If you are an Ipohian, you wouldn't have missed the huge palace-like building opposite Moven Peak Steamboat. Tandoor Grill just had its soft launch in December, after months of speculation in the whole of 2012 what will be of this majestic bungalow. We were prepared that a meal here would not be cheap but since it was Chinese New Year period, Chinese restaurants would be packed and the price would be skyrocket-high. And since it's Valentine Day as well, Western cuisine restaurants would be all out to rake some beefy profit. What other better days where a meal in "fine dining" Indian setting would not feel exorbitantly priced at all.
I mean, I can't help since by looking at the huge porch which made the whole building look so grand, a meal here would be priced above the rest of its counterparts, right? You will have the feel that you have stepped into a hotel because there is an automatic sliding door. There is a waiting area whereby a receptionist will politely serve you and check with you for your bookings. The stairs at the sides leads to the Grand Ballroom upstairs, which is said to be able to accommodate up to 800 people for organization functions, weddings, etc. Trust me, its really an eye opening experience!
Because it was Valentine’s Day that night, the open dining area (which is said to can accommodate at least 100 diners) is fully booked. We were offered to sit on the floor… but in Japanese styled tatami private rooms! It was indeed a blessing in disguise, similar to my first visit to Hokkaido Japanese Cuisine.
Each adjacent tatami room is separated with semi transparent veil. The carpet is very comfortable that my butt doesn't ache even though I tried sitting without the cushion. The dim lighting and wallpaper created a somehow romantic atmosphere for the evening to unwind and enjoy your company with your loved ones. Apart from tatami room, they have a few dining rooms which offers more dining privacy and elegant designs.
The wait for food and drinks was not long though while we sipped our sky juice. When the Chicken Kebab (RM17.90) arrived, it somehow gave me a poor first impression, because I never thought kebab would look something like………. Penang Lobak. At the back of my carnivorous mind, kebab has always been something like charred meat shaved to irregular pieces but they version here uses minced chicken meat. I took a bite and it somehow gave strong fragrance of herbs and condiments. There is a serving of mint based dip which made quite a refreshing complement to the kebab. If you would prefer lighter appetizers/starters, you can opt for Samosa, Fried Vegetable Patties, Fried Cottage Cheese, Fried Onion Rings and various type of salads.
The tallest glass is a special concoction mixed for Valentine's Day only, called Heartbeat (RM12). I feel its almost a derivative from one of their best sellers - the JMJ Passion (RM10), which is more like a mocktail which mixes strawberry juice, lime juice and ginger beer/soda. These are the "modern drinks with a twist" as if you want to break apart from typical hot coffee or tea or fruit juices. And if you would like to have a authentic accompaniment to an Indian meal, go ahead and try their Lassi (a classic Indian yoghurt drink). They have the plain, salted or sweet (RM6) and also with a few flavours (RM6.50) to choose from.
The Bread Basket (RM10.90) comprising 3 pieces of Naan (leavened bread made from wheat flour cooked in a tandoor oven), enable us to sample a piece each of Garlic, Cheese and Butter respectively. The Naan served here is like the base of a thin and crispy pizza, so one serving of the Bread Basket is at most sufficient for 2 persons.
The Sizzling Tandoori Chicken (RM26 for half, 46 for full chicken) is indeed a fresh alternative to the classic clay oven grilled Rotisserie chicken. Marinaded with a mixture of herbs, spices and yoghurt, this version has piquant reddish sauce cooked together with loads of onions, capsicum and tomatoes. This version is suitable to go along well with your white rice but I somehow prefer the original dry version of Tandoori Chicken served with a wedge of lime and some mint dip.
The waiters here, despite being foreign workers, have the basic command of English language and are well trained regarding the menu items. They can really recommend suitable dishes to meet your preference – spiciness, meat, etc. When we wanted something spicy to mask the potential gamey odour of mutton, the waiter gave us a good recommendation – the Mutton Punjabi Masala (RM25.90) which was indeed quite spicy.
If naan alone does not fill your stomach, the rice dishes will heed your call for carbohydrate supplement. They a few type of Briyani which ranges from RM7.90 to RM18.90, depending you order the plain or the one with meat/fish. We tried the Kashmiri Pulao (RM10.90) because we are captivated by the description which said its basmati rice cooked with fruit cocktail and dried fruits because we wanted something refreshing over the oily and heavy Briyani. Somehow, the fruity and sweetly taste did not really complement the savoury gravy of the other dishes. Things would've been better by having a sleep inducing portion of Briyani.
Having a whole page of desserts in the menu, we are quite indecisive to pick one. Just like how we picked the Bread Basket, we went for the Trio of Desserts (RM10.90). The far left in the picture is the Badami Kulfi (traditional Indian ice cream flavoured with almonds), the centre is Ghajar Halwa (a "pudding" made from grated carrots simmered with milk and sugar) and the far right is Gulab Jamun (deep fried balls which is made from cheese/curdled milk and flavoured with cardamon syrup). There are a few more items but mostly are milk/cheese infused and fried. So... even your calorific level is not spared up to this stage.
Having offered a cosy room, we decided not to hop to a bar for second round as there are alcoholic beverages available in the menu. Yup, they have an extensive selection of cocktails and mocktails, beers, hard liquor and wines. Hard liquor can be in a shot (approx RM15/shot) or in a bottle quantity. Most mocktails are priced at RM12, cocktails ranges from RM15-RM18 (nope, I did not see radical concoctions like Tombstone here).
My Budweiser cost me RM16. Carlsberg is cheaper at RM12 while the Franziskaner Weisbier/Dunkel is at RM22. Whichever option you choose, you are will have the privilege to get your booze served on a carved stainless steel mug. Talk about drinking beer Indian style, like a boss! That's a reason they serve you in weird mugs as its easily differentiated from the Lassi and skyjuice steel glass. Yup, they have a separate glasses for alcohol as their kitchen food is pork free (haven't certified Halal)
This is their alcohol bar - a seperate route for "non-halal" beverages. Good planning ahead, but friend, HALAL status is not easy to obtain. I can assure you that with my experience as a QA Executive for more than 3 years. Anyway, kudos to the boss who want to penetrate the Malay market (they employed a few friendly Malay waitresses), though I'm skeptical that they will wanna patronize a eatery which halal status is doubtful. I mean, even the boss admitted that at least 60% of his customers are Chinese.
I mean, its not easy to maintain a high class Indian cuisine in a small town like Ipoh. As I have always lamented, the non-growing stagnated salary range would be a hindrance for sustainability of big guns in this category. Since a lot have been spent on renovation, I understand that the price is a bit steeper compared to the likes of Pakeeza. Even the boss spoke to me and explained the overhead is high, the electricity for a single day is approximately RM600!
I do wish them all the best in their venture as this in indeed a one-of-its-kind concept. But to be honest, a bill of RM199 for 3 people (even if we exclude the second round drinks, it would at least be RM50/pax for a decent meal), how often can Ipohian patronize these places? Well, I hope my blog review can do my part in promoting this place so that they have continuous flow of new customers. After all, how often and where else can we dine in style and elegance in an Indian restaurant with such cosy ambiance?
Tandoor Grill is your only answer at the moment. :)