Since this was a contender (and the eventual winner) in this year’s Time Out Bahrain Best Indian award, I was expecting something pretty special from It’s Mirchi and I wasn’t disappointed.
To be honest, before the editor dispatched me for this review, it had never even crossed my radar. It’s upstairs in the Ramee International Hotel right next to American Alley in Juffair and, from the outside area next to a nightclub/bar, you could be forgiven for wondering what’s in store.
But, once through the doors, there’s no mistaking that this is Indian dining, and very good Indian dining at that. The décor is subdued but atmospheric, set off by the three-piece band playing traditional Indian music complete with drums and crossed-legged singer.
To be honest, when the restaurant was empty, the lady singer’s voice was a little piercing for my taste and the sound just a little too loud. But her male counterpart’s voice is like warm treacle and, once the place filled up a bit, the level seemed to even out.
I particularly like that they present you with a card at the table on which you can request songs, much to the delight of one of our party who was soon humming along.
To start we chose a mixed grill appetiser to share. It’s not on the menu so you will need to request it. It was all good from tandoori chicken that simply melted in the mouth to a kind of lamb roll, which I would usually find too greasy but which was actually one of my favourite bite-size nibbles. The best bit by far was the chargrilled fish, coated in a delicate jacket of herbs with the outside lightly charred, it simply crumbled on the tongue and I could quite happily have just eaten this - and will next time.
But that would have been a great shame since I would have missed the butter chicken and chicken tikka masala. These are both favourite dishes and ones I always look for though I do sometimes shy away from the butter chicken since it can be too highly spiced.
I was slightly wary since both my Indian dining companions had previously had a bit of a moan about restaurants which dial down the spice level to cater to Western tastes. They assured me this wasn’t the case at It’s Mirchi, so I was expecting firey.
I needn’t have worried, though spicey both dishes were really tasty and the spices definitely weren’t overdone allowing the delicate taste of the sauces to take centre stage alongside succulent chicken breast meat.
We also tried tawe ka jhingha, a prawn dish which was, possibly, the highlight of the evening consisting of really fresh seafood in a coriander masala bursting with flavour.
There are loads of veggie dishes and sides to order but we opted for rounds of nan, garlic encrusted for me, plain for my companions all fresh from the kitchen and perfect for mopping up the abundant sauces.
Stuffed to bursting, we really didn’t need a dessert but it would have been rude not to try the basundi, the traditional Indian sweet made with milk, sugar, saffron and custard apples which, to my shame, I must admit to never having eaten before.
Fortunately it comes in very small bowls since it is really rich but very tasty with the juicy flesh of the custard apple making the perfect accompaniment to the creamy sauce.
For drinks we had a selection of soft drinks and water and my only disappointment was that there was no Indian brew available.
The bill (for two) Tawe ka jhingha BD6.600 Chicken tikka masala BD4.600 Butter chicken BD4.400 Plain nan BD0.300 Garlic nan BD0.300 Basundi BD2.200 Total (inc tax) BD18.400
Time Out Bahrain staffhttp://www.timeoutbahrain.com