Yes, you read the title correctly. I had the words "Indian" and "beef" in the same sentence. And yes, I did have that for lunch today.
About a year ago, the Rubberman created a fuss in Hong Kong when it awarded a macaron to a place called Hin Ho Curry Restaurant (恆河咖喱屋). Many of us have never been to this place - I had never even heard of it - and there it was, with a coveted Michelin star. No doubt it was part of the publication's effort to go downmarket and try to award some more "cheapest Michelin star on the planet"... I, along with many others, uttered the usual "WTF" at the news.
One year on, and the restaurant received a star for a second year. Thanks to the publicity and the additional business, the owner had made enough money to open a second branch. And my friends and I collectively uttered another round of "WTF".
But, as we have been discussing for the last few months, one isn't entitled to criticize the food at a restaurant without trying it first. As I was in town this weekend, I hollered on Facebook and rounded up a few friends so that we can all try it for the first time. As people were replying to my call to have some "Indian beef brisket curry", one of my Indian ex-bosses from London chimed in with the comment that "Indians don't eat beef"...
Well of course they don't! Any idiot who has ever been to India would have seen the way cows are allowed to roam the city streets, and cars have to dodge and make way for them. When was the last time you saw beef on the menu at a real Indian restaurant?
To be fair, I'm not sure if the restaurant ever advertised itself as an "Indian" restaurant, although with the range of food they serve and the name 恆河 - the Chinese name for the Ganges River - one would be forgiven to see it as such. The experts from Michelin have this to say in their 2012 Guide:
"Seeing the tandoor in the front window tells you that you're in for an authentic experience. The chefs are from Nepal ad trained in Delhi so the cuisine has a north Indian bias; Gosht Rajala, lamb with nuts and spices, and Jeera Pullao, delicious buttery rice, are popular choices. If you can't decide then the Nawabi Bhojan or "Royal Fare" menu offers a great selection of classic dishes. The simple decor comes with a hint of Bollywood."
I guess the Rubberman convenient ignored the plethora of beef dishes on the menu when passing judgement on the authenticity of the cuisine.
But the most important thing for us, of course, is whether the food tastes good. So we ordered a bunch of dishes for an early lunch - we got seated by 11am, when the place opened - and here's what we had:
Verdict? We all thought the food was pretty decent and tasty, and this was a good neighborhood joint. Was it the best Indian meal I can have in town? I'm pretty sure I can do better, and given the out-of-the-way location it is unlikely that I would go back. Was it star-worthy? Not in my mind. Would other one-star chefs and owners in town be proud to tell customers that they are ranked at the same level as this place? Not on your life...