On last month’s trip to London, we decided that at least one fancy dinner with my brother and sister-in-law was in order, and my brother got reservations at Amaya, an Indian place in Knightbridge.
Indian food in London has gotten to be almost a cliche, with all sort of little takeaway curry shops open serving out such dishes as Chicken Tikka Masala and various Baltis. But there are a few places that really stand out from the crowd, including The Punjab (in Covent Garden, one of London’s oldest Indian restaurants), and the more recent efforts of Masala World (of which Amaya is one).
Amaya is best described as “Posh Indian, with small dishes”, with an emphasis on carefully blended flavors instead of just bold spices, and emphasizing proper preparation instead of just slathering things in curry sauces and gravies.
Indeed, most of the menu at Amaya is notable for the lack of curries and such, with most of the preparations being dry or grilled dishes. And the kitchen is open-air, so you can see most of the food being prepared (indeed, the kitchen’s bright lights call attention to it in an otherwise dark restaurant).
While many of the menu items looked quite excellent, my brother recommended that we do the tasting menu, with a total of nine small courses including Chicken Tikka, Venison Kebab, Chicken Biryani, and Roasted Hamour.
Each of these courses was small, but showed that quality was really the top goal at Amaya. The first course, chicken wraps, were a nice starter with flavorful ground chicken in lettuce. They then took it up a notch with the next course, a perfectly done chicken tikka delicately grilled with rose and paprika, smoky with nice hints of spice and rose. The hamour in pandan leaf was excellent as well, served wrapped up in the leaf with a soft mustard and chili sauce.. However, my favorites were the Venison kebab (perfectly done kebabs that were nicely complement with both the rose spice mix and the dry peanut curry they supplied as condiments) and the Chicken Biryani (perfectly cooked chicken and rice, delicately spiced).
The sides worked out as well, the naan was perfectly done with just a hint of black cumin, and the fried sweet potatoes were perfect little morsels coated with a light curry sauce (one of the few sauces we saw that night).
The only disappointment I had was the dessert. The lime wedge was reminiscent of your run-of-the-mill key lime pie (well, I guess key lime pie isn’t common in London, but still…), served with a side of was was best described as “hospital lime Jello[tm]”. Amaya was hitting on all cylinders until dessert, which really was a misfire.
Overall, however, I really enjoyed Amaya. The focus truly was one the flavors of the spices and not just ratcheting up the spice level.
The starters were flavorful, the grilled entrees were perfectly done, and the Biryani ended up being one of those dishes that shows that perfect execution of a simple dish is sometimes the best way to get perfection. Oh, and the cocktails were excellent as well.