Zaika

October 1, 2006

1 Kensington High Street, 0207 795 6533 

 

An Indian restaurant with one Michelin star, Zaika, was on my short list.  The fact that it turned out to be half a block from the Milestone Hotel, where we were staying, made it the first place we ate.  At the Sunday lunch when we wandered in, the only other diners were a young, Indian couple in jeans; but she, with a sari-like top, did eat in Kerala-fashion, with her right hand. 

zaika21200w3q.jpgThe décor is a dramatic combination of traditional English wood paneled walls and floors, and baronial but non-working fireplaces, accented with Indian style screens and mirrors.  Scattered around are various wooden statues of Ganesh.  The lighting comes from giant, modern, wide cylinders hung from the ceiling as well as from large windows facing the park. Since it is a highly-rated Michelin restaurant, we weren’t too surprised to be offered what they called a “pre-starter,” (read “amuse bouche”) a fried pakora with mint sauce which served as a lid for a lovely curried pumpkin soup.

The tasting menu (£19 at lunch) began with a fantastic sweet/sour potato, whose skin was crispy but was very soft on the inside, topped with yogurt and toasted vermicelli.  The chicken in and basil and coriander was so tender and moist that it just melted. Tender, too, were the tandori prawns with coconut chutney.  So often the tandori dishes served in even very good Indian restaurants are tasty but dry nuggets; not these moist morsels.  With this we had a light salad of baby greens and shredded carrots. 

The next dish was called crab cakes but bore no resemblance to the crab cakes we Americans are used to getting.  These were full of crab and were garnished with crab chutney, while the plate was drizzled with mint sauce.   Finally, we tucked into chicken in mild tomato, butter sauce, served with saffron rice.  The raita, clearly made with Greek yogurt, may be the best we have ever tasted. Desserts were a tasting of three–a rose petal and vanilla bean ice cream, a rose water and vanilla bean crème brulee and mango mousse. The wine list was as extensive as we have seen and certainly circled the globe.  We decided to stay with Indian, and quite enjoyed a Dindori Sula (£34).  Everything was charmingly explained and served by our Lithuanian waitress, Aiste Skikaite.

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