Owned by chef Cyrus Todiwala, one half of the Incredible Spice Men and chef patron of Café Spice Namaste, Assado serves pan-Indian cuisine; Portuguese dishes with a Goan influence. Colonised by Vasco da Gama in the 15th century, Goa has adapted Portuguese dishes over the centuries and, inspired by his Parsee culinary heritage and experience of working as a chef in Goa, Todiwala brings signature dishes fusing these different influences to Assado.
Walking into the bright, airy restaurant, the signature turquoise colour scheme brings to mind a sun-drenched land of beautiful beaches, brightly coloured nature and fresh, fragrant food – instantly, we were a million miles away from the rain-soaked London streets. Colourful ceramics adorn the walls and the open kitchen; we sat at a cosy booth table and tucked into the papadum and chutney dips our friendly server brought us while we perused the menu.
Everything looked appealing, so we chose the chef’s platter of five different starters to get a taste of a few dishes. This included lamb samosas with date and tamarind dip; beef croquettes à la bardez with Assado’s garlic mayo; prawn rissoles in filo pastry with goat’s cheese mayo; chickpea xacutti in pao – a fragrant chickpea curry served on a brioche – and chicken tikka. All were fantastic.
Then came the choice of mains: I considered the lamb xacutti, described as the “most complicated of Goan curries due to its 21 ingredients” and the belly of pork (with a heat warning of two chillies on the menu), spiced Goan Portuguese style and served with chilli garlic rice; and Assado’s take on British classics like fish and chips and beefburger with green chilli, garlic and coriander.
But my friend and I opted for fish dishes: she chose Goan prawn curry, in a coconut milk base with dried red chilli, curry leaves and butternut berry; and I went for the fish recheado; sea bass with Goan red masala flavoured with tamarind and crushed shrimps. My friend’s curry came with a fresh, crisp salad and perfectly cooked al dente rice, and the spiced roast potatoes that accompanied my sea bass were perfect – crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle.
Both fish dishes were fantastic; the sea bass had a delicately spiced flavour and the prawn curry had big succulent prawns swimming in a creamy curry sauce – both had just the right amount of spicy kick that was enough to create a pleasant warming sensation but not so much that you end up crying into your dinner.
Then, somehow, we made space for dessert. The Portuguese influenced Goa’s rich tradition of baking with cakes and breads influenced by western European methods and we chose the classic Portuguese custard tarts (pasteis de nata) which needed 10 minutes’ cooking time and arrived at the table steaming and fragrant; and bebinca, a traditional layered Goan-style pancake that is often a star of the Goan Christmas meal, in a coconut milk batter with nutmeg and served with cardamom-coconut ice cream.
Eating and enjoying good-quality, well-cooked, delicious food with people you care about is one of life’s pleasures and, if you choose to do this at Assado, you won’t be disappointed. And, talking of treating the person you love, how about a Valentine’s Day dinner with the special three-course Valentine’s menu for just £30? It includes sirloin steak served with a bhuna jus, peri peri chicken with saffron rice and a “chocolate fantasty for two”. Time to spice up your love life!
This article first appeared on Foodepedia