Chandani Indian & Vegetarian Restaurant

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Reviewed by Jeanne Calitz

This Indian restaurant, run by Jagdish Vanzara (originally from India) and Dina de Bruyn, has become an institution in Woodstock, and well known for serving authentic and flavourful Indian cuisine.

The menu offers a vast variety of Indian fare; decisions, decisions, it can take quite a while to make up your mind. Vegetarians would be very happy here, with whole pages of vegetarian starters and mains, including homemade paneer in various guises, marinated mushrooms and cauliflower, both tandoor grilled, and a variety of dhal dishes.

As for the meaty fare, chicken and lamb are well represented, and there are also quite a few spicy seafood offerings. On the non-vegetarian starter menu, standouts include the murg hyderabadi, consisting of chicken cubes marinated in yogurt, mint and coriander: while the marinade lends such a green hue to the dish that it looks like something from another planet, it’s very tasty and bursting with spicy flavour. Also not to be sneezed at are the grilled prawns in their tangy yogurt, garlic and ginger marinade – but be warned this dish delivers more heat than the menu may suggest.

As for the mains, our choices of murg makkhani (tandoor chicken in a rich tomato and butter curry), murg tikka masala (tandoor chicken grilled in a tangy tomato curry), rogan josh (mutton curry cooked in the North Indian style) and kadai gosht (spicy lamb curry) are consumed with relish – no problems here. The food is well prepared and presented and the portions generous. Accompaniments like rice, rotis and sambal are ordered extra, however, which brings us to the only complaint regarding the food – prices are on the steep side and the bill tends to add up quickly. Nonetheless, we will be back again to sample some more of these fragrant, hearty dishes.

A smallish but perfectly serviceable wine list featuring farms like Springfield and Simonsig. The latter’s Gewürztraminer would go down a treat with the spicy food, and the same goes for the Groote Post Rhine Riesling. There are also quite a few house wines available by the glass, and then the usual offering of soft drinks, a few beers and spirits.

Service could, in all honesty, be much better and warmer, as could the greeting you receive as you arrive and leave. There seems to be only one waiter in attendance and while she is friendly and capable, it means that there are periods of time where no staff members are visible at all.

The look of the place is quite dramatic, with a pistachio green and aubergine colour scheme, offset by elaborately carved room dividers in dark wood, clearly brought in from the East. Subtle music in the background and small candles on the tables add a soft touch; while the fairy lights adorning this Victorian house does much to lure visitors inside.

As you would expect of an Indian restaurant, the food can get quite spicy. To sooth the burn, ask for a mango lassi or that rosewater flavoured treat, the Bombay crush. And if things get really bad, ask for the big guns – this is the kind of place where you can order a simple glass of full cream milk …

(July 2014)

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