Thursday, 30 October 2014

Chilli Basil, City Road, Cardiff Thai restaurant review

With just four tables and sixteen covers, the newly opened Chilli Basil on City Road must surely be Cardiff’s smallest restaurant.

(Answers on the back of a postcard please or the comment section below if you can think of anywhere tinier.)

Whilst this Thai restaurant’s Lilliputian proportions mean there may often be a wait for a table, you can always pass the time with a pre-dinner cocktail across the road in Milgi’s or take advantage of Chilli Basil’s home delivery service instead.

Neither are exactly hardships.

quarter of the restaurant
As Chilli Basil don’t have an alcohol license we ordered a clutch of interesting soft drinks. For me, a tamarind juice with a familiar sweetness and tang. For a friend, a snowglobe like coconut juice with floating bits of white pulp.

Mrs G ordered a pot of Jasmine tea.

Chilli Basil’s menu is packed with all the usual Thai restaurant classics. Salads, curries, soups and stir-fries are all present and correct.

A bowl of crisp and ultra-prawny prawn crackers (£1) kicked off the meal. In case you're wondering, the ultra-prawniness is a good thing in my book.

A bowl of chicken Tom Yum (£3) was a great example of one Thai cuisine's most famous dishes. Tender chicken, mild spring onions and mushrooms bobbed in the fragrant and sour broth - heady with lemongrass, coriander and lime.

A pretty looking dish of chicken and prawn dumplings was very tasty but didn’t have a huge depth of flavour. The thin dumpling cases (£3.50) contained a finely minced filling topped with toasted peanuts.

In contrast, a green papaya salad was loaded with flavour (£6). Shreds of fruit and carrot, al dente green beans and sweet cherry tomatoes were bathed in a wildly hot and sour citrusy dressing. Crunchy peanuts added textural contrast whilst some overly chewy dried baby shrimps were the only negative. 

Onto the mains….

A delicious duck yellow curry (£6.49) was laden with soft meat and a vibrant vegetables (carrot, courgette, aubergine, peppers and bamboo shoots) in a silky, creamy coconut sauce. A mound of sticky, steamed rice mopped up any stray sauce. 

Chicken pad thai (£5.99) was on the nail – slippery rice noodles, beansprouts, finely diced carrot, egg and chicken were coated in a slightly sweet and tangy sauce topped with crushed peanuts. 

Finally, a bowl of egg fried rice (£2) demonstrated how well Chilli Basil can do the simple things – the golden rice was flecked with fresh omelette, spring onion and carrots. 

So, all in the food at Chilli Basil was excellent and the service was super-friendly too.

However, we did have one issue. Whilst it’s common in some restaurants for dishes to be brought out as and when they’re ready, Chilli Basil take this principle to the extreme. I received both of my dishes before two of my friends even received one. Furthermore, the papaya salad, labelled as a starter, arrived a good ten minutes after every other dish on the table.

In spite of this, I’m more than willing to give Chilli Basil the benefit of the doubt; they’ve been open for less than 2 weeks and so I’m sure this service issue will be ironed out.

In addition, the price of the meal more than compensated for the timing issues. We each had two courses and a drink and paid £12 a head including a tip. Bargain.

The Details:

Address - Chilli Basil, 232 City Road, Roath, Cardiff CF24 3JH
Telephone - 07786 970 977 or 02920 482 233

Chilli Basil on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Kumar's South Indian Restaurant, City Road, Cardiff restaurant review

I’ve visited Kumar’s three times in the last three weeks. That’s how much I like the place.

This no-frills Southern Indian restaurant on City Road is perennially busy. So, I’m clearly not the only person who’s a fan.

With a comprehensive menu of cracking value Southern Indian food, a bring your own booze policy and an uber-friendly waitress who somehow singlehandedly manages to keep service running smoothly, Kumar’s is a great restaurant.

Cauliflower Manchurian (£3.50), an Indo-Chinese classic, combined lightly battered florets and finely diced onions and peppers (with just the right amount bite) in a ferociously spicy, sweet and sour sauce.

A podi dosa (£3.75) saw a whopping thin rice and lentil pancake filled with a spicy, crunchy lentil powder. An accompanying trio of sauces were the ideal companions – a coconut chutney, a tomato and lentil sambal and a lentil sambal. 

I’d like to apologise for the number of times I’ve written about lamb kothu parotta on this blog. However, it’s one of my all time favourite dishes and I’m compelled to order it whenever it’s on a menu.

Kumar’s version (£4.99) is one of the best I’ve tried – soft, finely chopped bread, tender lamb, fragrant curry leaf, egg, red onion and tomatoes combine to make one of the best comfort foods going. A little pot of chicken curry in a coconut twanged-gravy and a coarse cut onion raitha provided extra moisture.

Malabar lamb therakal (£6.25), a supposedly dry curry, wasn’t as dry as the last time I ordered it. However, the huge portion of lamb, onions, shredded coconut and curry leaves were just as tender and well spiced as my previous visit. 

A paneer butter massala (£5.25) provided a contrast to the other dishes – soft, golden cubes of cheese were bathed in a creamy, mildly spiced sauce heady with cardamom. 

An egg veechu parotta (£2.25) was the perfect mop for all that gravy. A stretchy bread topped with a thin layer of omelette, it was only let down by a heavy hand with the salt shaker. Last time the seasoning was bob-on. 

And that’s where my only criticism of Kumar’s lies – a slight lack of consistency – sauces have been spiced and seasoned differently each time I’ve visited. However, that’s not to say they haven’t been lush each time.

If you’re looking for a different Indian meal in Cardiff then Kumar’s is a must visit.

The Details:

Address - Kumar's, 129 City Road, Cardiff CF24 3BP
Telephone - 02920 214 569

Kumar's on Urbanspoon