Monday, 14 November 2011

Naschta (formally Safran)

I visited this place with Harvey, Dave etc probably 10 years ago and I can remember not being that impressed although I didn't go away thinking it was terrible. Now with a new name and apparently a Pakistani menu, Andrew and I really did go away thinking this place was terrible!

After receiving our warm beer, we ordered Ginger Lamb because we thought it sounded interesting and Chicken Botti because it had a silly name. Also the usual garlic naan and rice - they don't do popadoms. After a long wait watching the tumble weed blow through the almost completely empty restaurant, the waiter rocked up with two unordered (very cold) salads. Nice touch, but who ever heard of a salad in an Indian restaurant - must be a Pakistani thing. The curries finally came out with the lamb sizzling on a metal plate and the chicken botti in a potty.

So I can only describe the lamb as very lamby... great with chops and mint sauce but didn't work with the ginger, which was visible although completely undetectable being buried in the strong taste of lamb. All this was sitting on a bed of rice underlaid by a layer of soggy lettuce that was busy being fried by the hot plate! The botti wasn't too awful, but was quite cold and left a funny furry (or should that be feathery) feeling in your mouth. The naan was a chapati!

The most striking aspect of the meal was the number of cardamom pods we discovered - thirty in all! Every time I've cooked an Indian recipe using cardamom pods, they've been crushed in a pestle and mortar and the shells removed. To throw thirty into two dishes is really quite ridiculous and it was a pain to have to keep picking them out from between your teeth.  The chef had seemingly run out of chilli (the curries were stews with fancy names) and obviously decided to try to make up for it with cardamom.

All in all, this restaurant was possibly the worst we've been to so far. The food was cheap (€7.50 for the lamb, €6.50 for the botti) but really terrible. The chef has got to get a grip on his excessive use of cardamom pods, learn how to make naan bread, and go and buy some chillies.

So we awarded 4 Popadoms for taste (generous), 1 ring sting and 4 rupees.

1090 Wien, Garnisongasse 10
Tel. 407 42 34


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Shalimar

Shalimar where have you been all this time? I've been living in Vienna for about 15 years but only found this place now! Honestly this place is the hidden gem in the Golden Triangle of Indian restaurants in the 6th and 7th districts. OK, let me put this all in perspective: this is not one of the new-style modernised Bobo-Indians which are popping up like mushrooms (i..e Nam Nam, Indus, Thali etc. - don't get me wrong I like these too), this is the mother of all classic old-style curry houses in Vienna. We just sensed that walking in. Why people go on about the Bombay etc. I just don't know (well I do know, like me for some reason they've never heard of the Shalimar!). This place is better.

Being summer we walked past the empty indoor seating area, into one of the best outdoor courtyard settings you could wish for. This is definitely one of the best outdoor Indians in Vienna, if not the best. You are surrounded by glowing billboards of all the various Indian deities and gods, which sounds terrible but is actually great. On the tables are water bowls filled with floating flowers and candles (which my dining partner Pom managed to drown!).

Service was great, quick and friendly, and within no time we each had an large ice-cold Ottakringer in our hands (at 2,90 Euro each a bargain in Vienna these days). Now what's nice in this place is that they have realised that many Indian-restaurant-goers actually wan't to order several dishes and share them (as they do in India), so there are various "men├╝s" where you can do just that. We ordered a "Madras Platter" which consisted of a Starter (see below), Chicken Vindaloo, Beef Madras, vegetables, rice and Naan bread (17 Euros per person).

The Starter arrived and I cannot recall it's name but it was out of this world! It was similar to some of the amazing street food I have eaten in southern India. Now this was the first time that I have used my iPhone as a dictaphone so I will just quote from my verbal notes: "Orgasmic. Tamarind-based. Crunchy little biscuits. Joghurt. Coriander. Chick-peas. Beautiful!".

The main courses were really good too. Great taste and solidly strong heat (as ordered). A huge bowl of rice (full of lovely nuts and stuff) and the biggest Naan bread we had ever seen. And a beautifully presented meal on those classic silver platters!

We highly recommend this place - it's been around a while and seems to be popular (deservedly so, for a change in Vienna!) so you may wan't to reserve a table. The prices are OK, and if you like wine with your Indian food (we don't) then you are going to be extra pleased - a great wine list with lots of Austrian and international whites and reds (there are even a couple of Indian wines thrown in).

We give it 9 poppadoms for taste, 6 rupees for price, and 8 ring stings.

P.S. Go to the website and read the romantic story of how this place came to be!!!

Schmalzhofgasse 11
1060 Wien
Tel: +43 (0) 1 5964317
www.restaurant-shalimar.at
E-mail: office@restaurant-shalimar.at






Monday, 20 December 2010

Rani

This place has been around for ever, but there is something about restaurants in or near the Mariahilferstrasse that seems to keep me away. Anyway, last Sunday evening we braved the cold and taking advantage of the merciful absence of rampaging Christmas shoppers made our way to Rani.


The first thing that hits you when you walk in are about 5 smiling waiters all falling over each other to show you to a table. The second is that it is quite busy, which these days in Vienna actually worries me as most of the best Indian restaurants seem to be unfortunately nearly empty. The good thing though is that you can't hear the eternally twanging sitars over the rumble of conversation.

After being shown to our table and ordering beers (and yes they do serve large beers), we began perusing the rather extensive menu (mostly the usual westernized north Indian fare). At this stage the army of waiters began circling like vultures, swooping in every 30 seconds or so to ask if we were ready to order. Although somewhat disconcerting, we managed to decide on a Buna Lamb (a lamb curry with a thick, reduced sauce full of lovely things like shallots, tomato, ginger, garlic, coriander...) und a Banghan Bhaji (a spicy eggplant curry). I also specifically asked the waiter that the lamb dish be served very spicy, and emphasising that we really meant it!

We settled in to enjoy the evening and I had just taken my third slug of beer when I was shocked to see two waiters bearing down on us with our food! Now I know that many Austrians place great value on fast restaurant service but this was ridiculous. This place makes Burger King look like slow-food! I appreciate that many curries will be ready-made and simmer away for hours in the kitchen (as indeed they should) but there is no need to rush things like this. My worst fears were then confirmed when I tasted the lamb curry which was so mild my 2 year old son would have eaten it (OK, just about). This was all quite distressing but I must admit that once we'd calmed down the food was pretty good: nothing wonderful but solid in the old-style sort of way that you would also get in the Bombay or Demi Tass or some of the other long-stayers in Vienna. The eggplant (melanzani in Austria?) dish was especially good, and I also really enjoyed the garlic Naan which was moist but still perfectly flaky.

Anyway it was all over in a flash and before we knew it we were being ushered out into the street wondering what had just happened. It was still so early we still had time for a nightcap or two at the nearby Cafe Europa without risking raised eyebrows from our better halves later.

Rani gets seven poppadoms for taste, and three ring stings. After our last quite traumatic experience at Nirvana we were pleasantly surprised by the price level, with main courses in the 8 – 11 Euro range (without rice or bread of course), and we award seven Rupees for price.

Otto-Bauer-Gasse 21, 1060 Wien
Tel: 01 5965111

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Nirvana

This is another one like the Demi Tass - expensive and popular with the Viennese. If you’re not too bothered about shelling out around €14 for a main dish about the size of a tin of cat food, I dare say you would probably enjoy eating here. And what is it about these ‘upper class’ restaurants that makes them think it is OK to only serve small beers for more than you usually pay for a large one. A least here no rats had drowned in it.... the glasses would be to small for that.

The waiter, who was most definitely Austrian, came to take our order and we went for one of our usuals, a lamb vindaloo, and something a bit different, a Sabzi Karahi, which is basically a tangy, spicy vegetable mix. We skipped the rice for once and went for a mixed basket of breads, which was actually very good.

Now I know my German’s a bit iffy at the best of times, but I reckon it’s just about good enough to get across to your average Austrian waiter that we wanted our food hot, as in spicy hot. He asks us what we want so we say “lamb vindaloo – scharf.” Now for those of you who don’t speak German, the word ‘scharf’ means spicy hot. Das Schaf on the other hand is the word for sheep. So I guess what happened here was that he thought I was just confirming that I meant lamb as in sheep. In any case, I mentioned cat food earlier and I have the feeling the vindaloo came straight out of the tin and the chef even forgot to add the chilli.

The Sabzi Karahi was much better which, I suppose, isn’t really saying much. But it really was quite different and gave us the feeling that it was something genuinely Indian and not westernized for the European market.

My overall opinion of the place is that the food is distinctly average and vastly overprice. The atmosphere is painfully trying to be upper class Indian and after the funky music in the Om, my ears were once again bleeding by the time we left having been given a good thrashing by the old sitar.

My advice to you is to save yourself the €45 and head off to Billa for a couple of tins of Whiskas, a can of Stiegel and a bag of semmels and you’ve pretty much got the meal for under a fiver. If you really want to splash out (the chef obviously didn’t) you could go to Spar and get a bottle of Mama Africa’s sauce and turn the whole thing into a gourmet dinner for two.

Actually. I think that's probably a bit harsh. The Vindaloo was very average and I would expect more for the money. The Sabzi Karahi was quite good and the breads were better.

So we give this place six poppadoms for taste (the bread rescued them here), nine rupees for price and three ring stings.

1010 Wien, Rotenturmstra├če 16-18
 01 513 30 75, 

Om

OM(G) – Oh My God what a dodgy little dive this place is. I have to admit this was my idea. Looking through the various restaurants that we hadn’t visited yet, this was in the first district and a only a short and pleasant walk away through the Graben and Stephansplatz. The Christmas decorations are really quite impressive so if you haven’t been yet... 

The Om is just off the Fleischmarkt and the owner greeted us with a friendly smile and the offer of a beer. If you ever decide to go here, DO NOT DRINK THE BEER. Not the draught at least. It tasted like his pet rat Mahmoud had gone on a bender a couple of nights before and was now floating upside down in the barrel. I’ve honestly never tasted beer so bad. The thing is, the owner didn’t bat an eyelid when we sent it back in exchange for a couple of bottles of Heineken. I think he knows but doesn’t care. 

We decided not to eat, but had already ordered starters of Samosas and Piaz sabzi pakora and I have to say, we were pleasantly surprised. The sauce that came with them was good and spicy as well. To be fair, the Om is clearly marketing itself as a nightclub and they’ve just spent quite a bit of money renovating the bars in the cellar and first floor. They’re also creating a proper restaurant as an extension to the bar so I guess we’re going have to go back at some stage and give it another go. The music is funky Indian pop, which makes a pleasant change from the ear wrenching sitar twanging you get in most Indians. 

Hard to give this a rating based on a couple of starters. However, they were pretty good so Om gets seven poppadoms  for taste as we both agree that once the restaurant is properly open, the food is likely to be good. Six ring stings based on the sauce and at €3,50 a samosa we thought it deserves seven Rupees for price.

Main course follows in the next post – Nirvana


1010 Wien, Rabensteig 1
01 925 64 89

Friday, 3 December 2010

Der Inder Finder

I've been meaning to write this post for a while and sitting in Molly Darcy's enjoying a Guinness and waiting for Andrew to rock up for tonight's curry extravaganza, seemed like an appropriate time.

We both want to give credit to Horst Prillinger for creating 'Der Inder Finder'. When we first started going for curries in Vienna, Andrew discovered the site and we have relied on it extensively for finding restaurants to try.
So if you're wondering where to go and we haven't got so far as to review a certain restaurant yet, I would recommend that you visit the site.

http://homepage.univie.ac.at/horst.prillinger/inder/

Horst, I have never met you but if you ever read this we just want to say thanks for a great job and I hope that we can all go out for a Indian some time.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Nam Nam

This week’s Squrry took place in a relatively new Indian restaurant in the sixth district called Nam Nam.  I guess the owner must have kids as I know of several two year olds - mine included –that refer to food as Namnam.  Also, the place was literally crawling with rug rats, which actually added to the atmosphere.

We skipped the squash this week as I had been refereeing rugby all afternoon and being the old fart that I am, I figured the body would give out if I tried to thrash my way around a squash court once again.  Also, the post match beers meant that I was three sheets to the wind by the time Andrew rocked up, so squash would definitely have been tricky.

After a short argument about how to get there from Schwedenplatz, we agree to take the U4 to Pilgramgasse and walk up from there.  It should be noted at this point that Andrew has the sense of direction of a blind man in a blizzard, and we were lucky not to get mown down when we crossed the Wienzeile as he carefully rotated his iPhone to figure out which way up his Google map should be.

Unlike walking into the Khajuraho where you half expect a few bats to flap past you on the way in, the Namnam was pretty full, and we were happy that we’d booked a table.  The place is really tastefully decorated, being quite modern with some old Indian furniture and other touches.  Another bonus is that there is no twanging sitar background music to hurt your poor sensitive western ears.

We were greeted and our coats taken by the most friendly and attentive waiter in the whole of Vienna.  He is Iranian and goes by the name of Pouyan ( I hope I’ve spelt that right ), and he made sure our eating experience was as satisfying as possible. We ordered starters for a change, which consisted of Samosas and the Namnam roles, two of each for €4.90. Both were excellent and actually quite good value for money.  Of course we didn’t forsake our usual poppadoms and pickles, and when they arrived we were surprised to see five different chutneys and pickles to choose from.  There was only one really hot one, but neither of us really liked the taste of it that much.

For the main course, we had the chicken in coconut-chilli sauce and the lamb bhuna, and asked for both to be served hot.  We were not disappointed!  Not since the old days in the Bombay have I had such a hot curry.  Andrew tucked into the chicken first and immediately said how hot it was.  My first impression of the lamb was that it was spicy but nothing to get excited about.  However, this was one of those curries that would hide around a dark corner and suddenly jump out and shout boo.  When it did, I started to break out in a sweat, which is something that I haven’t done in a long time. If you Google how Edward II was murdered, you may get an idea of how the day after the night before treated us!    

In terms of taste both curries were extremely fresh and lively, which is pretty much exactly the opposite of what you get in the Samrat.  Neither was anything like the typical curry that you get in most Indian Restaurants.  Instead they were exciting and exotic and both of us liked them very much. We finished off with a fantastic desert of Gajar Halwa, which is a kind of milky cake with pistachio and cashew nuts.

All in all, it is very hard to fault this restaurant.  The service is excellent, the food is better and the ambiance is warm and inviting.  The whole meal, poppadoms, pickles, starters, main course, dessert, coffee and several beers came to €62.00, which we think is very good value.

Namnam is awarded eight poppadoms for taste, four rupees for price and nine ring stings for spice.

Webgasse 3, 1060 Wien
+43 1 595 6127