Cilantro (the American name for coriander) opened in November 2022, in the premises that used to house the south Indian restaurant Ma Goa. Cilantro is owned the Senthil family, who also have restaurants in India. The emphasis here is on a lighter style of Indian cooking than is usual in a high street Indian restaurant in the UK. The head chef was Mulesh Kumar, who was previously a sous chef at Amaya, and trained at the Oberoi Hotel group in India.
A trio of different styles of popadoms (made with rice flavour, sago and regular flour) came with three chutneys made in the kitchen: plum, yellow tempered yoghurt and mixed berry. It is nice to see a restaurant making some effort with its popadoms and chutneys. Cholley tikki had a central potato patty with chickpeas and chutneys including tamarind, the dish being served warm. This was actually the dish of the night for me, the chickpeas tender, the chutneys carefully balanced and the potato having excellent texture, pomegranate seeds providing some freshness. A nice touch was little fried balls of cornflour providing a crunchy texture contrast to the softness of the tender chickpeas (15/20). A pair of lamb chops were fine, one still a little pink in the centre but the other being cooked past this stage. The chops had been marinated in spices and a little Kashmiri chilli, and came with a few achari pearl onions. The meat was fairly tender, but Dastaan will not be having any sleepless nights over these (13/20).
A biryani of methi chicken was served in a pot with the top sealed with a ring of pastry. This was opened at the table, releasing the cooking fragrances. The aged Himalayan basmati rice was aromatic and nicely cooked, the chicken fine though for me a bit more fenugreek and less cloves might have been beneficial (14/20). What was advertised as coconut chilli fresh water prawns had tender prawns but not even a hint of chilli, which was odd. The sauce with the prawns had curry leaves, coconut and caramelised lime and was fine, but the chilli was missing in action (12/20). It is one thing to cater to the perceived delicate tastes of the local audience, but no shrinking violet who is shy of spice is likely to order a dish called “chilli prawn”, so surely such a dish should have at least some chilli kick?
Tilwale potatoes were cooked with sesame seeds and spices. The potatoes themselves retained their texture well, and had nicely absorbed the spices that they were cooked with (14/20). Lasooni palak was a spinach dish with corn cooked with onion, spices and garlic. This was a good dish, the spinach flavour coming through well, the corn tender and the shreds of fresh ginger as a garnish being a nice touch (14/20). Naan bread was pleasant, though for me the edges were verging on papery (13/20).
Gulab jaman was made in house, the classic dessert balls of milk solids, sugar, rose water and cardamon in sugar syrup (14/20). Carrot halwa had freshly grated carrots simmered in ghee and sesame chikki, a brittle made from nuts and jaggery. The halwa was reasonable but for me it needed a bit more ghee. This might be at odds with the “healthy” theme, but it would make the dessert taste better (13/20).
The service was led by a director of the restaurant, Senthil Perumal, and the team of waiters and waitresses did a good job. The bill, with plenty of beer to drink, came to £63 per person. Overall, I enjoyed Cilantro, with some of the dishes showing genuine talent in the kitchen.