Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Restaurant Review: Malaka Spice

We visited twice, once during a Pune Expat Wine Festival and a second time for a simple weekend lunch.

For the first visit, a Wine Festival, the waiters should have been trained in discussing the wines and not just in how to pour the stuff. We tasted the local Vallonne cabs, merlots, chenin blanc and suavignon blanc. Of the four, the merlot 2009 was the most drinkable, luscious full fruit with a slight astringency. Lovely for sipping, but even better with food. We bought a case and when we got it home, we realized that the merlot purchased were 2011, NOT 2009. If I didn't think it was simple lack of training on the part of the serving staff, I would have returned them. You never taste one year and purchase another. That's just totally and completely wrong.

The place was packed with foreigners, all slurping down copious amounts of wine and sampling the menu. We started with duck momos (okay) that came with a decent dipping sauce, then branched out to  try the crispy prawn tempura and squid rings, both light, and tasted of seafood, not batter. The dipping sauce that came with the prawns had a citrus base and matched well with the prawns. The squid was just slightly overcooked, but still very tasty.

We also had the duck salad. Not memorable.

This past Saturday, we visited a second time, with Will in tow. When I bring him, with his voracious appetite, we can easily order a number of plates with me sampling and him finishing them all off. Good tactic. :-) I remembered to take photos this time.

White Sangria at Malaka Spice, Pune - YUM!
I ordered the White Wine Sangria, which comes with mint, demarara sugar and cucumber. A light, refreshing tipple to start the meal. Unfortunately, mine came with a free ant, cheerfully floating on the mint leaves. The second one was without ant.

We started with the Bulgogi, a Korean meat preparation that is usually folded into fresh lettuce cups like a burrito or wrap. The thinly sliced mutton was grisly, dry and powdery. While the spice level was perfect for me, it came with no lettuce and was pretty much inedible with all the gristle.

Second came the duck momos. Will wasn't thrilled with them, and my tastebuds were still smarting from the bulgogi sampling. They tasted off in flavor, even with the dipping sauce. Made me wonder how long they'd been sitting in the kitchen. They were steamed perfectly, though.

Duck Momos at Malaka Spice, Pune
The prawns were lovely again. The batter is light  and the flavor of the very fresh seafood came through. If you like prawns, I highly recommend this dish.

Prawn Crispura at Malaka Spice, Pune
After the prawns, we were served Pad Thai, my Garlicky Tiger Prawns and Will's potted or stewed lamb dish. None of these dishes were very good. The Pad Thai seemed to be missing numerous ingredients, particularly any fish sauce (nam pla), and while covering the pad thai's ball of noodles with the egg omelet into a packet was cute, it must have been sitting a while since the ball had congealed into a mass of sticky noodles. The prawn dish had too much mint and far too little garlic. There seemed to be 3 small whole cloves in my dish, but they fact that they were there, did not prove to add any garlic flavor. I did not like the dish at all. The mint was overpowering while the sauce had no flavor whatsoever. I didn't even bother to try the lamb since I was already full from tasting everything else and seriously, it did not look very appetizing to me. 

Overall, I may give Malaka Spice another try, but with so many decent restaurants here in Pune, why should I? Let me know if I've missed a signature dish - that could convince me to try them again!

Pad Thai at Malaka Spice, Pune
Lamb Stew and Garlicky Tiger Prawns  at Malaka Spice, Pune
Will, as we left Malaka Spice, Pune