Thursday, November 6, 2008
8. India, Punjabi: Shanaz
83 High Street,
I was very glad to have the excuse of reviewing the Shanaz in Lewes High Street for my S.E.E. blog. We have been patrons for 15 or more years. I’ve visited all the Indian restaurants in and around Lewes, but I keep returning the Shanaz as I like it the best of the Punjabi restaurants. I have tried many of the dishes over the years; obviously some have been more to my taste than others, but I have always found the food in the Shanaz to be consistently well-seasoned and well-prepared. Recently the menu has had a revamp and many dishes are grouped by the sauce base rather than by the meat base. I find this a better way to lead customers’ tastes. I know what sauce bases I like: which are too hot or too sweet for me, so I choose a sauce base and then decide if I feel like chicken, lamb, prawns etc… There are also many stand-alone dishes and excellent chef’s specials.
We started with popadums(two each) and the chutney tray pictured. The popadums are always crispy and light. Included in the chutney tray are mild onion slices, sweet mango chutney, seasoned yoghurt and our favourite- a sweet coconut-based spread. From the extensive list of starters priced around £3.00-£5.00, Badgerman and I chose our favourites: Onion bhajies (£2.95) and Dahl Soup (£2.95) with lemon, respectively. As Blim was having the Non-Vegetarian Thali, he skipped the starter on the waiter’s advice. My soup came with the extra lemon I ordered and was it’s usual tasty, warm self. I had a bite of Bagerman’s bhajies and was surprised to find how non-greasy and light they were and that there was other vegetables with the onions in the bhaji; they came with a small salad and lemon wedge.
Our main courses arrived soon after our starter plates were cleared. Blim’s Mixed Thali was a veritible platter of small portions of Chicken Bhuna, Lamb Bhuna, Chicken Tikka, Sag Aloo, Peshwari Nan and Special Rice for £13.95. He is a relatively big eater and he found this to be plenty of food and was glad he had not had a starter. Blim particularly enjoy the sag aloo (potatoes and spinach) dish, as it was well seasoned and “interesting”. The meat dishes had different textures, were well flavoured and were not too hot. He was able to substitute a fruity Peshwari Naan for the plain naan, which also added to the dish’s interest and range of tastes. Badgerman’s chicken jalfrezzi (£7.95) arrived sizzling in a cast iron dish on a wooden platter pictured right. The combination of the bell peppers, onions, herbs, thick spicy sauce and the succulent chicken make this a really enjoyable dish- watch out for the small green chillies though- some are just a bit hot but others are scorching! My Chicken Peshwar (£9.95)was cooked in a rich sauce with sour cream, coconut, fresh cream, flaked almonds and green chillies, was very well presented and just delicious. The sauce had been cooked down beautifully with the flavours of the cream and coconut intensified and clung to every side of each chicken piece. The green chillies cut through the sweetness of the sauce and the chicken was superbly cooked. I would have liked more coriander than just a garnish though as I thought that this would have moved a very good dish to outstanding.
We resisted the desserts, as we were quite full- though, in the past, I have had many a delicious ice-cream bombe, pistachio or mango kulfi and lemon or mango sorbet.
The service was very attentive, though it was a fairly quiet, post Bonfire Night Thursday, early evening. Service at the Shanaz is always good with a reasonable number of staff on to cope with customers and the brisk take-away trade. As is their custom, we were brought hot towels after our main course and a complimentary Irish cream liqueur and mint chocolate with our bill.
The room, and even the loos, are decorated with a huge array of artificial flowers, leaves and fruit so you get the feeling of being somewhere exotic and warm like a jungle floor, rather than in the basement of a large building on Lewes High street.
Blim and I had pineapple juice each and Badgerman had a Bangla Beer; our bill came to £57.15, excluding tip.
Food Presentation: 3
Food Quality: 4
Value for Money: 2