I thought I'd report back on two Indian meals I had in Cardiff this week as there doesn't seem to be much on here about Indian cuisine in Cardiff.
The first was lunch at Madhav on Lower Cathedral Rd/Clare St in Riverside, which is a tiny, slightly scruffy cafe joined onto an Indian grocery. Here's what we ordered and what we thought:
Sambar idly - the idly was great but the sambar was watery and flavourless.
Masala dosa - lovely. The sambar which came with it was a disappointment, as above, but the coconut chutney was delish - coarse, fresh, and strong.
Dahi vada - also great. Lovely vada texture and nice sour yogurt.
Tarka dhal - this was just sambar. Whether or not they added a tarka I don't know, but it certainly didn't taste any different to my watery sambar.
Paratha - two parathas sandwiched together with a potato masala in between. Yum.
Pani puri - yum.
Kachori - these were new to me. They were described as sweet and sour lentil balls but weren't really sour at all; they were more savoury but with sweet cinnamon overtones. Also very nice.
Salt lassi - yum.
Overall this was a lovely meal. We sampled the menu fairly well but there were a fair few other kinds of chaat and different curries on there. The shop's really well stocked too (Indian stuff mostly but lots of Caribbean too). Handy for the centre of town too - just a short walk over the bridge.
The second was dinner at the Vegetarian Food Studio on Penarth Rd (new premises). It's quite a big place with cheap and cheerful decor but nice tables laid for dinner; not somewhere you'd go for a posh meal but perfectly nice. It was also light, clean and wonderfully warm (it was horrid weather the night we went so we were very glad of the heating!). Here's what we had:
Paneer pakora - chewy with a delicious batter and tasty tamarind jam.
Idly chaat - never had idly like this before but we loved it! It must have been fried or something because the edges were kind of crunchy; it was torn into small chunks and served in a bowl of yogurt, tamarind sauce and a small amount of some other sauce (red and a bit spicy), yet the gorgeous fermented taste of the idly still came through.
Chana masala petis (this might not be exactly what it was called but you get the idea) - this was a flavourful chana masala served in a bowl over with potato petis - I have no idea what one of those is when it's at home but it appeared to be a kind of squashy ball, and was mighty delicious when doused in chana masala!
Chili pakora - this was ordered by our friend's boyfriend the rugby boy who apparently loves hot food. They certainly were hot, but not too violently so. Same tasty batter as paneer pakoras.
Pani puri - I'm a bit of a pani puri devotee and I have to say these didn't measure up to expectations. The puri were a bizarre texture unlike anything I've ever had before - they had a polystyrene-like feel, reminiscent of those disgusting crisps called quavers. Maybe it's just a regional variation I've never had before? Who knows. It was gross. The filling was like I've had when I've ordered this dish in its gol goppi incarnation in Pakistani places - chunks of potato and chickpeas in a kind of sour dressing, rather than squishy potatoes with coriander. I like this version less personally but I couldn't fault it.
Paneer Szechuan - chunks of paneer and red and green pepper in a spicy sweet n sour sauce. Rugby boy loved it, and so did we.
Chutney dosa, spicy garlic dosa and another dosa I can't remember - these were a real let-down. The dosas themselves were fat, floppy and dry, nothing like the paper-thin, ghee-smothered delights they should have been. The third one that came out was a bit thinner, and I did spot a kid's dosa (you know when they make it into a cone shape) going out later and that looked more like it was supposed to (you couldn't really make a floppy cone could you) so I am tempted to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the griddle just wasn't hot enough for ours. But my, it was a real disappointment for a person who loves her dosas as much as me.
Dosappointment aside, we really loved VFS (that's me and fellow Indian food enthusiast boyf as well as rugby boy and my French friend who like many of her compatriots has difficulty handling anything with any flavour). The menu was breathtaking - there was a whole page of starters, another of chaat, another of desi Chinese cuisine, another of South Indian and another of Gujarati curries - so I'm determined to come back and try more of it. It may be that south Indian stuff just isn't their strong point.
All in all, two great discoveries!