Posted by: mikeydude | April 22, 2010

Mint & Mustard Restaurant Cardiff Revisited (6/10)

Once the novelty factor wears off it’s even tougher to maintain quality!

It’s been a while since I last came to what I thought was one of Cardiff’s best eateries. I remember the excellently flavoured lamb shank as well as the full-spiced aromatic curries that makes the cooking stand out amongst the crowd. It so happened that I craved for lamb shank on a warming spring Saturday and so opted to come back and see how things have progressed since my last visit! As I’ve found so many times in the past, going into a restaurant with high expectations usually proves a let down….

It’s only 7pm and the place is almost packed already. There’s no way you can just walk in this place and expect a table during weekends. It was quite a humerous evening actually as we effectively had 2 waiters serving us, but one of them was a complete novice, and needed to be corrected by his ‘mentor’ throughout the course of the evening. Unfortunately that did compromise the service a bit, but I wasn’t particularly bothered. Everyone’s gotta learn I guess. Things did feel a bit more rushed though. I suspect they wanted us out by 9pm for the next tab! For drinks we ordered a cobra beer and orange juice. The menu itself was essentially the same as last time, and I was glad to see my lamb shank still there! Prices are higher than the average Indian, but then food here is supposed to be better than average right? Anyway here’s what we had;

Poppadoms

I like the small poppadom concept – it’s different. These were delightfully crispy and light, but the real star of the show was the chutney!

I loved the spicy beetroot chutney. That was novel but combined all the elements of sweet, sour, and chilli with the great taste of beetroot. It made a delicious dip and was a great change from standard mango. The mint chutney was also better than most places I’ve tried.

Starter #1: Curried Crab & Avocado Salad

Deep fried curried soft shell crab was very similar to the kind you get in Japanese restaurants but with a hint of curry. So no marks here for novelty. Nevertheless it was deep fried well and the avacado salad gave the dish some sharpness.

Starter #2: Chicken Samosa

Not so impressed with this one. The skin was crispy and light – good technique demonstrated there. BUT…. the chicken mince inside just didn’t look good at all. Pale pellets of minced chicken with the odd pea thrown in didn’t do much to set my tastebuds on fire. Alas the usual ‘currylicious’ filling was also absent, and so it was a rather bland experience.

Main #1: Lamb Shank with Herb Infused Potato Cake

Ah! The very reason I came here tonight. It definitely looked identical to the one I received those few months ago. Taste wise I think it excelled as well! Beautiful aged lamb shank that had been slow cooked to a wonderful soft texture and then I assume grilled last minute to achieve that crisp outside. The flavour absorbed from the cooking medium was full of delicious herb tastes. There was also a fillet of what seemed like rump of lamb that the shank was leaning on which was also packed full of flavour and the accompanying spicy sauce bound the whole dish together with the almost rosti-like herb potato. It was a fine dish, but again not without its flaws. I think the lamb could have been cooked for a bit longer to achieve an even more tender texture. There were a few mouthfuls where fibres of meat were a bit chewy. Otherwise it tasted just as good as it did last time I was here.

Mains #2: Beef Oolarthu

I always feel the need to order a curry when I come to Indian restaurants just like ordering rice in a chinese restaurant. They’ve always been considered to go hand in hand. On top of that the Mrs needs something sauce based to go with her Peshwari Naan. This was chunks of beef braised in spices of which I could not identify. The dish was good and again the sauce was full of wonderful strong flavours, but the meat was still too tough. Indulging in too much European cuisine which focuses on perfectly textured meat has raised the bar a bit in that respect which is probably the wrong thing to do walking into asian kitchens. Nevertheless I think the beef could have been braised for a bit longer.

Side #1: Peshwari Naan

As you can tell from the picture, this was way too greasy. Why didn’t they drain the oil better? It just didn’t look appetitising as a result of this. The texture was ok for a naan, but the coconut taste was far too subtle in my opinion. The ones I’ve always enjoyed had a much stronger coconut taste (not too dissimilar to the chinese coconut buns) and as a result have mixed perfectly with the curries in adding that sweet aftertaste. Probably the weakest part of the meal.

Side #2: Okra

We always order okra as it seems like the Indians are the only race that can cook it properly (!). The slightly bitter taste and sticky texture make it a very difficult ingredient to cook with but I’ve always believed that Asian cuisine does a great job of combining its spices with it to make a great vegetable dish. This attempt was one of the best I’ve had recently and the kick given off by the chilli was a welcome touch. Great dish!

We couldn’t manage dessert in the end after that mammoth feast. The total bill came to £52 including drinks and service charge. That’s way more expensive than the standard Indian restaurant in Cardiff. Last time I came I thought it was amazing and would fully recommend it. This time however I think the novelty value has worn off a bit, and expectations were far higher. The cooking is still above average for Indian cuisine, but I no longer feel that it can justify its hefty prices; the naan bread was unacceptably flawed. Don’t get me wrong we still had a great meal, but there’s room for improvement and I think I’ll give other establishments a try before coming here in future.

Contact:

134 Whitchurch Road
Cardiff, South Glamorgan
CF14 3LZ

Tel: 029 2062 0333

Opening Times:
Monday to Saturday 6pm – 11pm
Sunday 6pm – 10.30pm

http://www.mintandmustard.com/index.html

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