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Sadly in 2011 Kastoori closed to to a dispute between the owners and the landlord over rent. It is to be hoped that it reopens elsewhere at some point.
A long established family-run restaurant, Kastoori cooks Gujerati vegetarian food, and does so very well indeed. Below are notes from my most recent meal.
I find this an extremely reliable restaurant, and would go more often f it was not such a pain to drive to from Chiswick. The decor is fairly basic and has seen better days, but is bright and fairly inviting. The menu is very appealing, with a wide range of attractive south Indian dishes. Popadoms are served with home-made chutneys: I particularly liked a tasty tomato chutney, and a spicy mint chutney was a good contrast (4/10). For some reason most Indian restaurants just serve up the same dull chutneys from a jar, so it is a refreshing change to taste such good ones. A bhel starter is a mix of sev, puffed rice, potato and onions, resting on a base of sweet and sour sauce; the dish was a little dry just because there was not enough sauce, but otherwise this was fine (2/10). Dahi puri were five little hollow pooris, inside each of which were chick peas, moong beans, yoghurt and diced potato and a tamarind-based sauce; you pop them into your mouth in one go. This was a dish I loved at the late lamented Sabras, and although these were not in that league they were nice enough. The dish would have been improved by having greater acidity in the sauce (3/10).
Masala dosa was excellent, the dosa crisp and the filling of potato, onion and spices more interesting than some. What also stood out was an excellent sambal (which can often be watery) and a well-made coconut chutney (4/10). A special of bean curry made from assorted pulses had good texture (3/10) as did chana bateta i.e. a potato and chickpea curry (2/10). Bhatura and paratha bread were both well made (2/10). Sweet lassi is excellent here, quite thick and having a little pistachio mixed in (3/10). For dessert the fairly rare dish shrikand is available, here a rich, thick mixture laced with saffron and pistachio (4/10).
Service was not great tonight; it was not very busy yet it was quite difficult to get attention at times. There seemed to be a family well known to the staff at one table, and at one point there were two waiters hovering over their table while I was waving in vain for attention. Still, the food is the thing. Starters are £1.95 to £4.25, mostly around £3.25. Curries are around £5, as is a dosa. A paratha was £2.50, bhatura just £1.30. Plain rice is £2.25.
Below are notes from a prior meal by way of comparison.
Here are notes from a meal. The Kastoori dining room has a blue carpet and blue-upholstered traditional wooden chairs, while tablecloths and napkins are a cheery bright yellow. The walls of the restaurant are plain white, the only decoration some repeated white reliefs of a female Indian figure. The ceiling is also white, in the middle of which a rectangular recess (perhaps a skylight once?) covers an air conditioning unit through whose grill plastic climbing plants hang. On each table is a single exotic flower to go with the pepper and salt cellar, and the tables are lit by a mix of ceiling spots and directed modern spotlights. There is even a respectable wine list, with Leon Bayer Gewürztraminer as well as a range of wines from Chile, South Africa, Australia and even one from India, 24 wines in all (10 each red and white, the rest sparkling) ranging from £7.75 to £24.95. The wines have grower and vintage listed, with brief descriptive notes. Alternatively there is Kingfisher beer, or Ballygowan mineral water. Waiters are dressed in white shirts and black trousers, and the service is efficient and friendly.
Crisp grilled popadoms are accompanied by three homemade chutneys: yoghurt and mint (very good) and, even better, a tasty tomato and carrot chutney and a pungently spicy coriander, garlic and green chilli chutney (3/10 for the chutneys). I began with sev pooris. Five were offered, the little crisp pooris filled with potatoes, chickpeas and onions and puffed rice, laced with a sweet and sour sauce. You eat them whole, the tangy sauce enlivening the savoury filling, the crispy poori giving a crunchy texture. The best example of this is to be found at the Sabras, but these were quite respectable, with a light poori and lively sauce (2/10).
Onion bhajee was a cut above the cliché, five generous pieces in a dark batter, the onion and flour filling suffused with spices, with the chutneys on the side to add another dimension (2/10). Often onion bhajee can be either soggy or burnt to a crisp, but here they were timed just right.
Potato curry featured carefully cooked potatoes that retained their texture, in a good tomato and onion sauce (3/10). Mattur paneer had good cottage cheese and peas and a tasty sauce (3/10) while moong bean curry had the pulses cooked to a firm texture (2/10). Best of all was a channa curry, the chickpeas tender and in an excellent dark spicy sauce, with a few slices of firm potato (4/10). Plain rice was fine (1/10) while paratha was of the non-greasy variety (2/10) and chapatis were very fresh and had excellent texture (3/10); these are offered with or without butter, for those on a diet. Cucumber raita was also excellent – fine shreds of cucumber in creamy yoghurt topped with chopped coriander. Throughout the meal the spicing was that clear and distinct kind that you only get through the use of freshly ground spices. This is an establishment that even makes its own garam masala.
Kulfi is not made here; as so often it is bought in (the supplier is Everest). This was ordinary, more ice cream than kulfi (0/10). However shrikand, which is a fairly rare dessert to be seen outside Indian areas like Southall and Wembley, was homemade and excellent. The curd cheese had a rich flavour enhanced by the strong tastes of cardamom, nutmeg and saffron, which were in good balance here (it is easy to overdo the saffron), topped with a coating of pistachios. Sometimes this dish can be almost chewy, but here it was very smooth indeed (4/10 for the shrikand). Overall the dessert mark would be lower, say 2/10. Avoid the tea, which is disappointing. It was fairly cheap tea served in a cup with a teabag in the cup; worse, the tea was already stewed (0/10).