Monday, 2 June 2014

Trishna - Culturally Confused

Trishna in Marylebone holds a Michelin-star and its sister Gymkhana has been one of the hottest restaurants in town. I have always been a bit sceptical when it comes Indian fine-dining. Like Chinese cuisine, the eating culture is where food should be plenty to go round for sharing, and so refraining them on pretty plates and single-portions simply don't feel right. But I was prepared to be pleasantly surprised. 

There is nothing Indian about the decor at Trishna; perhaps it was the beautiful sunshine on the day, but the side of the dining room we were seated in had a country-house, shabby chic feel. As we munched on mini pomppadoms and chutney, we decided to cover the majority of the lunch bite menu by mixing and sharing. 

Vada & Rasam (white lentil vada, tamarind, tomato rasam) 
White lentils were mashed and shaped into small dense balls,  deep fried in an ultra thin batter and served with a dollop of thick capsicum-based aioli. The Chinese in me was really hoping to bite into a porky, meaty dumpling, so the dense and bland lentil mash didn't do it for me. The warm bowl of spicy tomato soup was, well, like tomato soup, except with a tad of beany, pasty texture to the body of the soup. 

Not that this dish wasn't skilfully prepared, it's just not to my taste. 

Quail Pepper Fry (keralan spices, black pepper, Indian onion) 
The de-boned quail was smothered in pepper and spice, and I suspect that could be how the poor bird died. The pieces of quail were succulent with a very crispy, black pepper-coated skin. It certainly had a fiery kick to it, though it was predominantly flavours from the black pepper as opposed to an array of spices. A good starter nonetheless. 

Hariyali Bream (green chilli, coriander, tandoor smoked tomato kachumber) 
I know it doens't look great, but the tiny fillet of bream was surprisingly soft; it broke away into silky flakes as I pressed the knife against the thin marinade. It didn't quite taste like green chilli, more like a thin herby pesto paste and it was very refreshing with the coriander fragrance. The tomato on the side was like cold salsa, in my humble opinion, it was too loud for the delicate fillet. 

Andhra Lamb Masala (curry leaf, coastal spices) 
Quite a disappointing curry. The small cubes of lamb were rather lean, so although the meat was still tender from the slow-cooking, it didn't carry any of the milky, lamb tang from the fattier cuts. The curry itself was flat, lacked roundness and spice - could have been tipped out of a jar had I not been sitting in a restaurant. This could be down to my non-exquisite palate for fine-Indian dishes, but I am much more fond dishes like Tayyab's dry meat, where it was bursting with layers of spices and aromas. 

Kerala Jheenga Curry (tiger prawns, Keralan spices, coconut) & Moplah Seafood Biryani (seabass, shellfish, coriander, mint, pink peppercorn raita) 
This could have been a great biryani; each grain was coated in flavoursome spices and it was absolutely packed with seafood; large chunks of the succulent and tender bass, bouncy squid and plenty of crunchy onions onions. Only one thing went wrong: mushy prawns. The king prawns left an awful mouthfeel as they disintegrated into a flat, bounceless mass. A bit careless. 

The prawn curry was very smooth and sweet, almost like a butternut squash puree with prawns. I really enjoyed it but it didn't taste like a curry, more like thick seafood pumpkin soup. 

Served with Bread basket, basmati rice, Hyderabadi dal and Aloo ugaigiri 
We went for mixture of everything to go with our dishes. Perhaps I am much more accustomed to cheap and cheerful, common Indian dining, I thought the naan breads were a bit too thin, too chewy and flavourless for my taste; the daal was no match for Dishoom's creamy black daal; and the spicy potatoes were lacking the punches of heat, albeit very crispy on the edges. So... meh. 

Aam Malai (alphonso mango cream, raw mango chutney, mango jelly) 
I really enjoyed this dessert; it was like mango lassi in solid form. The mango jelly on the side was quite sweet, but delicately balanced by chopped herbs. 

Shan and I checked out Trishna because we wanted to know what fine-dining Indian was about. I think we both left Trishna feeling underwhelmed. Yea it was a more comfortable dining environment and slightly better service, despite a couple of faux pas we decided to overlook, but the food just didn't live up to expectation.  I was pleasantly surprised by some finer touches to our starters, but there was no novelty or wow-factor, just same stuff on a cleaner (and smaller) plate - nowhere near as exciting as Roti Chai. So I won't be chasing a table at Gymkhana anymore, not sure if it's worth the effort. 

Trishna
15-17 Blandford Street 
Marylebone Village 
London 
W1U 3DG

Trishna on Urbanspoon
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