I grew up on the mean streets of Acocks Green. I cavorted in its bus stops with girls, played cricket in car parks and learnt to play snooker in the workers hub of the bus depot. I never really fitted in, not with them pink trousers and that ego, and I was keen to get away as soon as possible. Even now, I find myself toning everything down on the occasions I meet my brother for a pint in pubs that still pay homage to 50’s values and flying pint glasses. It’s a place where ambition is chased out by locals who don’t like change, which makes Punjabi Rasoi all the more interesting. In a an area where Poundstretcher is king, why would any of the locals shell out a tenner for a curry when dozens of competitors sell for half the price?
I take my Dad to Punjabi Rasoi because his level of obstinacy makes me look positively outgoing. He has been eating the same dish at the same curry house a mile down the road for the last twenty years. He needs change, though he will never admit it. We stroll ten minutes to the hotel that houses the smart restaurant, where, sat inside underneath the atrium, he recounts a meal he and my late mother had when under a previous incarnation it was a steakhouse that included a 32 piece portion of scampi and fries. I like the sound of the old place.
These days the restaurant under its current guise are quick to share the chef they have poached and the accolades they have been nominated for. It speaks of intent, all of which are echoed by the starters. I forgave the flowery presentation of the Padpi Chaat the instant I tried it. The fried shards of crispy pastry gave way to a smooth dice of potato, all bound in a tangy sauce that whacked of the sweet and sour qualities of tamarind. Even better were lamb chops that demanded to be picked up and gnawed to the bone. The marinade impaling a lengthy flavour, the meat perfect in texture and tenderness. Fast forward two hours and my Dad told three strangers just how good these were. I don’t think he has ever mentioned me to strangers three times in my lifetime.
Mains failed to maintain the high standards set. A deftly spiced Makhani Chicken leant too heavily on cream and was let down by poultry which had dried out. My father’s Rojan Josh little resembled the dish he has ordered for two decades. Here was an authentic take on the Kashmiri dish; no clumps of onions or tomatoes, just a refined sauce packed with heat from dried chillies and black peppercorns. His preference obvious as they removed a plate hardly touched by the expertly made naan bread or rice fragrant with cardamom.
Large portions left no room for dessert and we headed back to my Dads local for him to talk of lamb chops whilst beating me at pool. The bill, a shade under £50 including a couple of beers apiece, divided us. My Father felt that one dish aside, a similar feed could be had locally for half the price, whilst I believe it to be fair for the quality of food served. To my eyes Punjabi Rasoi is commendable for raising the bar in an area where it is currently set to limbo. Yet despite this, it felt no more special than The Horseshoe, Kabbabish, or Sundabon, and certainly not at the standard of a little place in Bearwood I am desperate to share with you. If you happen to be local, then go. Just remember to invite my Dad. He’ll be more than happy to discuss the merits of the menu with you.