Last week we were asked to review Lasan. You might have heard of the restaurant before because they won Britain’s Best Local Restaurant on Gordon Ramsay’s F Word in 2010. Since then they haven’t sat on their laurels and have won other awards like the Asian Business Restaurant of the Year 2013. We’d never been though and were keen to try it out and see if we agreed with the judges about the quality of food on offer.
When we arrived we were offered the chance of eating from the À la carte selection or opting for the taster menu. As it was my husband’s birthday later in the week, we decided to go for the taster menu with the matching wine flight. Within the taster menu there are 8 courses (including an amuse-bouche) and 6 matching wines (the first 4 courses have the wines matched to them in pairs). This was priced at £49.95 per person for the food and £24.95 per person for the wine. Some of the cost was covered by Lasan, but we wanted to treat ourselves to the full experience.
We started with an amuse-bouche of North Indian broth made of reduced lamb stock, black cardamom and cream. There was a richness and a complexity to the soup, which you seldom get to enjoy and it made the perfect opening for the dishes to come.
Our first proper course was the Samosa: Smoked duck bound with smooth aubergine caviar, spiced with ginger and ground raw mango, sweet tamarind chutney and cucumber. This was a gorgeous parcel of loveliness made with a very flaky pastry. The flavours of the smoked duck were complemented by the lovely chutney and it was a delight to eat. I think the only thing I would say as a negative was that the samosa was very small and I would have liked a little more, just to fully appreciate it you understand (but of course this is just one of many courses).
The next course was Kekda: Soft shell crab dipped in a crispy ajwain and Kashmiri chilli batter. Devonshire crab, green pea and potato cake, tomato and sour raw chutney. This dish had a lovely balance of flavours between the sweet and the sour, plus there were lots of different textures which complemented each other. The soft shell crab was something new to me and I was keen to try it, but it wasn’t something that I found very memorable. This dish was served with Albarino wine, which we first encountered near Barcelona. This wine with its peachy, fresh taste complemented the sweet and sour flavours of the dish.
Next up was Sarson ki Jhinga: Tandoori fresh water king prawn from West Bengal marinated in mustard, turmeric and lemon. Served with grapefruit, orange and fennel shoots. This was a very fresh and light dish. There were some lovely flavours here which worked well with each other.
Nellore Chappa came next. A pan-fried fillet of wild Cornish bass resting on slow cooked aubergine spiced with turmeric and green chilli, fenugreek scented coconut milk and tamarind sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked and came with a sauce which carefully balanced the coconut flavours with those of the tamarind. It was served with the outstanding wine from the wine flight: Gewurztraminer Grand Cur, Biecher & Schaal. I found the wine a revelation because I’d usually found this type of wine to be too sweet for my palette. This was a sweet wine, but its complexity and subtlety raised it up.
Our next culinary experience was a new one to us. We were served Haleem: Nizami a speciality from Hyderabad. Mutton cooked slowly with peral barley and lentils. Finished with ginger, fried onions and lime. The waiter explained to us that this dish comes from a hilly area of India and that it’s a regional speciality, usually served between the starter and main course. This was a tasty, filling dish which I’d describe as a savoury, meaty pottage with spice. It was perhaps a little rustic for a taster menu, but I can see that it’s not something you could easily serve on an À la carte menu and I like to try out authentic dishes.
The next course was the strongest one of the menu namely the Hiran Achari: Slow braised haunch and pearl onion bhuna, tandoori spiced loin, Bengali sautéed chard and okra bhajee, pickled pumpkin puree. Served with Mogul inspired smooth Achaar gravy spiced with traditional Indian pickling spices finally soured with dried raw mango. This dish was at once very European and very Indian. The venison haunch was succulent and cooked to perfection. This part of the dish on its own was the European part and the natural flavours of the meat were picked out with delicate spices. It was teamed up with bhuna which was a very refined version of the sort of meal that we are accustomed to getting in the average Indian restaurant. All the ingredients were cooked to the highest standard and for both of us this was the stand out dish.
For dessert we had the Bombay Mess which is a play on the classic Eton Mess: mango mousse, raspberry sorbet, berries, mango, pineapple and meringue, with a hint of cardamon and Thai basil. This was the best dessert we’d ever had in an Indian restaurant. It was a light and refreshing dessert which was the perfect end to the tasting menu. All the elements were very good, but the sorbet was a particular favourite. If I was going to criticise, I’d say that it could have been more of a cohesive whole, but as it was, there were a lot of lovely things which were all placed together. Nothing jarred, but I felt it needed bringing together somehow.
Lasan is a lovely restaurant tucked away in a side street within Birmingham’s jewellery quarter. The decor is fresh, modern and comfortable and there is a relaxed atmosphere. Waiting staff are knowledgable and attentive. I think we’ll be going back.