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dinner at indian zing [London]

firstly, thanks to malik for organizing.

as there were about ten of us, we ordered in advance the kind of things a maharastrian normally eats.

for starters, a) coriander leaf bound with (besan?) flour and drizzled with green and tamarind chutney

b) potato patty garnished with chickpeas and a shmoosh of yoghurt (a gussied up version of a bombay street food ragda patties)

and then the mains:

a) pitla (a maharastrian dal held together with besan flour, very smooth and meant to be eaten hot with bhakri, a thick chapatti made with bajri/jowar flour)

b) pohe (flattened rice cooked in the classic phodni of rai seeds and turmeric)

c) potato bhaji (boiled and lightly fried with cumin and coriander seeds)

d) matki usal (sprouted moth beans)

e) chicken miravna (green chicken curry using coriander, methi, coconut milk from the patre prabhus)

f) ghati goat (invented name, a generic whole spice flavoured dish)

g) rice, chappattis and an attempt at bhakri

i was shocked how close they came to home cooking. my cousin and his (excellent cook, natch) wife were with us, and they too marveled at the cooking. i think consensus for excellence was the pitla and chicken for the weakest dish but i'd be interested to hear other reactions.

if nothing else, this ought to prove my point in spades: eat vegetables in good indian restaurants! the range of flavours and the very deft spicing are a tribute to real skill, while any dunderhead like me can cook meat.

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  1. Looks really interesting and your conclusions certainly finds favour with us vegetarians. We have been discussing whether this is worth the visit but I think your report seals it.

    Is there any fish in Maharastrian cuisine?

    2 Replies
    1. re: frogprince

      yes, plenty of fish amongst the coastal people.

      i must warn you - apart from the potato bhaji and perhaps the chicken, i think every single item was off menu. would be great though if you could call and encourage them to make at least the matki usal and the pitla part of the main menu.

      1. re: howler

        Thanks for the clarification and I will call them before we go there.

    2. I am so embarrassed. I had totally intended to come to this, it was in my diary and I was looking forward to it. And then for some reason, yesterday, it completely slipped my mind. I only remembered this morning when I logged into Chowhound. I am such an idiot and more than a little gutted. :-(

      Apologies to howler and malik for my flakiness (which is out of character - I must have been having a senior moment!).

      1 Reply
      1. re: greedygirl

        oh don't be embarrassed - though we certainly missed you.

        we'll certainly do it again, hopefully sooner rather than later.

      2. Thanks for the well though ordering - I feel privileged to have made it. The matki usal was wonderful for the crunchy texture and perfect spiciness.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dave_nyc

          dave_nyc - it was a pleasure to meet you. it's a tribute to jim leff - his buddies are mine whenever i meet them!

          do ask and try out matki usal in pune when you are next there. warning: it'll be a lot runnier and you'll shlurp them in pune, but i think (hope) you'll find the spirit the same.

        2. Thank you Howler for organizing the food ordering ahead of time. This was a lovely meal with great company.

          The starters were excellent in flavor, texture and presentation. Among the mains, my favorites were the pohe (which I'd never tried before) and the goat, and it was nice to find some good chappatis in a restaurant setting. I also didn't care for the chicken too much, but the leftover has been very popular at home, so maybe the dish needed a little time to come together.

          1. Yes, thanks to both Howler and Malik for organising a great dinner. A very talented kitchen was in evidence. Loved the presentation (and taste!) of the starters. Like everyone else, I was impressed by the care given to the preparation of the vegetable mains, and their resulting taste and texture.

            Cunningly I ended up taking home the leftovers for my favourite two dishes (the dal and the bhaji), and I think eating them for lunch created a bit of of office-envy!

            3 Replies
            1. re: deansa

              it's my newest howl: getting chowhounds to move away from dining in courses and instead eating lots of veggie dishes together at the same time, exactly as an indian family would.

              while i might wake up craving mutton champs or butter chicken, what i really miss is the huge number of glorious vegetarian dishes of all the cuisines in india, given a choice to scarf down butter chicken or sarson ka saag, i know which way i'm going.

              1. re: howler

                I do hope you'll organize another of these feasts a bit later in the year. I was truly sorry to be away for this one. Thanks to the volcano, we never did get to Malta but hurried to the Lake District instead. You owe it to me! :-)

            2. Thanks once more for getting all the food together!

              Loved the coriander leaf with flour, the minimalist but adroit potato bhaji, and the richly flavoured matki usal.

              Favourite: the pohe was a revelation to me -- incredibly well put together in terms of texture and flavour. Seamless.

              The meat dishes were the least interesting to me, but the goat did have an edge over the chicken in terms of spicing (spices such as cardamom, not chilli).

              3 Replies
              1. re: limster

                i'm glad you and malik both liked the pohe - it is incredibly simple in terms of the recipe but extremely hard to get just right, sort of like a haiku.

                it is a favourite tea time item, and was my mom's preferred way of breaking a fast.

                next time i'm going to request he make us another transcendental dish called sabudana khitchdi (khitchdi from sago pearls).

                1. re: howler

                  I'll definitely have to be along for the next go (10,000 words on an obscure province in Western China later.)

                  How does sabudhana khichdi and the pohe differ from the Guju equivalents? The latter sounds exactly the same as what I've had except a lot of Gujus shun mustard seeds.

                  What was wrong with the bhakri?

                  1. re: JFores

                    when the gujjus and maharastrians have dishes in common, you'll usually find the gujju's add more sugar and omit bitter notes.

                    maharastrian cooking is fascinating because it straddles the north south divide and is influenced by both.

                    as for the bhakri - it really has to be a mixture of of jowar and bajri flour and when cooked is solid and hearty. the bhakris they tried were just gray colored chappatis without the weight and the heft. but nice try.

              2. Had some fantastic food at Indian Zing recently. Amongst dishes we had:

                - root vegetables & sprouted beans tikki
                - Karwari fish curry
                - Malabar chicken curry
                - Braised lamb shank
                - Dum Gobi Mutter
                Loved the desserts - Rasmalai & Gulab Jamun.

                I'm having trouble linking restaurants to Google placemark link the past few weeks. Here are the address details:

                Indian Zing
                236 King Street
                London W6 ORF
                Tel: 0208 748 5959/
                0208 748 2332

                3 Replies
                1. re: klyeoh

                  Pics to share:

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    This is the kind of thread that makes me love chowhound, whose collective wisdom I have followed in many cities. I was visiting London for two weeks from the US and had time for one celebratory but not too pricey chow-type meal. Thanks to this board and the posters on this thread my partner and I had an absolutely spectacular dinner at Indian Zing last week. Better than, and different from, any Indian food we'd had in the US--though I'm no expert at all and clearly need to redouble my efforts to seek out distinctive South Asian back home. We didn't have the nerve to ask for the off-menu dishes mentioned above at Indian Zing, so maybe we missed out on the Maharashtrian specialties, but we loved the bananaflower koftas in a squash sauce, the karawari fish curry, the dal and the spinach and fenugreek greens we had. Only raised eyebrow was at the illustrations in the toilets (was this the "zing"?) derived from a certain well-known sutra.

                  2. I wonder if this place has now becomes off-limits for Chowhound purists.

                    I assume, for them, the death knell was sounded when it appeared in this year's Good Food Guide. And, I further assume, the final nail in the coffin for them is the whistle it gets in Michael Winner's column in todays Sunday Times.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Harters

                      I went back a couple of weeks ago and the food, whilst still good, seems to have lost a little...zing.

                      The breads were a bit off and the vegetable dishes tended to blend into each other. The Kawari fish curry was a little bland (always hard to find good fish curry in west London), but the Nilgiri lamb was zesty with with requisite spice and heat mix. Overall, still superior, but looking for other Hammersmith / Earls Court recs if anyone has any?