10 July 2017

Dinner at Chai Naasto, Hammersmith

Short story: Frankly, some of the tastiest Indian food I have ever reviewed.

Last Friday, post-intense-as-hell-gym-session, Alex and I made the long ol' trek to Hammersmith, south west London, to taste the delights of Chai Naasto - an Indian street food spot tucked away from the main strip. The second outlet from the family following their success in Beckenham, Chai Naasto is inspired by Grandmother Nani's authentic Indian recipes. Originally hailing from Mogadishu, Somalia to Indian parents, Nani began cooking aged 10 and has now passed her unique recipes onto the grandkids that run the collective of restaurants. 
The A3-page menu is divided into three sections: curries, kebabs and chaats (small plates of loveliness). The curries 'from Nani' are updated every 2-3 months with exciting regional recipes - previous months were inspired by the coastal Gujurat region and this month is all about southern Kerala area with plenty of coconut milk and fruity curry leaves. Some of the dishes on offer are so entrenched into Nani's life that you simply won't find them anywhere else.
We began with a cheeky beer (or two) - hey, it's Friday! Chai Naasto recognise that the German's really do make the best beers and offer an array of craft brews by the bottle and can. I went for the Berliner pilsner (crisp, easy to drink) while Alex chose the Schneider Weisse Tap 7 with notes of ripe banana, clove and nutmeg.
Moving onto food, we had to kick things off with chaat. First, Kekda Koliwada; soft-shell crab marinated with spices, battered and fried until crisp, served with a smoked tomato chutney. Unlike many soft shell crab dishes I have tried before, you actually get a tonne of crab and hardly any batter, so the dish's key flavour is beautifully sweet and perfectly compliments the tomato chutney. The pickled veggies on the side helped to add sharpness creating a gorgeously balanced mouthful each time.

Second, Bombay Bhel Puri; a Mumbai street food classic of puffed rice, diced potatoes, diced onions, masala and sev drizzled with an assortment of chutneys. The pops of pomegranate dotted throughout gave added freshness and the balance of spices touched on the spicy side. I would have like a little more chutney or sauce as it was a touch dry after several scoops.

Lastly, Amritsari Chole Kulche; potato and cheese stuffed tandoori flatbread served with a spicy chickpea stew, pickled red onion & mango pickle - truly, the most wonderful dish of the day. Try to imagine a garlicky naan, stuffed with soft potato and rich cheese then dipped in a spicy stew - DREAMY! The chickpea stew was absolutely incredible with plenty of smoke which reminded me of the black bean mix in a burrito. The touches of burnished bread added a bitterness too which worked really well with the smoky stew.
Next up: the curries. I mean, where to begin. You can see in the photo below the difference in texture between the two curries which meant we could eat both on one plate and define between them. The golden yellow curry was Prawn Kadai Masala - with prawns cooked in a spiced tomato gravy with fresh coriander and ginger. The deeper red curry was a special paneer dish with a smokey tomato sauce with a touch of chilli. Both featured plenty of the chosen proteins and I really enjoyed the larger pieces of paneer in the second curry.

Both sauces were rich and creamy which coated the simple boiled rice and tears of garlicky naan beautifully. The prawn curry was more coconut based (as inspired by Nani's recipe) while the paneer option was much chunkier for a more rustic feel. If you come to Chai Naasto please, P L E A S E order the prawn curry - if you eat nothing else, it will give you a real feel for the restaurant's ethos and cooking skill. It's an absolute winner! 
We ended the evening with kulfi on a stick. This traditional Indian dessert is formed around a stick like an Italian ice cream and flavoured with incredible spices. I chose the rose and honey kulfi which was sweet and heady with rose, while Alex chose the pistachio flavour - his absolute favourite. 
I'm pretty gutted that I don't live in South West London as Chai Naasto is an absolute treat of a restaurant. The prices are extremely reasonable for the quality of the dishes and the area so you can genuinely have a great meal for two for between £30-50 (depending on what booze you get). My must tries are: the prawn curry, the potato and cheese stuffed bread, and the rose and honey kulfi but frankly I'd work my way through the whole menu without complaint.

Thank you Chai Naasto for hosting this review. All opinions are my own. 

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