[Northenden, Manchester] Lotus
We’d gone to Northenden intending to eat at Persian restaurant, Shiraz, only to find it shut, perhaps permanently.
So, it was on to Plan B. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of fusion cuisine but, at least, Lotus keeps the two strands of its menu separate. So, a full Malaysian menu on the first couple of pages, followed by a couple of South Indian. We stuck with the latter and will return to try the Malaysian side of things in a few weeks.
Mutton chukka is a Tamil dish. Almost dry with curry leaves very present and a powerful chilli kick. This was certainly a wake-up starter. Truth be told, it was a bit chewy although whether this was because it was mutton or because it needed longer cooking, I’m not sure (although my bet is on the latter).
Chilli and curry leaf, along with coriander, formed the major flavourings of the first of my partner’s starters. Methu vadai were a couple of well fried, erm, doughnuts. These were really lovely and were, perhaps, the best thing either of us ate. Alongside, a little bowl of a coconut sambar and another of sweet chilli sauce.
Her second starter filled most of the table. Served on a large stainless compartmentalised platter (that’s probably used elsewhere for thali type meals), there were four steamed idli. We’d not had these before and wouldn’t necessarily be in rush to order them again. Apparently, rice and lentils are ground to a paste and left for several hours, by which time the mixture ferments and sets somewhat. The steaming turns it into a soft ball of bland gloop. Yes, I know I’m not selling this to you but it wasn’t as bad as it reads. What perks things up considerably are the four chutneys provided for dipping – coriander, a spicy tomato, tamarind and the coconut sambar.
This was followed by a masala dosa. Not the finest ever experienced. A well flavoured filling of potato which still had some texture but the dosa itself was soggy in parts.
My own main, the Tamil classic of chicken chettinad was also OK. Offered the option of having it medium or spicy, I’d gone for spicy and was glad I had as the thin sauce remained restrained in use of spices and, in particular, of chilli.
We did have some issues with service. My starter had to be chased up, for example. There was a gap between each main course arriving and then a further gap before rice appeared. It was almost as if whoever was cooking wasn’t really experienced in the restaurant business.
So, we went back to sample the Malaysian menu. I think it’s better than the South Indian.
Google tells me that “Rojak” is the Malay word for “mixture”, so it’s no surprise that this is exactly what the dish was. A mix of soft fried tofu, bean sprouts, egg (and other stuff I couldnt identify) in a thick sweet chilli sauce, topped with peanut sauce with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. This was good – very good.
The other starter was roti canai. A couple of delicious flaky roti – just as we had a few months back in a Cape Malay restaurant in South Africa. The daal perfectly flavoursome and well seasoned but very thin in texture. Perhaps that’s how it’s supposed to be but it wasn’t a massive success – not least as it was so thin it ran off the bread.
Nasi Goreng Kampong Style was a very generous serving of rice, chicken, king prawn, vegetables, topped with anchovies. The prawns were obviously previously frozen and were served still with their tails on – but cooking managed to avoid the usual turn to rubber. Good dish – but not as good as my partner’s lamb rendang. This was a portion that would happily have fed both of us. This was good quality meat, cooked for a long, long time, so it was exceptionally tender. The sauce had all but gone and there was just enough clinging to the meat. I managed to get a couple of tastes (well, “tastes” undervalues the greed with which I attacked the leftovers). This was a star dish and I’d go back just to eat it.
(And we spotted that Shiraz is open again, so that's now back on the "to try" list)
Oi, idli is my one of my favourite foods! :-) No, but seriously, idli are not highly flavoured, but at their best, they shouldn't resemble a ball of gloop, and should provide a great vehicle for sambar/coconut chutney/gunpowder. So I'm going to level that they weren't a great example. Having said that, I suppose idli as a food is never going to set the world on fire - I always think of it as being a homely dish.