Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Every so often I visit a restaurant that totally blows my mind. Lasan in Birmingham is such a restaurant.
Having been obsessed with The Great British Menu last year during the Olympics in London it has been my goal to visit the restaurants of certain chefs from that show, which I particularly like. Daniel Clifford's restaurant is next week and Lasan was my most recent. Aktar Islam is a very talented young chef. Perhaps a little too talented. What I mean by this is that his cooking is perhaps a little confusing and stylized for some people and perhaps doesn't fit into any category. Lasan is like a brilliant high end French bistro, but with Indian flavors. So those looking for classical Indian dishes will be disappointed. You won't find a Chicken Madras or Vindaloo anywhere on this menu. And dishes are not served up in piles of saucy, lumpiness like every other Indian restaurant I've ever been to. It is delicately and meticulously placed on the plate.
When I booked Lasan I expected to see classic Indian dishes, but done much better than my local takeaway, if that's possible; I go to a very good one. What I got was so much better. To be fair, Aktar has a big advantage over most chefs and restaurants serving other types of fare. Indian spices, are in my opinion the best tastes on Earth. Garam Masala, Star Anise, Turmeric, Cardamon and Cloves are not only some of the most flavorful items on this planet, but also some of the healthiest. Indian is just damn fine food. And Lasan eeks out every flavor from every grain of every spice. Nothing is overlooked.
A couple of my favorites were: Konkan Kekada; Soft Shell Crab Dipped in a Crispy Ashwain and Kashmiri Chili Batter with Devonshire Crab, Green Pea and Potato Cake accompanied by Cucumber Raitha and Sour Raw Mango Chutney. This dish was inspired by the winning fish course on The Great British Menu. And it lives up to the hype! It is everything a beautiful plate of food should be. The Lamb Lababdar was equally sensational. A beautiful Wiltshire Downs Free Range Lamb Marinated Cutlet, 10 hour Confit Shoulder, Braised Shin Pattie and Tempered Lentils with Smoked Braising Juis Spiced with Nutmeg and Cinnamon. A winning dish on the semifinals of Gordon Ramsay's The F Word. Every bite I took of both of these dishes and in fact all of the dishes at Lasan was a sensory exploration in every way. The Indian I've had up until now has been basically one pot wonders with Indian spices. What Aktar has done is make Indian elegant and refined. I adored it.
If a trip to Birmingham is on the books and you like Indian as much as I do, please do yourself a favor and visit Lasan. Pricey? Yes! Worth it? Definitely! However, I can see why some might not like it. As I stated in the beginning, it is a very confusing restaurant and might be a little ahead of it's time. Still, it needs to be experienced at least once. You can make your own mind up.
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