We were hit with a bit of indecision this week as to which restaurant we were going to tick off The List. Initially, we had settled on trying out the Yardham Taphouse but when we rocked up the lights were full beam as they had a trivia night happening. We were swapping our normal Thursday night dinner mission with Wednesday this week due to a prior engagement on Thursday. I do enjoy a good trivia night but this time around, we were looking for a more relaxed environment with warm hearty food and the bright lights really put us off at the Yardham. After a little wander around the block, we settled on Indian and walked up the stairs to Ashiana.
We have been to Ashiana before and probably frequent it the most of any Indian restaurants in Manly. There use to be at least four or five different Indian restaurants in Manly but these days there are only two. Ashiana is located on the second floor, so it is easy to miss if you don’t look closely as they don’t have the benefit of street appeal. I first heard about Ashiana back in the day when I had an English flat mate. She and her boyfriend use to eat Indian at least twice a week, which baffled me as I was more a once every four month Indian food craver…I quickly learned that the Brits had an obsession with Indian curries! Needless to say this is the last place still in business in town that she rated for their flavourful Northern Indian and regional cuisine.
When we dine at Ashiana we are going there strictly for the food and not particularly the atmosphere. The space is terribly awkward with separate rooms divided by curved archways and mix-matched schlocky furniture crammed into each area. There is so much potential to update the interiors and each time The Hubby & I dine here our minds races with ideas.
There were two other tables seated when we arrived and the waitress sat us in our own separate area, as they had with the other tables, to spread us through the restaurant. We did feel a bit stuffed into the corner but couldn’t be bothered to move. It was a little strange that The Hubby was facing a wall that had an A4 laminated sign promoting Fresh at Manly for breakfast and lunch…hmmm. However, on the flip side The Hubby pointed out that even though we were not fans of the layout we also were able to dine privately which worked surprisingly well considering we had previously felt like a take-away and eat at home type of night.
There was a Wednesday night special of a free entree for a table of two or more with purchase of a main per person. I usually let The Hubby take the lead on selecting our dishes, as he seems to do very well with Indian. He decided on the entree from the clay oven of Seekh Kebab – 4 pieces of chargrilled minced lamb. Then we opted for Murg Jalfarezi – chicken filets cooked with crushed coriander, enriched with diced onions, capsicum and garam masala and the Jheenga Malabari – prawns stewed in coconut milk, mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves for our mains. We also got a side of basmati rice and couldn’t look past the cheese and garlic naan too. We had brought our own bottle of red wine to compliment our dinner as Ashiana is BYO! Our order was in.
While we were waiting for our order the waitress brought us some complimentary papadum, which prepared our palates ready for the Indian cuisine to come.
The Seekh Kebabs came out not long after and although they don’t look particularly pretty they were packed with flavour and delivered a heat that lingered in our mouths and tingled the lips. The mint yogurt sauce that compliments the dish was tasty and helped to take the edge off but that spice is certainly impressive!
The garlic and cheese naan came next and it is almost impossible for me to wait for the curries to come out before cutting off bits of the warm soft flatbread. The Hubby had more restraint and made sure to mention that he wouldn’t share any of his naan if I ate all of mine before the mains. Hmmm…point taken and it dawned on me that yes saving my naan for soaking up the sauces in our dishes would be EVEN BETTER. So I reluctantly decided to restrain from eating more of my naan too.
Luckily I did not have to wait long, as the chicken and prawn dishes arrived shortly after and oooohhh were they gooood! Just writing about it now is making me want more of those amazing, exotic, intense and beautifully subtle flavours.
I tucked into the Jheenga Malabari prawn dish first and fell in love. I have previously posted about my recent obsession with coconut, so it was not a surprise that I would be in heaven with this dish. The prawns were large and generous and the flavours balanced beautifully and flirted with my palate. LOVE! The Murg Jalfarezi chicken dish was the more intense dish that made your nose start to sniffle as a good spicy curry should. It was a perfect mix to have one intense and one subtle dish and I mentally made a note of this fact. Also, saving the naan for the mains was a stroke of genius by The Hubby as it certainly helped with the heat of the chicken and is just so yummy in general with curries. Although, I had to laugh because The Hubby ended up ordering another garlic naan as he ate his to quickly when the mains did come out…sucked in, ha!
By the end of the meal, we both were patting our bellies and looking forward to loosening the belt buckle when we got home. We were so full! The extra order of naans was probably a bit excessive but they were so soft, warm and devilishly good that you can’t really blame us. He he. All up we paid a total of $68 including corkage and didn’t realise until we were a few blocks away that we didn’t get our free entree after all. Oh well. We will still go back again and again when the Indian craving hits and continue to dream up fit out ideas until our dishes come and reminds us of what Ashiana’s real strength is, the quality and flavour of their food.