Dastaan has become one of my favourite restaurants in and around London. Located in a terrace of shops in Ewell, the kitchen team here delivers some remarkably impressive food. One key to this is the way that spices such as black cardamom and mace are purchased whole rather than ground, and are only ground up when needed, in order to get the most out of them. This really comes through in the dishes, where the spices have very vibrant and distinct flavours rather than an amalgamated general spiciness. See my previous reviews for the background of the restaurant and its owners.
Tonight we tried the recently revamped vegetable bhajias, now featuring kale in addition to potato, spinach, tamarind and mint chutney. These had excellent texture, the sweetness of the tamarind working as an effective contrast to the earthiness of the kale (easily 15/20). Pani puris are hollow balls made from deep-fried flatbread, with a hole left at the top to allow flavoured water to be poured into each puri. Inside each puri is a little moong bean sprout, the liquid being jaljeera, a spicy beverage whose name means ’cumin water”. You then pop a puri into your mouth and wait for the little taste explosion, as the puri bursts and releases its spicy liquid centre. The puris here had very good texture, here and this is always a fun dish to eat (14/20). Tandoori lamb chops were marinated with mustard mooli and kasundi, a Nebgali relish. These were superb, the meat very tender and having lovely flavour, the spices just enlivening the meat without dominating it (16/20).
Red pepper tiger prawns are a signature here, large and high-quality prawns that have been marinated with chilli, garlic and tomato chutney before being cooked in the tandoor. The prawns were very precisely cooked and had lovely flavour, with just enough chilli to enliven the shellfish without overwhelming the natural sweetness of the prawns (16/20). Also glorious was stone bass tikka with mint and onion chutney, the fish superbly cooked and having beautifully absorbed its balanced spicy marinade. This was a dazzling piece of fish cookery (17/20).
Methi chicken is a favourite dish of mine, and the version here is great, the fresh, pungent fenugreek leaves really lifting the flavour of the meat, which rests in a sauce based around onion, tomato and spices (15/20). The classic dish butter chicken is also very well executed here, the sauce based around tomatoes and cashew nuts to give a little balance to this rich dish (15/20). Kumbh palak is a must order side here, a really remarkable dish that draws tremendous depth of flavour from the spinach and mushrooms that are its basis; it is hard to believe how such humble ingredients can be made to really sing with such flavour (16/20). Pork cheek vindaloo was particularly good tonight, the sourness of the vinegar cutting through the richness of the very tender meat, with just enough spice to complete the dish. This was every bit as good as versions that I have eaten in Goa, where the dish originates (16/20). The bill, with ample food and plenty of beer to drink, came to £48 a head, which is a steal for cooking of this calibre.