Cardamon Street (CLOSED)
Time Out says
This Indian restaurant aims for something a little fancier than your average takeaway curries and samosas
In these parts, rarely does a restaurant fly under the radar. Most are backed by one of a handful of noteworthy food and beverage groups or repped by marketing agencies that flood inboxes to make sure no opening goes unreported. That’s what makes Cardamon Street such a breath of fresh air. The Indian restaurant on Elgin Street arrived with hardly a whisper. No press releases, no marketing campaigns, no news at all. One day it simply opened, and that was that.
Cardamon Street doesn’t necessarily stand alone, though. It’s the second restaurant from banker-turned-restaurateur Tina Sekharan. The other, Masala Train in Wan Chai, is a hidden gem, serving homestyle Indian food for takeout prepared without artificial colours or flavourings. Sekharan has carried over that focus on all-natural ingredients to Cardamon Street, her first proper sit-down restaurant. While it might be more upscale than Masala Train, you can still leave your Oxford shoes at home. There’s a bare-bones bar in the back of the room and out in front a dog-friendly porch that faces Fini’s across the street. On the walls hang posters of colourful mandalas and elephants and other Indian iconography. Sure, the artwork swims in South Asian clichés, but it keeps the atmosphere casual, pleasant and unpretentious all the same.
With the food, Cardamon Street aims for something a little fancier than your average takeaway curries and samosas. In a follow-up e-mail, Sekharan says she was inspired by her Indian heritage as well as her global experience. You could infer as much just by looking at the menu: there’s an Indian mezze platter, a plate of Amritsari fish tacos, a selection of sliders running the gamut from chicken tikka to dal wada (lentil ‘falafels’ from India’s Gujarat state). Sound odd? It sort of is at first blush. Attempts at fusion often come off as ham-fisted. Fortunately, Cardamon Street largely gets it right.
The mezze platter ($138) is precisely what you think it is – a few dips served with paratha and sliced vegetables – but the chickpea, eggplant and tomato dips all have some zing that you wouldn’t expect in your standard baba ghanoush. It makes for a better bar snack than starter, but with the 4pm-8pm happy hour bringing spirits down to $48, wine to $50 and draft beer to $52, you could do worse than drunk-eating a plate of fresh veggies and dips.
More substantial sharing plates come in the form of sliders and tacos. Bear with us here. For $118, you get three Indian sliders that you can mix and match to your heart’s delight. Of the four options, the chicken tikka and lamb kebab are a revelation. They’re fresh, vibrant and fun, the kind of mutant mash-up food you wish you had thought to make with your leftovers. The tacos ($128), meanwhile, swap soft tortilla shells for paratha, and it actually works. You get your pick of three again, and you’ll want at least one of the Amritsari fish tacos – they put the fish tacos at several Mexican restaurants in Hong Kong to shame.
If you just can’t wrap your head around Indian-Western fusion food, then direct your attention to the curries. The selection is what you’d expect – lamb rogan josh, Bengali fish curry, butter chicken, paneer masala or, the house special, roasted chicken ($178-198), all served with dal, raita, paratha and jeera rice – but credit to the cooking team: the curries are tremendous, spice-inflected and rich but without any excess oil.
No, Cardamon Street doesn’t reinvent the wheel, even if it takes a different view of global cuisines, but it does deliver great flavour at affordable prices. Whatever you order here, odds are you won’t leave disappointed.