For those who do not know their Indian singers the restaurant Asha’s is a food venture headed by the famous Indian Bollywood vocalist, Asha Bhosle. For that alone I was excited to try the place for an evening meal. The restaurant is based in the food court of the mall and as a result it has an internal terrace as well as indoor seating. The table arrangements inside are varied from private booths to more central seating. However the place still manages to have an intimate feel.
Décor-wise they have done well in choosing a restrained unpretentious design with many of the walls covered by portraits of the singer. However, where they miss a trick is the music. In the time period that I was there I heard no Asha songs and the music at one point was so bland as to be unnoticeable. Sounds from the ice rink in he mall were very clear and it detracted from the atmosphere created by the restaurant design. I understand that restaurants of a certain type do not wish to over-indulge in the music so as not to interrupt the diners. It just seemed a shame not to introduce her music to others, like my dinner companion, who have never heard of her.
Like most good Indian restaurants complimentary poppadums and condiments are given at the beginning of the meal. As someone who likes pickled vegetables I wasn’t impressed by the pickle element of the dish – it tasted too much like jarred pickle. However, the mint chutney was beautifully seasoned with a spicy kick to it.
I ordered one of their speciality cocktails called the Backwater Delight after I was told my original choice of cocktail was unavailable. It looked very good in the glass but it tasted very wrong. It was advertised as having a coconut puree and pineapple juice base but it came across as far too sweet in that sickly syrupy way. It also had lime, mint and ginger in it – literally. I was getting chunks of ginger and mint leaves on my tongue – not a pleasant experience at all. I only had a few sips of it which is a shame, and I would have to think twice before ordering from the cocktails menu again. Perhaps I should have stuck to the lassi.
We shared mains and decided to order one meat dish and one vegetarian. We ordered Hare Baingan Ka Bharta, an aubergine based dish which was advertised as Asha’s mom’s favourite dish. The aubergines had been oven-roasted and mashed which gave them a strange texture. I am used to eating vegetarian South-Asian dishes which have this mash-like texture and quite frankly I have experienced better. The dish was not easy to eat, which is unfortunate because a lot of time and effort had gone into making it. It was a simple dish but the vegetable needed more seasoning for it to have some flavour other than smoky vegetable.
The meat curry we ordered was the Rogan Josh. When we enquired about the spice level we were told it would be hard to accommodate our request of mild spicing. When the curry arrived it looked amazing, and the portion size was more than reasonable. The food at Asha’s can definitely be shared between diners, and I would also suggest you have your leftovers packed to take with you.
The lamb curry was boneless and the meat was tender and succulent, with a slight hint of floral taste from the rosewater. However, due to our spicing request we didn’t get any heat at all which is to the detriment of the dish. When eating a meat curry you do need some heat to come through. I would suggest that you be clear about the spiciness of the food when ordering individual dishes. The yoghurt and onion based gravy was delicious especially scooped up with our breads. Rather than having rice as an accompaniment we enjoyed butter naan and tandoori roti. The flatbreads were awesome and I would have that butter naan every day of my life.
We ordered Rasmalai as a last minute decision since I have a love of the dish. Presented simply, this version was absolutely stunning and was not overly sweet. The paneer curds were amazingly light and the cream was flavoured delicately with cardamom and rosewater. Another dish I would love to eat for the rest of my life. Absolute joy in a bowl!
A visit to Asha’s is a little hit-and-miss. The ambience could be instantly improved by simply changing the music. The spicing levels of the dishes need to be made clearer either in the menu or by the servers themselves. I would stay away from the expensive cocktails, and also be careful about ordering certain vegetarian options. However, based upon the successful dessert I am a happy diner. To find an exquisite version of my favourite dessert after a so-so meal was a lovely surprise and I would definitely be keen to try the other desserts (that is if I could stop ordering the Rasmalai).