The theme for this week may become evident to the more discerning reader, or shall I give an obvious clue to those whose powers of interpretation were limited some ten days ago… a new place is about to open in North St, next door to the Bon Accord.
Behind the Mitchell Library
The closest source of Curry-Heute to the Bon Accord is PJ’s (15 – 17 Kent Road, Charing Cross, Glasgow, G3 7EH), or is that the Madras Palace or Panjea, or was that PJ’s Karaoke? There appears to be an identity crisis. (I have always wanted to write that!)
For reasons that may become clearer as this week of Curry extravagance develops, Hector chose not to watch the second half of Liverpool v Man City, food was required. The plethora of outlets on Sauchiehall St was a possibility. The number of days since the last visit to the nearby Café Salma is mounting, but no, in the light of a very enjoyable return to the Alishan Tandoori on Friday a return to ‘Panjea’ as Hector prefers to call it became the venue of choice.
There was nobody there
The ground floor at PJ’s is massive, perhaps only the old Crème de la Crème had anything to match this. The site of a former garage, somehow there is also an upstairs. Hector rated this place very highly prior to 2004. Since my last Blog entry I am beginning to consider a new epoch datum: BCATV. (A special mention to the first person who assures me this is linguistically correct and can fathom the abbreviation.)
Over the years the Friends of Hector have eaten here, the staff also used to bring surplus Pakora to the Bon Accord, I have never had a bad Curry here, but I did have a bland one once.
It was a year or so back, Yvonne was invited to a 21st. The upstairs was the venue and it was rattling. The Chaps were invited to leave the Bon Accord and help eat the now promised free Buffet that had been laid on for the Birthday Girl. Now never let it be said that Hector looks a gift horse in the mouth. Hector examines the gums, demands to know the pedigree and wants to know the ante post betting. (OK, The Grand National was two days ago.) Buffets are usually bland; the Chef has to cater for those who are generally indifferent towards Curry. I was first in the queue, enjoyed the eating but had issues about the cost of Soda Water from a gun. So, shoot me.
My visits to Panjea date back to the late 1990’s. The menu had something to offer that was new. South Indian Garlic Chilli was first encountered here. The Curry at this venue has always had ‘taste’, but now I am a slave to the nearby Café Salma which has that something even more special. So it goes.
The waiter approached instantly, he had nothing else to do as I was the only customer. There was a page in the menu with the interesting dishes all in small print. I pointed to one item then described what I was looking for: the Desie was agreed upon as suggested by Mein Host. A Vegetable Rice was ordered.
The conversation became extensive with the waiter. The website was mentioned to justify the number of photographs taken on the arrival of the meal. Inevitably he came back for a verdict, I gave the thumbs up.
The Curry-Heute : Lamb Desie-Tawa
The ample dish was placed before me: This is a Desie-Tawa – I was informed. The Masala looked thick and was minimal, the waiter had efficiently communicated my desires to the Chef. A good start. The Rice had fresh Mushrooms and provided an excellent base on which to place the Lamb.
PJ’s has lost nothing, this was excellent. The salt content was just right and therefore the flavours flooded out. The magical tastes of the venue which have most visits in this Blog may not have been apparent, but once again this was much more than the bog standard Curry served up in far too many outlets. This was good, very good. Every morsel, grain of Rice was consumed. Total satisfaction.
PJ, The Chef, the owner, ‘The Man’ appeared; he was here for a chat. We must have spoken for a good half hour about the state of Curry in Glasgow. He is concerned about the fact that his large premises are so quiet and was considering making partitions. Hector says the large open plan eating area is superb as it. The venue is excellent for large groups, but then so is upstairs. The ever changing name of the premises is not helping as is the apparent association with Karaoke – come on, if you are serious about Curry where does singing come into it? It is the fairer sex who tends to drive Karaoke nights; are there crowds of women meeting up every week for Curry?
We discussed at length the merits and demerits of Buffets; the ever-present Masala pot which is the basis for all Curries served in busy restaurants and the places we know where the Masala is prepared off the premises.
PJ was interested in my own cooking education. I related the classes I did at Anniesland College, he feels he could do something similar upstairs, but would then require many more hobs. PJ’s roots go back to the old Noor Mahal on Kilmarnock Rd in the late 1970’s where as a boy, he washed the dishes. This was the exact period of time when Hector lived on the South Side and frequented the Noor Mahal on almost a weekly for a Meat and Mushroom Bhuna Vindaloo. This was also where I had my first ever Lychee.
I recalled how an Asian grocer in Lenzie offered my dear Mother fresh Coriander way back in the early 1970’s; this was I am told, the beginning of fresh ingredients becoming available to Chefs, the Green Chilli followed and then the dreaded Capsicum became commonplace. Not everything is progress.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the meal put before me this evening I pointed out to PJ that it had a decidedly high Salt content and that my cohort have come to realise that it is these Curries which are usually much more flavoursome. Karrha – is the term PJ introduced me to; this means enough Salt so that the other flavours come through.
Is ‘Salt’ therefore the catalyst that reveals ‘Ingredient X’?