They do a dish at the Blue Piano against which all other dishes should be judged. It’s a carrot cake in type, though in reality a steamed radish cake; an even less palatable name for the everyday unadventurous natives of our fine country. You can see why they stuck with carrot. The cubes of steamed radish and rice flour are pale throughout, spare the edges, which have been lightly browned in a pan with scrambled egg that coats and adds an unctuous layer. They are spongy in texture, with only a little bite from a fine julienne of spring onion and chilli that adds a warming heat. It could easily be the best breakfast you have ever had, though here it is a starter, beguiling and delicious in equal parts. It must make the top ten, no, top five dishes in Birmingham.
That’s the opening paragraph of my review of Blue Piano from 2016. Yes, I really have just plagiarised my own writing, which is a nice change from others doing it, but I do it for good reason. Five years on Blue Piano is still going strong; now with new owners, a refurb, nice new terrace, and a tweaked menu. The Singapore carrot cake is still there, better than it ever has been. Fatty and spiced. Comforting and brilliant. It’s still in the top ten, possibly five dishes in the city. Five years on and Birmingham has a LOT of excellent cooking.
The South Asian menu allows lots of scope which on my last visit was inconsistent. This is now streamlined, and never stretches itself too thinly. As well as the carrot cake there are plump skewers of chicken satay doused in coconut milk and turmeric and then grilled until the edges catch like burnt matches, and spears of asparagus wrapped in fatty pork belly that hum ￼quietly with lemongrass. Both are simple in delivery and reliant on the use of fire to bring them to life. Both are very, very good.
From the specials are two crisp fillets of sea bass hiding under a tangle of glass noodles and aubergine. Technically on point, it’s the delicately heady broth at the bottom of the bowl that pulls it together. The other main is rendang, a slowly braised dish that will never be pretty despite any amount of cosmetics. It delivers where it needs to; the beef is braised until it starts to break down and thickens the sauce. There is almost no heat, with layered spice of cinnamon, clove, and anise. It’s controlled and nuanced; one of the better rendangs I’ve eaten. The leftovers make a great lunch the following day.
No room for dessert means that the bill is £22 for two courses, as opposed to £28 for three, which leaves my friend to pick up a bill of not much with a couple of drinks on top. This is the best meal I’ve eaten at Blue Piano, which is clearly thriving under the new ownership. Our meal never dropped below very good and mostly sat at excellent, meaning I have no problem upping the score from the last visit. Go for the carrot cake, stay for the rest. Blue Piano is doing everything right at the moment.