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Expensivo Indian: Zaika

by Krista

1 Kensington High Street
London W8 5SF
Tel: 020 7795 6533

Date of Last Visit: Friday, October 21 2006

The Victims: K & A and A’s mom

The Damage: 50 quid. Ack!

The Damage: A’s mom was in town from Denver, on a whirlwind trip of the British Isles. I missed them earlier at Borough–the office on a Saturday, unfortunately!–so I caught up with them at Zaika.

Now Zaika, from what I understand, used to have a Michelin star. Atmosphere wise, I can see it. It’s a pretty dark and romantic place. (I get the sense it’s also one of those "You can only have the table for two hours" types of places.) If someone took me here on a date, I’d be impressed.

The Cocktail: I was there right on time, if not a little early, as is my thing. I sat alone at the bar, learning about the cocktails from the (somewhat affected) bartender. He sold me on the French martini. Note I am not a martini drinker, but he convinced me. It was like iced tea. I liked it.

The Service: A number of different people, all from different places. (i.e., not necessarily all from the general vicinity of India.) Nice enough, particularly the guy who described every dish to us.

The Starters: We went with the Zaika platter and the cheese platter.  These are both supposed to be for one person, but I honestly thing they could be easily split by two if not three. There was salmon, duck sausage, a goat’s cheese samosa, and something else that escapes me. On the cheese platter, there was some paneer (yum) and some stilton cheese balls (Bobby Rubino’s anyone?) But then there was the delicious chickpea tower…the menu online notes it’s made up of the following:
Potato and asparagus ‘tikki’, chickpeas laced with tamarind chutney, sweetened yoghurt & ‘garam’ flour vermicelli, topped with crispy artichoke. Well, I didn’t see much potato, but it sure was delicious.

The Mains: I went with the "TIKHI MACHLI / Spicy sea-bass Pan fried spice marinated sea-bass with ‘Dosa Aloo’-crushed potatoes tempered with lentil and mustard seeds served with ‘Sambhar’ sauce." It was really good. But £17 of good? Of that, I am not sure. K&A got the butter chicken and it looked really nice, but I do wonder if it’s any better than my local curry shop, which is so absolutely fantastic. A’s mom got the Lamb Roganjash, and while it did look lovely, my local curry shop is just so wonderful that I don’t know if the atmosphere is worth the premium?

Drama: I pulled apart my nan a little too forcibly and threw my water glass across the table at K and down to the floor, where it shattered into a hundred million pieces. Good grief.

Tea: I went with the indian tea and it was lovely, and they gave me some little petit fours, which were a nice touch.

The Verdict: You will leave here happy but poor and with a new appreciation of your local curry shop.

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Howard Vaan October 22, 2006 - 10:54 pm

I visited Zaika a few months ago and had the tasting menu – quite a few dishes on there that you won’t get at your local curry shop: masala foie gras, tandoori lobster etc. We thought these might be a bit of a gimmick, but no . . . absolutely delicious. On the basis of that meal it deserves its Michelin star back.

Krista October 23, 2006 - 6:46 pm

The food was absolutely delicious, of that there is no doubt! I failed to mention that we actually liked the chickpea tower so much that we ordered a 2nd! And the presentation was lovely. Although I have an unfortunate habit of dropping too much at dinner, I hadn’t prepped myself for the bill. And I still feel my friends either a. paid a lot for butter chicken or b. should have ordered something more along the lines of the interesting items you mention. But they were happy, and thus so too am I.
Am dying to know what the masala foie gras was like?

Ben Bush November 14, 2006 - 1:59 pm

The foie gras course was very good. It came with shrooms on a circular naan, a kind of indian pizza. In fact , most courses were interesting and tasty and they paced the tasting menu pretty well (apart from some annoying empty glass moments!). The one let-down, I thought, was the final savoury course, which was, I think, meant to be a reconstruction of classic curry house fare: a trio of meat and veg curries in little pots. None of these really worked for me, the chicken being partcilarly dry. I wouldn’t have been happy with these at the local Taj Mahaj. That aside, though, I agree. Mostly Michelin and an unusual way to blow a load of cash.

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