Dastaan is in a distinctly unpromising parade of shops in Ewell, with quite cramped premises, though they have recently upgraded the seating. Yet lurking in this unlikely setting is a kitchen with real talent, its founders having previously cooked at Gymhkana in Mayfair. The menu is mostly north Indian and has plenty of appealing options.
Red pepper tiger prawns with chilli, garlic and tomato chutney were as good as at my previous visits, the prawns beautifully cooked, the marinade beautifully balanced (16/20). Tandoori lamb chop was also excellent, the meat tender and carefully cooked, the spices nicely complementing the meat (14/20).
Pork vindaloo is a dish I have eaten in Goa but is rarely seen in the UK. Although “vindaloo” here has become associated with ultra spicy curries, in India it has a different meaning. The word is actually a garbling of a Portuguese dish “vinha d’alhos” that made its way to Indian in the 15th century. The term means meat marinated in wine vinegar and garlic, and so in India vindaloo usually refers to the use of vinegar in the marinade. This was the case here, the pork having a rich sauce that had the sourness of vinegar to balance the richness of the pork, but was only moderately spicy. Most importantly, it was delicious (15/20).
Butter chicken is a dish from Delhi of much more recent origin, probably in the 1950s at the Moti Mahal restaurant there, which has since spawned an empire of franchises. Butter chicken has become very popular, so over the years I have tried many versions, both in India and the UK. None better than this one though, the meat tender and the tomato and cream sauce gloriously rich, balanced with spices (16/20).
Naan bread is consistently excellent at Dastaan, as was paratha that I tried (15/20). Asparagus biryani came with peas and Jerusalem artichokes and had quite aromatic rice. However I feel that a trick is missed if the dish is not presented with a pastry case sealing the lid of the container, which can be cut open at the table to releases the aromas (14/20). Dastaan has a real knack with vegetables, the wild mustard potatoes flavoured with curry leaves and garlic, and retaining their texture really well (15/20). Even better was kumbh palak, with mushrooms and spinach and a touch of ginger, the latter having superb texture, with a light and airy feel, the ginger setting off the flavour beautifully (easily 16/20).
Service was friendly and efficient, and the bill came to £44 a head with plenty of beer. The standard of the cooking here is remarkably high, with excellent dish after excellent dish. The locals must hardly be able to believe their luck that such a good restaurant has landed amongst them. The only Indian restaurant that is marginally better in London is Indian Accent, but Dastaan outperforms everything else in the capital, including every single Michelin starred Indian restaurant.