Abu Dhabi: There was a time when my idea of a culinary adventure used to begin and end with anything cooked in coconut gravy. The reason: My south Indian roots.
Our favourites are mostly dishes made at home. And we mainly counted on mum’s recipes because there was a lack of south Indian restaurants serving authentic non-vegetarian food in the UAE.
So I must say that with great trepidation I decided to try the offerings at Ushna, the Indian restaurant at Souq Qaryat Al Beri. However, I have to say that I was truly surprised by the delightfully spicy preparations.
We had a spicy start with chemeen polichathu (Dh75), tiger prawns immortalised with fiery Malabar spices. It’s a typical south Indian preparation wherein banana leaves are wrapped around the meat or fish before cooking it. The first step then, as you eat the dish, is to peel off the wrap. The chunky yet soft prawns were embedded in a thick gravy of tomatoes and caramalised onion. The flavours were distinctly south and not just a hotchpotch of Indian spices. As I effortlessly sliced through the succulent prawn, the distance between my plate and my mouth has never been shorter. However, I would like to recommend the patrani macchi (Dh85) to those who break into a sweat while eating hot peppers. The saari fish, neatly wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with green masala (spices) and tender coconut, was a tad too mild for me but impressive. The fish had a spongy texture and blended well with the spices.
I then ordered a green salad to lessen my carnivore’s guilt. Though the dish was ordered as an afterthought, the banana salad (Dh32) was a revelation. The dish blends the banana flower, stem and the fruit into a delectable preparation. Tossed with fresh coconut, cucumber and lemon dressing, this is definitely a vegetarian’s delight and a meat-lover’s discovery.
We then ventured into the main course with dakshin murgh (Dh50), yet another south Indian delicacy. As the name indicates, the dish is unapologetically Dravidian in taste and treatment. The chicken pieces are marinated in a strong blend of spices and topped with fresh curry leaves, lending a quintessential South Indian flavour.
Equally authentic and delectable was the Andhra chicken curry (Dh85) which we had with rotis (Indian flat bread). Though the dish was mentioned as Andhra mutton curry on the menu, the chef prepared the dish with chicken considering my affinity towards chicken. A fitting finale to this enjoyable dinner came in the form of dessert. The chef’s special mango sorbet ice cream served in a sesame seed cone along with a scoop of kulfi ice cream was simply memorable.
Meal for two: Dh300 to Dh500
Where: Souk Qaryat Al Beri, Bain Al Jessrain, Abu Dhabi
Timings: From 12.30-3pm; 7-11.30pm
We recommend: Three way Banana Salad, Chemeen Polichathu and Dakshin Murg