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Asha's  Restaurant Manchester
Asha's Manchester Reviews
73%
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Asha's  Restaurant Manchester Reviews Asha's  Restaurant Manchester Reviews
 
Asha's Manchester Reviews

Every so often you eat something and declare it as being the best version of that dish that you've ever had.  It's happened at street food stalls in Delhi, a back street couscous restaurant/garage in Marrakech, and at a former Indian dining room at the Al Murooj Hotel in Dubai almost 10 years ago.  There I had the best biryani that I've ever experienced.  The local curry house didn’t cut it for a long time after. 

Anyway, a couple of years ago it was finally trumped at a restaurant in the slightly less glamourous city of Birmingham, at a very contradictorily glamourous restaurant called Asha's, which I'd never heard of at the time.  The dish was a 'Dum' Lamb Biryani, topped in the traditional way using naan bread to seal the pot, rather than the now fortunately less commonly used British tradition of slapping a flaccid omelette on top.  It was so good that the other two courses I had the next felt poorly done, which from memory were a pretty average king prawn starter, and the ubiquitous Kulfi, which never really manages to be anything more than OK in truth. 

You come away such experiences and think about the winning dish the next time you eat out in a similar place, only to then feel let down via nostalgia and a pointless mental association with what's gone by.  Dishes which make such an impact stay with you for a very long time, and form your whole perception of how the dish should be done.  So,  when Asha's decided to launch in Manchester, I was more than pleased that world class Biryani seemed back on tap. 

 
Asha's  Restaurant Manchester Reviews
 

Now I decided before even arriving that on this occasion, whilst with colleagues, Id pass on the Biryani. I knew it was available as Id already looked before we even arrived, like a desperate addict, scurrying through the menu.  Still, I thought it wise that since I was being professional, to sample as many things as possible and leave the biryani adventure for another less professional visit.

We were treated to a platter of the favourite starters, in smaller sizes than for the full portion sizes below/shown in photos.  They ranged from the fantastic Venison Samosa (£7.95), expertly wrapped and filled to perfection.  Not cheap, but, here we go again, one of the best samosas I've ever had in honesty.  Salmon Tikka (£16.50) was absolutely textbook in terms of cooking and spicing. 

Duck Seekh Kebab (£14.95) was really good, again being perfectly cooked in the tandoor, with well-seasoned meat, albeit could have been one of a few different meats due to the spicing, without the obviously gamey flavour of Goosnargh; arguably the best duck in the land.  Still, why have plain old lamb seekh when you can try something different? 

Finishing up the platter was the also excellent Chicken Tikka (£14.95).  A refined platter of tandoori delights, and already more memorable than my unremarkable Brummie panko'ed crustacean. 

 
Asha's  Restaurant Manchester Reviews
 

Gone is the usual Indian restaurant practice of making a couple of curry bases.  Then when orders come in, the kitchen just adds extra bits to make slightly different variants on the base, hence 90% of curry house offerings are broadly the same, and they are able to put dozens of 'different' curries on the menu.  At Asha's, every single curry sauce is specifically made using no cross-menu base sauces.  Every single one is unique and it really shows.  Calling them curries is an injustice.  These are sauces made with care and skill which wouldn’t be out of place in any top kitchen in the city. 

The Duck Vindaloo (£15.95) was nothing like the lads' night out, half cut daredevil favourite.  This Goan speciality  was bright, tangy, with great acidity to the dish, with lovely rich duck and tender chunks of potato.  A really well balanced curry.  We also sampled the Muscat Gosht (£16.95), which was probably our personal favourite, with tons of flavour depth, and well-cooked lamb.  Easily one of the best curries I've ever had in the city.   The Kodi Curry (£15.95) was similarly excellent too, and truly unique and only available in Manchester, made using Chicken thigh for added depth and flavour before being finished with crispy spinach.

The Dakshin Korma (£11.95), using sautéed fresh vegetables, was outstanding.  Superbly rich, but not at all claggy or heavy.  It was superb, even with my preference towards tomato based curry.  We also sampled the Dal Makhni (£9.95), which wasn’t to my personal taste really, but was well executed, with slow cooked lentils, and the table generally liked it.  Palak Paneer (£11.95) was another winner, with firm, fresh tasting paneer, with a great spinach led sauce.  I like veg curries, but to me, they usually feel like sides when served with meat dishes.   That wasn’t the case here, and the veg dishes felt like main events. 

The rice was good, but is what it is really. The mixed bread basket contained some novel twists to the usual Peshwaris and Keemas too, offering Sun blushed tomato, Cream Cheese, and the not so Indian but super luxurious and aromatic Truffle naan.  All were well made, tasted great, plus it was great to see something new.  It's safe to say that I didn’t regret not ordering the Biryani at all, which speaks volume
 
Asha's  Restaurant Manchester Reviews
Asha's  Restaurant Manchester Reviews Asha's  Restaurant Manchester Reviews

I almost forgot the drinks which we ordered, which is a schoolboy thing since they were generally excellent.  The Maharaja's Mistress (£10) was a splendid array of Asian flavours, finished with champagne, presented in a lovely vessel.  Clearly the same attention to detail is paid behind the bar as it is behind the kitchen pass.  We also had the excellent, Asha's Negroni, which was made with raisin infused Vermouth to add that eastern twist. 

Wine wise we went with the Tim Adams Foxlee Reisling, which was a tad drier than a typical Aussie and felt quite Alsacian, but was aromatic enough to carry the spice. Also the superb Gnarly Head Pinot Noir was a winner, although red never really fits with spicy food for me if you're looking for good matches.  Still, it’s a fine drop from a good selection.  Asha's also has a bar downstairs too though, so it should come as no surprise that the drinks offering was of such a good standard really.  A visit to the bar alone is more than warranted.

 
Asha's  Restaurant Manchester Reviews Asha's  Restaurant Manchester Reviews
 

We finished with a trio of puddings.   Now honestly, I'm not a fan of Indian puds.  They tend to just be a bit flat, samey, and ultimately disappointing.  You go to an Italian restaurant, and your pudding is often a highlight which you save room for.  When was the last time what you went to an Indian and after your curry, you couldn’t wait to look at the pudding menu?  It just doesn’t really happen and there's a reason for that. 

We started with the Blood Orange and Caramel Kulfi (£6.50); a western twist on the classic Indian ice cream type dish, yet more dense and less whipped than its cousin.  It has to be said, this was well executed.  Great flavours and lovely texture.  Much of the plate garnish was a bit lost, but still, it outstripped the usual ice cream filled orange that you see on most Indian menus, and again surpassed the one offered at Asha's midlands branch.    

Rasmalai with Pecan Praline (£6.50) was a play on crème brulee or panacotta, and was really refreshing, light, and enjoyed by the whole table.  Chocolate and Chilli Tart (£6.50) was more of a western dish, with Indian twist, sporting fine a chilli ripple ice cream which I could eat in spade full’s.  The tart base was probably a bit thick and heavy, but was well baked and the filling was rich and silky.  The whole thing was topped with a delicate sugar nest, displaying some classic skills which you won't see in many places these days.  All in all, it was a nice set of puds to end things off with, as much as I'm still not convinced that puddings are something which anybody does in the same league as Europe cuisines

 
Asha's  Restaurant Manchester Reviews
 

So, Asha's is a welcome addition to the Indian dining scene in Manchester.  It's not cheap, and two starters, two curries with accoutrements, plus water and a decent bottle of wine, will set you back around the £100 territory.  But then it's not trying to be your local curry house either.  This is a refined Indian restaurant, selling authentic Indian cuisine, with western twists here and there.  Treat yourself.  I'll be back soon for a Biryani! ~ Sandra Handley, Restaurants Of Manchester Trusted Reviewer (Thursday 09th March 2017)

 
Food
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3 stars
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3 stars
3 stars73%


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