Soliciting Flavours

Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine

It’s chilli up North – Salkaara, Llandaf North, Cardiff.

Since the demise of Dill Jeera, in Llandaf North, I have been lacking an easily accessible “go to” eat in and takeaway Indian. I was rather enamoured with the food (but not so much the decor) at Dill Jeera and assumed that any new operation on the site would be inferior on the food front. It seems I may have been too judgemental (no surprise there I hear some say), with reports getting back to me that it’s replacement in the form of Salkaara (a similarly Southern Indian focussed, but not exclusively so, outfit) was well worth a look. Some suggested its offering was superior to that of Dill Jeera.

On this basis Mrs. SF and a couple of friends (who coincidentally were with us when we last ate in at Dill Jeera) decided to give the place a go.

The place

Gone is the somewhat lurid green exterior, with it having been replaced with a more sedate beige and white.

They have opened it up with more glass which gives it a more airy feel than when it was Dill Jeera.

Inside the cold tiled floor have been replaced and there is now a combination of more warm feeling wood and light from the windows. The result is a much more amenable space.

Much, much, better. A nice place for a feed I though, although the tables are a little cosy vis a vis your neighbouring tables. We were not only able to easily converse with the people on the next table, but I could have probably (as easily) dipped my fork into their food.

The Food

The menus has more than a nod to those of Mint & Mustard and Purple Poppadum and on enquiring as to the chef’s CV we were told by the front of house chap (very amenable) that both he (left a few years back) and the chef (left much more recently) use to work at Mint & Mustard.

This instilled in me much confidence as to the meal to come as I have always rated Mint & Mustard.

Whilst we perused said menu we had a basket of nicely crisp, oil free, poppadums shards and some very superior pickles.

The pick of the pickles was a killer lime number that had a lovely tartness and zinginess to it. Very moreish.

The starters were a nice mix of the South and North of Indian and I was in the mood for a bit of spice. Whilst not a chilli fiend (don’t see the point of blowing your head off with incendiary levels of chilli heat), I like a reasonable lip tingling level of spice.

I was tempted by the Baga Beach Crab (love soft shell crab), but both Mrs. SF and I were drawn to the Kashmiri Chicken Tikka (£4.95).

Decent portion size, with a nice char and a lick of smoke being imparted by the tandoor.

The meat was tender and juicy, with a a lovely hit of chilli heat and spicing. A, really, rather good rendition of this classic dish.

Others in our party ordered the Konja Varuthathu (tiger prawns fried with a curry leaf paste, red chillis and garlic – £7.95 – which despite some quite dinky, butterflied, prawns was full of flavour with not over cooked prawns)

and the Tulsi Seekh Kebab (£4.95). Never a looker the latter dish, but the spicing here was generous and a nice level of caramelisation had been achieved though the tandoor.

On to the mains, again I was in search of something with a bit of chilli heat to ward off the chilly weather (at the time of our visit it was somewhat Baltic outside). As with the starter, there was a nice mix of Northern and the Southern Indian dishes catering for both carnivores

and veggies.

I went for the Coorgi Gwati Yerchi (lamb) curry (£11.95), a traditional southern Indian style curry, which was heady with the sweetness of coconut and sourness of tamarind.

Beautiful depth of flavour to this dish, with layer upon layer of spicing coming through and complimenting the flavour of the “butter knife tender” (generously apportioned) chunks of lamb. The distinct sweetness from the coconut and sourness from the tamarind worked perfectly with the pungent curry leaf and heat (and almost fruitiness) provided by red chilli and a liberate amount of black pepper. Hot, but pleasurably so rather than in a macho, masochistic, way. One of the best curry dishes I have had in Cardiff in many a year.

With my curry, I shared with Mrs. SF two side dishes.

Well flavoured and perfectly cooked fluffy pilav rice (rich in spicing – £3.75)

and a top notch naan (£2.50).

Whilst it looked a touch under on one side, the naan was delightfully light and had a pleasing mix of crispness to the exterior and subtle chew to the interior.

All in all a top notch curry.

Mrs. SF’s “Lamb Shank Nalli Korma” (£13.95) was an impressive looking beast and a very decent portion size.

People tend to scoff at a Korma, thinking it is a dull dish. In the proper hands this is far from the case. Heat isn’t everything and to me the key to Indian cuisine is the spicing. Here the meat was fall off the bone tender and the creamy nuttiness of the sauce had some lovely subtle spicing to it. Again a really good, satisfying, dish.

One of our friends had the impressive looking Nawbi Murgh (£12.95)

Lovely delicate spicing to this dish, with a nice lick of smoke (from the accompanying salad) adding to the flavour profile, as did the rich creamy makhani sauce accompanying it.

The final dish our party ordered was a Dhabba Murgh (£10.95)

This Punjabi dish had a decent amount of heat to it, coupled with a nice sourness. The latter operated to temper the chilli heat and allow the spicing to come though. Another nice dish.

The kitchen staff here certainly are a dab hand at spicing.

Unusually for me (in an Indian) I fancied a pudding, with the desserts on the menu looking rather splendid.

I kept it simple with the tandoori pineapple, which came with a pistachio ice cream/kufti.

The cooking of the pineapple in a tandoor had really intensified the flavours by caramelising the sugars, which made for a super sweet and juicy dessert. Really refreshing and just the ticket after my spicy main. The ice cream/kufti had a real pistachio punch (I thought there was cardamom in the mix, but on enquiring we were told no just pistachio) and worked a treat with the pineapple.

Other desserts in the form a chocomosa

and a creme brulee (rose water flavoured, but with thankfully a delicate touch applied) were equally as good.

The Drink

On the booze front the wine list isn’t bad at all, with a reasonable selection including an Indian white (oddly not an Indian red though)

It is always nice to see a riesling on a list in an Indian reataurant, as it is a wine that works very well with spice (as long as there isn’t overpowering heat).

Here the riesling was a zippy New World number (from Victoria in Australia) in the form of a Deakin Estate 2017.

Nice aromas of citrus, with just a touch of kerosene, on the nose and refreshing acidity, with lime and mandarin, on the palate. It worked very well with the curries and was fairly priced at £22.50 (it retails at around the £10 mark).

Our friend are not great white wine drinkers, so we also ordered a shiraz viogner blend from the same producer.

Nice rich ripe fruits and a touch of peppery spice coming from this wine. These flavours, the absence of much oak and lack of robust tannins meant it didn’t clash with the spices in our curries (tannin heavy wines tend to taste metallic with curries on my palate). As with the white, it was fairly priced at £20 (it retails at £8.39).

For beer drinkers, there are the usual suspects. I am not a huge beer drinker, but with the profusion of craft beers I think they could be a touch more adventurous.

Read an article recently that provided some nice sounding beer options with various curries. Seems there is a interesting beer, beyond lager, to go with most curries.

Personally think Indian restaurants are missing a trick if they fail to tap into the burgeoning craft beer market.

I also think a sherry, in the form of an Oloroso or a Palo Cortado, would have paired very well with my lamb curry dish. Regrettably I saw no sherries on the drinks menu, which is a shame (but perhaps unsurprising) as they work exceptionally well paired with spicy foods.

We finished off proceeding with a chai tea.

Bit weak for my tastes and I prefer it a tad sweeter (I added a couple of sashets of sugar, which is odd for me as I usual hate even a grain of sugar in my tea, to mine).

The Verdict

I thought the food here was excellent. Great flavours and the kitchen sure knows how to use spices to the max. Stuff we had was at least as good as that I have had at the Purple Poppadum and Mint & Mustard and it has the benefit of being somewhat cheaper than either of those two places. By way of example, a seemingly identical sea bass dish here is £13.95 as against £15.95 at Mint & Mustard and £16.95 at the Purple Poppadom.

The bill for 4 of us with 3 courses, chai teas and two bottles of wine was just over £159 (sans a well deserved tip – service was very good).

For the quality of what we had, I thought that was excellent value. You even get a dish of sugar coated fennel seeds to sweeten the bill.

Would I go back? Definitely – one of the best curries I have had in Cardiff – stat.

Their tasting menus also look good value at £27

and £20 for the post 9 o’clock one (good idea that).

I also notice they do some good value lunch time offers

All in all a very strong offering and my new “go to” Indian.

Don’t just take my word for it- Gourmet Gorro is a fan and he is a man who knows a good curry when he eats one.

The Details

Address: 125 Station Road, Llandaf North, Cardiff, CF14 2FE

Tel: 029 20 567 100

Email: info@salkaara.co.uk

Twitter: @salkaara

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