Posted by: mikeydude | August 10, 2009

Punithas Restaurant Review (6.5/10)

I haven’t been to an Indian restaurant for ages! There are so many in Cardiff you can’t count them. However a few Indian colleagues at work have recommended Punithas; telling me that it offers the most authentic South Indian cuisine in the land! They enforce their claims by saying that this place does not serve the much-loved poppadoms, as they represent North Indian cuisine. So on a lazy Thursday evening the Mrs and I weren’t too bothered about cooking, and so opted to give this place a try.

I’m sure this place used to another oriento-indian buffet restaurant as I recognised the interior. I wasn’t surprised it needed to close. Anyway this place had a nice purple glow around it with simple uncluttered furniture. Quite good business for a Thursday night and browsing through the menu I could see why.

Punithas is located on Albany Road in Cardiff which is a street full of takeaways, supermarkets, estate agents and restaurants. Competition is tough therefore, but this place stands out well.

For dinner you have 3 options. Either opt A La Carte, tasting menu (£10-20 per head), or their theme of the day (which includes parotta, Biryiani, and dosai), which boasts a very reasonable £12.50 per head for all you can eat of that theme plus a choice of 2 starters and desserts. It was Parotta day when we went and so I was keen to try that since there are 8-9 different types of parotta you can try. My memories of Parotta come from Singapore where the Indian Immigrants set up stalls serving parotta with curry sauce. It’s nice to watch the chefs beat the ‘parotta dough’ before frying it into a kind of pancake. Very nice with curry, but I never enjoyed it in Singapore too much due to the sweltering heat of the outdoors. Back in the UK it would be ideal as the weather’s usually cold, and you need something warm to pick you up.

Our waitress was very friendly and kindly explained the different types of parotta. These ranged from chicken and lamb, to curry or just plain. After you had ordered one each and finished it, you could order another 2. We were in for a big feast! Here’s what we had.

Starter #1: Mutton Samosa

This was well executed. The samosa was lovely and crispy, whilst the mutton meat inside was well seasoned with a touch of spice. It was also a nice portion so not to stuff me before the mains even arrive.

Starter #2: Masala Mushrooms

A little greasy, but this deep fried mushroom masala was pretty good. Moderately spicy and full of powerful flavour, it really emphasises the characteristic ‘in your face’ tastes of Indian cuisine.

Parotta #1 and #2: Mutton Kothu Parotta and Chicken Kothu Parotta

This was not what I expected! I thought all these parotta dishes were going to be the standard pancake with the meat separate for you to fold up, much like the infamous crispy aromatic duck wraps in chinese cuisine. I was wrong, and I was glad of it too. This was a generous bowl of meaty mutton (not minced :)) mixed with shredded parotta and spices served with curry sauce and yoghurt ‘coleslaw’. This was really good. Again it packs lots of flavour. The meat was tender and the parotta was crisp. Combined with the curry sauce it formed a complete dish.

The chicken meat was also breast meat and cooked almost in an identical way (as the name implies). Really good spicy flavours cushioned slightly by the parotta dough. Portions were generous and we were fairly full by the end of this. Our only gripe was the yoghurt coleslaw, which we weren’t too keen on. We trudged on….

Parotta #3: Kheema stuffed Parotta

This was totally different to the first parottas; consisting of minced lamb fried in layered parotta dough. This was quite a greasy dish, but at least the dough was crispy (not soggy), and again packed with powerful spices. Slightly smaller portion than the previous helpings, but gladly so as I was struggling after finishing this.

Parotta #4: Chilli Parotta

This was probably the weakest of all the parottas we tried. This for me was bordering mod-severe in chilliness. Fried pieces of parotta were cooked in hot spices and onions. Nice but didn’t impress as much as the others.

We were too stuffed beyond this and had to proceed with desserts at this point.

Dessert #1: Fironi

Hmmmm… the wife didn’t like this one. I’ve always been a massive fan of saffron and so I loved the aroma that this cold dessert presented. The saffron taste was very strong, and I think the creaminess and slight crunch of the nuts made this a very pleasing dessert. Oh well, we’re all very different in food tastes 😀

Dessert #2: Iced Nougat

This was just ice-cream topped with toasted almonds on a cherry sauce. I couldn’t taste any pistacchio. My dining partner liked it as ice-cream is her weakness. A nice cool finish to a spicy meal.

All in all we were pleasantly surprised by the standard of Punithas. Parotta day is not just fried pieces of dough mixed with curry sauce as I thought it would be. The parotta’s themselves are varied and comprise of a menu in themselves. All the dishes we tried were packed full of flavour and so be sure you have the stomach to take it all in before you decide on a visit. This is NOT the place for a light lunch. My only criticisms are the chilli parotta which was nothing special, and the slight over-greasiness of some of the dishes. Definitely one of the best Indian places in Cardiff so far I reckon, and we will be keen to return and try the other Daily deals, as well as the tasting menu (looked pretty good value actually). We ended up paying about £30 which included drinks and service charge which I think it pretty good value. Give it a try if you haven’t done so already. I think you’ll be quite impressed.

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