The Queen Street Cooked Food Market in Sheung Wan is not your average array of dai pai dongs. When I visited ABC Kitchen earlier this year, I learnt that cooked food centres can in fact serve gourmet food, complete with tablecloths and ‘proper’ cutlery. It was on that same visit that another restaurant, Chautari, attracted my senses and I knew I had to savour its Indian and Nepalese curries.
So we already know that this cooked food centre serves delicious Italian food, I’m assuming its Chinese food must be delicious, but I can now safely tell you that its Indian and Nepalese cuisine is out of this world.
Obviously it’s in a cooked food centre, so the atmosphere is not what you would normally find in an Indian restaurant; it is lively, noisy and frankly more fun than a civilised Indian restaurant. The waiters are attentive and forever smiling, which makes a change from many dai pai dongs where food is practically thrown before you with a frown.
After starting with the complimentary poppadoms with Indian-style mint sauce (delicious), we cut open some incredible vegetable samosas. As I said in my review of The Chinnery, a wise friend once told me that the best samosas are those that have the ability to stand up on their own. Well, wise friend, you are certainly right in this case; these 3D samosas had the most deliciously flaky pastry encasing delicately spiced vegetables. I detected more than a hint of cinnamon, which is definitely one of my absolute favourite spices.
The vegetable pokora were divine, a wonderful selection of assorted vegetables deep-fried in spicy batter. Somehow, however, although they were in batter, they still seemed light and far from oily.
Here comes the hilarious point of the night when we thought we had ordered three pieces of onion bhaji and had in fact ordered three BASKETS! We still managed to get through at least one basket of these deliciously crispy yet tender bhaji, and the lovely waiter offered to only charge us for two due to the clear misunderstanding. He must have thought we were absolute fatties when he took our order!
The fish tikka, made with the most tender pieces of sole you could ever taste, was utterly divine. While the flavour of the fish itself was light and delicate, the spices it was infused with really shone through. Amazing.
A side dish of Bhundi masala, a blend of okra, onions, tomatoes and mild chilli, was lovely and fresh, adding some wholesome goodness to our indulgent meal.
Moving on to the curries, starting with the two lighter ones, the Saagwala paneer was decadently creamy and mild, while the Dal tadka was deliciously comforting with a definite, yet still gentle spice. I loved the beautifully tender Chicken Masala, which had a richly aromatic flavour, but my absolute favourite was the Lamb kadai. Having never even heard of a kadai curry, we took a gamble, but definitely came out winning. The chunks of lamb were incredibly tender, infused with cumin and cinnamon amongst other delicious spices. They must have known that our table of girls could handle our spice, as the latter two curries were not for the faint-hearted, but neither were they overpowering.
While the naan and garlic naan were wonderfully soft and fluffy, even better was the Chennai roti; on its own it was amazing, but dipped into the curry or used to encase chunks of tender meat, it was absolute perfection. Even when I was bursting at the seams, it was all I could do to stop myself from reaching for the roti and dipping it into the few leftovers we had.
When deciding what rating to give Chautari, I thought first about how I could fault it. I soon realised that there was nothing to fault; the atmosphere was lively and fun, the service was excellent, the food delicious…and all for just $140 each, including a tip and soft drinks. Will I go back? Absolutely.
Shop CF6 Queen’s Street Cooked Food Centre
1 Queen’s Street
Tel: +852 2600 4408