Sunday 30 August 2015

Food Review: Umami Harborne

What's Umami? Umami is the fifth taste after sweet, sour, bitter and salt. It is also the name if the newest Indian restaurant to open in upmarket Birmingham suburb, Harborne.

With a name that's just a bit different, Umami opened up at the end of May promising classic Indian dishes with a modern twist. Leading the kitchen is former itihaas chef Mandeep Bajwa who even came out after our meal for a chat, but more on that later.

Entering via the petite frontage on Lordswood Road, you're immediately inside an open space that resembles a lounge. This is exactly the idea and diners are invited to sit and relax pre-dinner with a drink in the lovely sunlit lounge. 

That's exactly what manager Abdul invited us to do when I arrived with my dining companion and we happily sat in the lounge and had a mocktail each. Once we were suitably relaxed, we were taken into the main dining room past the cocktail bar, which opens out to reveal a 70 cover restaurant. 

Always keen to try out a few dishes, we opted for the Regal Pre Fix Menu (£24.95 per person for three courses) with some adaptations for my Gluten Free diet! The staff were very helpful and were happy to change a few dishes from the starter section around to accommodate; result! Thankfully, the mains were all gluten free with the exception of the naan breads but do check before you dine. 

Poppodums and chutneys are obligatory when dining at an Indian restaurant and ours did not disappoint, arriving with mango chutney made with roasted garlic for depth of flavour, raita made from greek yoghurt that is hung and strained and tomato chutney. All of these chutneys are made in house adding to the freshness of the flavours.

Next up our adapted mixed starter of chilli paneer wah wah, murgh tikka and aloo tikki channa chaat. I adore paneer, and these cubes of pan fried paneer come marinated in indo-chinese spices for an extra kick. The murgh tikka was big hunks of chicken in a mild spicy dry marinade and the aloo tikki potato bites (one of my favourites) came unusually smothered in channa chaat, chickpeas in a rich tomato sauce and the potato bites were thick and soft. Again, we were told that the paneer is homemade.

Onto our mains, the set menu included butter chicken, harra bharra gosht, sabzee milloni handi, dal makhani and sides of zafrani pilau rice, naan and a green salad.

The chicken sauce was creamy and smooth, the dal was exceptionally rich and also creamy, and the lentil dish was an unusual mix of black lentils, cream, kidney beans and yoghurt. The mixed veg made a great accompaniment that held its own as a main and included carrot, cauliflower, paneer, tomato, mushroom, peas, potato and a ginger garnish. 

All of these dishes were flavoursome and well balanced as well as being very generous!

We even managed to find time for dessert and we opted for the unusual Gajar Halwa Samosa which came beautifully presented with a brandy snap basket filled with Cookies and Cream ice cream - yum! 

Mandeep very kindly came out to check on us and talked us through his experience on cruise ships and in some of the best hotels in India. He explained that the spices are ground on site, the pickles are made on site, the paneer is made on site and that they don't use any artificial colours or flavourings in the food; very reassuring. He also explained that the menu is 80% north Indian Punjabi food and 20% local specialties.

The service at Umami was impeccable and we didn't have to wait for anything at all, with enough waiters around to ensure we were well tended to. The food arrived swiftly and hot and the portions were, as previously mentioned, very generous. The quality of the food was also very high, and it was great to hear a chef with such passion talking about the work that goes into making the ingredients on site.

Overall, Umami boasts high quality and thoughtful food in the suburbs. We were impressible with the value of the meal, the portion sizes also, and most of all the impeccable friendly service which was attentive and unobtrusive. 

*I dined at Umami as a guest of the restaurant. With thanks to the team! 

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