on February 7, 2010
When in Manchester there is nothing like a a wander down Wilmslow Road's Curry Mile. This stretch of neon lights is a mecca for those looking for a curry fix and other eastern delights. However it can get samey with restaurant after restaurant offering the same old dishes such as Chicken Tika or lamb jalfrazi. There's nothing wrong with them but sometimes you just want something a bit different. Luckily for me I got different at the Punjb Tandoori last Saturday night.I had read about the Punjab many a time when I lived in Manchester but had never ate there. Located in the middle of the Curry Mile away from the bigger flashier looking restaurants the Punjab is one of the oldest. It is also the only;y one that specialises in Southern Indian cooking with a heavy bias towards vegetarian dishes.From the outside the Punjab is a restaurant you could easily walk past without stopping. There's no flashy flames in the windows nor boards advertising 15 courses for £5 . However if you take the time to actually look you will find quite a busy little restaurant. I dined there on a Saturday night around about 8pm and we were lucky to get a table. I really can't remember much about the decor so it must have been very standard with no ostentatious or outrageous paintings or statues. I do remember white table clothes and very comfy black padded seats though. It seems quite a small intimate restaunt with the bar area at th back. The tables are pretty close together so not one for spouting soppy sentiments unless you wan your neighbours to overhear. There is a dining room upstairs but I'm not sure if that is for functions only.There was one main reason why I wanted to come to the Punjab and that was to try their legendary dhosas. Dhosas originate from the south of India and are a huge thin crispy rice and dhal pancake filled with many different fillings. I had tried them once before in a veggie Indian in Wembley and wanted to try them at Punjab as I had read so many good things about them. I selected a paneer (Indian cottage cheese) one for a starter. Punjab does all the usual standard curries you would find elsewhere but there is plenty for you on the vegetarian side if you are feeling adventurous. I chose vegetable koftas, which were little balls of pumpkin in a rich tomato sauce. Punjab also does very reasonable set menus but they are not always available. My sister was going to order a Hindustiani vegetarian thali for one which included samosas, dhal and other vegetarian dishes alongside a traditional Indian desert alfor £11 or £12, but unfortunately she was told it was off the menu. I'm not sure if that was because it was a Saturday night or not. Instead she ordered an onion Dhosa to start with and then some Bhindi (okra) done in a spicy tomato sauce. We also ordered a plain naan bread an pilau rice to share. The meal wit one sparkling water for my sister and one tangy sweet mango lassi at the bargain price of under £2 for me came to 331, which i found very reasonable for two huge starters, a main, sides and drinks.We started off with the usual pappadums and pickles. These were good but nothing out of the ordinary. We had a short wait until the dhoasa came along. I'd almost recommend a dhosa as a main dish for those with a smaller appetite or a filling lunch, as they are huge. The pancakes are very thin and crispy (but nothing like Findus crispy pancakes thank goodness) and near enough a foot long! . The paneer was different to how I've usually had it. I'm used to it in slabs tasting more like a feta cheese. This had the lumpiness of our own cottage cheese but as my sister put it the texture and almost flavour of scrambled egg. It was very strange but very nice. Its one for non curry lovers , as the paneer was very mild unlike the onion dhosa, which was hot and spicy. I needed the youghurt sauce from the pappadums to quell the heat of the onion filling. Dhosas come wish two dips and sauces of their own. There's a slightly oily orangery brown sauce which I did not touch that much of. Then there was the coconut chutney, which was much nicer. The coconut chutney, was semi liquid with chunks of coconut cream and suited the spicy flavors very well.Another short wait and our main courses were served to us. My dish arrived with four little balls in a sea of tangy tomato sauce. The kofta ball made out of pumpkin, nuts and rice were firm and the nearest thing to a meatball a veggie could have without them being meat substitute. My sister's okra was nicely spiced with yet more tomato sauce and onions. The portions were not huge but with the adequate pilau ice and the soft doughy naan plus our huge starters there was enough there to keep me very satisfied. Thus dessert was skipped without even looking at the menu.The service at Punjab was perfectly adequate without being remarkable. The waiters were polite, and friendly and the food was brought in good time with out coming too soon..i did use the toilets which were upstairs so may not be suitable for those with mobility problems. Like the decor and the service they must have been ok, cleanish and not smelly but on the other hand there were no frills.When it comes to Punjab Tandoori the dhosas and fresh vegetarian southern Indian cooking are the stars of the show. without them it would be just another curry house on Rusholme's s Curry Mile.
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