A friend suggested I try the new India India. It has moved from its old cramped site on Nikis Avenue and further along the same road to the former KFC corner premises. Much money was spent on the transaction, and it now occupies a gleaming arena with marble floors, comfortable chairs and well-spaced tables, Asian artefacts and a general feel of the sub-continent.
We arrive early on Tuesday night and take up a position where we can observe all that passes. Christina, our waitress, brings a heater to ensure our comfort. One is struck by how white everything is; walls, tables, floors, stairs, etc. The matter of drinks is settled with an Indian beer for the companion and an ouzo for me.
The menu offers reasonably priced set meals for two or four people, including a vegetarian option. We choose to explore the card. There are eight starters beginning with papadums and including four pakoras – deep fried pieces of vegetable dressed in chickpea flour and spices – samosa, onion bhaji and tandoori chicken wings. I select the bhaji, always a good start, and the companion fancies the vegetable pakora. Two bhajis are served almost immediately on a bed of chopped cabbage. There are many methods of cooking bhajis and I prefer the raised crispy version, but these are quite acceptable in a flattened biscuit form though warm rather than hot. The pakora is served as a mound of hot mixed crispy battered pieces of vegetable and is enough for four people; we didn’t finish the dish, fearing it would blunt our appetite for the main course.
The central section includes four dishes from the tandoor: mixed grill with an assortment of kebabs such as chicken tikka and sheekh kebab or minced lamb with spices. There are fifteen different chicken courses ranging from buttered, tikka marsala, korma, rogan josh, dhansak, and all the other usual preparations: vindaloo, gumbi, palak etc. We give them a miss and pass to the lamb which offers eleven plates covering most of the previous methods. The companion selects the lamb korma, a familiar dish that originated in Persia, and requires slow cooked cubed lamb, with garlic, onions, cardamoms, cinnamom, cumin and a sauce made from cream and almonds. Naturally, the menu doesn’t mention all the ingredients – and the whole spices will be removed before serving – but we notice that the dish will be cooked in coconut milk, which is now a common feature of Asian cooking. The dish is eaten with basmati or naan. I explore the seafood section and select a prawn vindaloo that will be cooked in onion and tomato sauce. It is best eaten with pulao rice.
Christina serves us a small dish of sauces and the main courses arrive in small metal bowls. The korma is a disappointment. As fluid as a bowl of soup with the meat lurking at the bottom of the dish, it seems as though a tin of coconut milk has been poured over the lamb, and there is none of the viscosity one expects from the dish. My prawns are queen size and the rice is perfectly prepared, but the dish has none of the intense heat one requires of vindaloo; in fairness, the waitress asked me how hot I wanted it and I chose medium hot, but nevertheless, it didn’t raise a sweat.
The proprietor, Jack is one of the nicest men you will meet in the restaurant business, but I must have caught his kitchen on an off-night. Pity, I was really looking forward to an Indian evening.
Specialty: Asian Cuisine.
Where: 5c, Nikis Avenue, Nicosia.
Contact: 22-490440. Open for dinner Monday to Sunday, only take-away lunchtime.
Cost: Very reasonable.