got a lamb cigar made with the same powdery, underseasoned and overpowered by lime leaf, lamb mince that I had as a starter. This was not how it should be!

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Pre-dessert
Chocolate Craving
Rose & Gulab Jamun

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Onto the remainder of our meal, starting with a pre-dessert of Saffron yoghurt and berries – in plain sight, tastes as its sounds and looks, and I’m still questioning the presence of raspberries and blueberries. H had the chocolate craving – the only dessert in London with a £5 supplement! Consisting of chocolate samosa, chocolate mousse, chocolate fondant, berry kulfi, paan pannacotta. Where do I start with this one? Samosas with a dry chocolate spongy filling, fondant overcooked but covered in chocolate sauce, berry kulfi – berries? again? winter?, chocolate mousse got ignored and the paan pannacotta – an acquired taste for non-Indians which H got repulsed by, and which I thought wasn’t strong enough. My own dessert of Rose petal mousse, Gulab jamun roll, pistachio kulfi just begged the following thoughts and impressions: A spongy bright red mousse (food colouring alert!) that tasted lightly of rose and had no rose petals in it, served on a biscuit stiff enough to bend your knife, whilst the pistachio kulfi should never, ever have even been conceived of as it was literally frozen pistachio paste – artificially flavoured, sugarless, for some reason exceedingly salty. The only redeeming item on the dish was the gulab jamun – packet mix perfection.

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Petit-fours

Being a bit too full (fed up! in literally and metaphorically) I only ventured to try the radioactive orange mousse in a chocolate cup – a tiny piece confirmed that it was orange – made with orange flavouring, colouring and, therefore, highly disturbing.

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When ordering, we noticed that there was okra served with one of the dishes and H and I, fluttered our eyes at the waiter and requested to have a portion the okra preparation as a side dish. Our man disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a strict negative order from the chef. We could not have the okra garnish as a side order. Not the end of the world, but in the given situation, it wouldn’t have been any extra effort for the kitchen and would even have helped their food earnings for the day. To boot, when we requested for a chilli sauce/chutney, we were served a chilli and garlic ketchup from a bottle – be much easier to say that don’t make one no?

Chef Vineet, for the only 3 diners in your restaurant on a Monday, that’s three less diners that will return here.

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Overall Experience: 5
Food:5
Recommend you go: 5
Website
Rasoi Vineet Bhatia on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

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