THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
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Salaam Namaste is a Bollywood hit from 2005. It’s also a fine restaurant in Bloomsbury that opened that same year. Loosely translated, the name means, “hello greetings”. That is what I got, plus a lovely meal in the heart of Bloomsbury…at zone 3 prices!
The restaurant has recently produced a sequel by way of a new menu. Chef Sabbir Karim has put a lot of thought into his latest and it shows. There is an abundance of choice and his specialties are innovative, well presented and very tasty.
It has an excellent cast of South Asian men, all of whom were prompt and polite, and one striking, statuesque woman who stole the show! Her attention to detail showed a real flair for service. A brilliant performance.
The cocktail menu is a lesson in fusion. Classics with Indian accents. A mango margarita spiced with chilli mingled sweet with heat and a salted rim gave a nod to the original. It just needed a splash of lime to complete the thought.
A basket brimming with poppadoms appeared with 3 chutneys: tomato, yogurt and mango. I never tire of this treat. It always seems to prepare my palate for the rest of the meal. I ate the lot!
Our waiter recommended the kathi rolls and grilled duck breast starters, both at £6.50. Excellent choices. Spiced chicken rolled in chapatti was made popular in the streets of Calcutta. Karim turns it into fine dining with beautiful plating, fabulous mint chutney and a squidge of beetroot puree. Pink slices of duck breast were tender, lean and fat free. Bell peppers, tamarind, red onions and spices satisfied every taste bud.
Spicy lamb with roasted red chillies (£13.95) showed Karim’s flare for using chilli for taste, rather than heat. Spice without the burn. The sauce was excellent, but the lean lamb lost its succulence.
Goan Sea Bass (£14.95) was plentiful and well rounded. 2 pan seared fillets in a sauce of tomato, onion, coconut, mustard seed and curry leaf. The gamut. Rice pilau with onion, cumin and saffron (£3.25) and cucumber raita (£3.50) rounded out the meal and date and ginger naan added a note of surprise. Delightful on its own, it also cut through the spice and calmed my tongue. And calming my tongue is no easy feat!!!
The wine list is small but very reasonable. An Australian Pinot Noir (£28) was very respectable and paired well with the entire meal. Light, fruity and just a hint of sweetness to counter the spicy food.
For dessert, pistachio and mango kulfi (£3.95) satiated my sweet tooth. The pistachio especially had that lovely, caramel taste that comes from the reduction of milk. Gajar Ka Halwa with coconut ice cream (£4.50) won the prize. Don’t be misled by the translation, “carrot fudge”. It is far lighter, almost soufflé-like in quality with a taste reminiscent of pumpkin pie. Like a cliff hanger, it left me looking forward to Salaam Namaste 3!