Monday, 17 January 2022
CURRY addicts who yearn for some exciting new flavours will enjoy exploring the menu at Asiana Spice in Henley, writes James Burton.
The cosy, welcoming restaurant on Reading Road, run by experienced chef and proprietor Abdus Salam, blends Thai and Indian elements to offer something that’s a good deal more exotic than your standard korma.
All the classics are present and correct, of course, but its speciality dishes are where this establishment particularly shines.
Our visit last week began with a delicious mixed platter which perfectly summed up the diversity of its influences.
The balls of saag paneer, or Indian cheese wrapped in spinach, wouldn’t have been out of place in any curry house but other morsels were decidedly more unconventional.
These included pieces of spiced chicken wrapped in banana leaf as well as the “magic mushrooms” stuffed with curried vegetables and meat.
Out of the many main dishes which our party sampled, the highlight for me was undoubtedly the sea bass.
This was presented whole and deep-fried with garlic in a sticky and fairly sweet Thai sauce, prepared by the kitchen’s specialist Thai chef Monir Hossein.
Another unique offering was the Asiana chicken, which was stuffed with spinach and served in a sweet sauce made with raisins and saffron. Ours arrived in a fairly mild form but can be made hotter on request.
Fans of red meat will find much to enjoy, including the braised lamb shank, which is served with chickpeas and an aromatic, fairly hot sauce.
Those seeking something milder may prefer the lamb chop kosha, which is marinated and cooked in a clay oven then topped with a sauce containing tomato, honey and mustard. Aside from being rather tasty, all of Asiana Spice’s dishes are presented so beautifully and colourfully that it almost seems a shame to dig into them.
Even our rice, which unusually included exotic fruits such as lychee, showed an attention to detail and a willingness to experiment with new ideas.
And as a quick glance at the menu shows, the selection we enjoyed is just the tip of the iceberg.
Traditionalists can stil order a tandoori, korma or madras but there’s so much more to try including duck tok, a barbecued duck dish, and a variety of Thai grills and salads.
Those eating out on a budget can attend a “banquet night” on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when any starter, main, side, rice, naan and coffee may be ordered for £10.95 or £13.95 for fish and prawn dishes.
Judging by the large number of regular customers who were dining on the same night as us, this is clearly the kind of restaurant that inspires loyalty — and having thoroughly enjoyed my feast, I might just be tempted to join the faithful.
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