Thursday, 7 August 2014

Ashiana - Birthday Meal

There are quite a lot of Indian/Asian restaurants/takeaways in Scotland. 


This doesn't mean they are all good though. In fact, I would say 8 out of 10 Indian takeaways I have tried have been pretty rubbish (a few pieces of overcooked meat floating around in brightly coloured and bland sauce is not my thing) so this is why I would prefer dining at an Indian restaurant rather than get a takeout. Most takeouts are never that good once it has been put in to a plastic box anyway.
The Indian restaurants I have visited in Dundee have never given me a horrible experience but they have never excited me or made me feel the need to go back so when one of my besties wanted to go to a recently opened, Asian restaurant for his birthday meal I was already thinking that it will just be another one of your average, run of the mill, Indian restaurant. 
Firstly, I would like to state that Ashiana is not an Indian restaurant, they are an Asian fusion restaurant. From what I gather when reading their menu, is that they specialise in Indian and Bangladeshi Cuisine. 
If the first thought that comes to your head is, "Isn't that just the same thing?" That's like someone saying Scotland and England are the same or America and Canada are the same. 
They are not the same. 
Bangladesh have their own flag, they established independence from Pakistan in 1971. Bangladeshi food is more centred towards fish curries and they use more coconut milk and root vegetables in their dishes. Indian curries tend to have more spices.

A little map for those who may not be sure where Bangladesh is.

As we walked up to the entrance a gentleman, who looked very much like the owner of the place, greeted us very quietly and politely, he led us through a very well lit entrance hall that had a very pretty crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling and LED spotlights dotted around the place.
The music was instrumental soundtracks from old movies which wouldn't have been too bad if each one hadn't sounded like some heartbreaking lovesick song. It reminded me of my grandfather's first ever restaurant in Arbroath back in the 80's where the music in every Chinese restaurant was instrumental love ballads and every table had a small vase of carnations. 

Our table view

The building that is now occupied by Ashiana (and the newly opened Japanese restaurant in the basement) had belonged to the University of Dundee for many years and so the building itself is quite old with stairs that are not suitable for wheelchair users. 

This is just to show how clean the tables were.

The restaurant area itself is quite spacious and there is plenty of natural light that comes through the large windows. The decor is very modern, but the beautiful (and very comfortable) wooden chairs and the lovely table runners, certainly add an element of traditional sophistication to the place. 
If you are vertically challenged, like me, it may take a a few minutes for you to get comfortably seated as the chairs have quite a lot of padding in it - not a bad thing mind, but it did mean my feet couldn't touch the ground when I sat properly on the chair!

You can stop laughing now!

We were given 3 menus: Food Menu, Chef's Special Menu and Drinks Menu.

A little sneak peek of the Chef's Special Menu.

Food menu is extensive - so extensive we had to ask the waitress to give us a few more minutes to look through the menu. The ordinary menu along with the Chef's special menu may confuse many people who have never dined in an Asian restaurant before. Saying that though, the staff there are very friendly and I am sure they would be happy to help you with anything you are unfamiliar with.
Drinks menu is also extensive and what surprised me the most is the wide variety of wines they have on offer. I don't drink alcohol much but I know people who do and have always heard them say that most restaurants are very boring with their wine list so I am sure they would be very happy with Ashiana's list.
The restaurant was very clean and staff were dressed smart but not pretentious looking. 
Vegetarians will be delighted to know that Ashiana have a very good selection of meat free dishes to offer you, with different spice levels to suit all palates. 

Vegetable Ala Bomb

If you are not vegetarian, then you will want to try one of their fish dishes.
No, I never had a fish dish, this is because I had a huge craving for king prawns but looking back I really should have went for a fish curry. 

We ordered poppadoms as an appetiser; the poppadoms came with an onion chutney and mango chutney. 
I usually give the onion chutney a miss and just have the mango, but when this came the onions were much finer than the usual onion chutneys I have come across in the past so decided to give this a go. 
No regrets! I was blown away by how little of the raw onions I could actually taste but instead had a burst of sweet/sharp relish with hints of fresh coriander mixed in. Just thinking about it now has got my mouth

Crispy and bubbly, yum!

For starters we ordered: Lamb Tikka, Chicken Pakora, Mixed Pakora, and Beguni (aubergine bhaji).
My lamb tikka was well cooked, although it was ever so slightly overdone, there was still a good amount of flavour and the sauce they had as an accompaniment had a slight tang with a hint of spice which went well with every starter. 

Lamb Tikka Starter - I love coriander!

The Beguni were slices of aubergine coated in a seasoned batter and deep fried. Aubergine can sometimes turn out to be a sloppy mess if overdone but the chef cooked the Beguni perfectly so that the aubergines were soft but still had a slight firmness to them and held their shapes. 

Beguni - I personally think they could have done without the carrot stick.

I had one little niggle with the garnish on the plates though. The carrot stick that was placed along with the salads. If they were just using the carrot as a garnish, then maybe slicing little flowers would look slightly prettier than a carrot stick that looks like it's been kept in a zip-lock bag for snack-time.

Main courses: Vegetable Ala Bomb, King Prawn Biryani, Special Biryani and Chicken and Lamb Biryani, and a Railway Lamb Curry.
All of us had enjoyed our main course just as much as we had enjoyed the starters. 
Beautiful presentation (although the salads on the side could do with looking a bit more elegant). 
The spices used in the Biryani was what made this dish so tasty and the light heat was enough to get that sensation but not enough to burn my tongue off. They didn't skimp on the prawns either but I did find the prawns a tad over cooked and the fried onions on top of the rice had me slightly sceptical at first but they really completed the dish by adding a different texture and a slight sweetness to the dish.

My King Prawn Biryani.

They provided a vegetable curry to accompany the Biryani - now this is where Ashiana shone for me.
Most vegetable curries I have had in the past have mostly been bits of vegetables (usually boiled to death) swimming in curry sauce, if I was lucky there would be some pureed lentils too. Ashiana's veg curry was packed full of vegetables and there was just enough lentils and sauce to keep it moist. Great flavours and great for picking up with the Naan bread.

Speaking of Naan bread, we ordered two garlic and one cheese - I was going to just order one garlic and one cheese, but then someone asked,
"mm...will that really be enough?"
I don't need much convincing when it comes to Naan, so another one it is then!
When the bread came we were given plain instead of garlic. 
When we notified the waitress of the mistake, she was very apologetic and let us keep the plain Naan while she went to put in an order for the garlic Naan. We ended up with a Naan each!  Needless to say, we never managed to finish all the breads but Heather, the slimmest one out of us all, took her unfinished veg bombe and the rest of the Naans home with her to enjoy the day after.
Better that than see perfectly good food go to waste.

I don't remember seeing a dessert menu but we didn't really need it due to the huge birthday cake that Heather had made.

That was some chocolaty goodness!

The yummy cake.

The waitress and the owner were very attentive, making sure everything was okay throughout the evening. The restaurant was fairly quiet (unsurprising as it was a Monday night), with only 2 other tables there. 

Everything had been alright but my one major criticism would be the journey to the toilets. 

I know I know, the toilet issue again. 

I asked the waitress where the toilets were and she led me to this door next to the main entrance. As we entered said door, she turned the lights on to this very dark corridor with stairs leading up to the toilets. It is a little bit of a hike, but when you are in an old style building it's impossible to have everything on the same level. She took me all the way up the stairs and showed me to the toilets. The toilets were clean but because the corridor and stairs were very bare, it felt slightly eerie. 
At the bottom of the stairs, just before I went back through the doors to the well lit restaurant, there was a broken wooden door, some empty cardboard boxes and an abandoned vending machine. I understand that not everyone uses toilets in a restaurant, but those that do would probably not want the illusion of a perfectly lovely looking restaurant to be shattered by some abandoned furniture.

All in all, I had a lovely meal with my lovely friends and apart from the little weird journey to and back from the ladies' room I wouldn't hesitate to return to try out the other different types of dishes they have to offer. Here's hoping the next time I go, the back stairs and corridor is cleared of the small clutter.

Would I recommend Ashiana to visitors to Dundee? YES.
Their food is great, the staff are pleasant, the place is clean; what more could you ask for?


  1. You'll be pleased to know that l polished off all the naan so nothing went to waste :-P
    I've put the leftover curry in my freezer so I've got that to look forward to next week.

  2. Wow~ you really enjoyed Indian curry and Bangladesh cuisine. While I read your story, I felt like I was with you. Thank you for the sharing of your good food story and life in Scotland.

    1. Your welcome, and thank you for taking the time to read it!


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