It is so coincidental. This year, three Vancouver area food blogger vacationed in Barcelona, Spain.
Mel of GourmetFury.com went to France and Spain and dined at the Alkimia in Barcelona. Coincidentally, when Suanne and I went on a gastronomic tour of Spain this summer we also dined at the Alkimia (see post here).
ET and Christina Doesn’t Tazte Like Chicken also visited Barcelona as part of their round the world trip (!) this year. If you are a foodies, you should check their website where they had dined in some of the best restaurants in legendary culinary cities in the world.
We arranged to meet up. I suggested to meet up at the new Cafe Barcelona. While it would have been fun to eat at Vancouver’s Cafe Barcelona and compare their tapas with what we had in Spain, I kiboshed the idea after some research of that place because the venue would not have been good for long conversations.
We ended up at Akbar’s Own.
Akbar’s Own is recommended by none other than the owner of Salam Bombay. So we thought it would be a great place to meet over a slow dinner.
Akbar’s Own is a Khasmiri/Muglai North Indian restaurant located on West Broadway at the intersection of Cypress. This stretch of West Broadway is rather quiet as far as restaurants are concerned, very unlike West 4th, just 1 block north. But Akbar’s Own had been operating in this location for over 12 years now.
The ambiance in Akbar’s Own is pleasant and conducive for a nice dinner. It is also dark and extremely hard to take pictures but at least I managed to correct most of them.
Service wise, they were attentive and came by with right timings. A good service is when you cannot remember all the times that they are at your table but yet you know that you had nothing lacking. The glasses were filled unaware to us.
For drinks, we ordered the Kingfisher Premium Lager. This is the most recognized beer and is very common in India. It has a light sweetish taste. It also looked very carbonated like some fizzy drink if you ask me. At just 4% alcohol content, this is served cold and refreshing … just sounded right with spicy curries.
We got a couple of finger food to get the taste bud going. The Finger Paneer ($6.50) is house made cream cheese marinated with yogurt, ginger, garlic, spices and deep fried. Paneer is Indian cheese which doesn’t melt like the western ones.
Despite all the ingredients, it has a mild taste. It is the sauce that gives a little tanginess to it.
The other appetizer is the Chili Pakora ($5). It has jalapeno pepper and onions marinated in a tangy batter and deep fried. This has a little spiciness to it and tasted better than the paneer fingers to tell the truth.
We decided to get four mains to share and to go along with naan and rice.
The first is Lamb Bhoona ($13). For Suanne and I, we noticed that we had been gravitating towards lamb and pork as our choice of meat over chicken and beef these days. So we wanted to check this lamb dish out.
The lamb is cooked in a thick and spicy gravy with browned onions. This dish reminded us a lot of the … Malaysian Rendang. It actually tastes very similar.
The Prawn Butter Masala ($15) are prawns cooked with tomatoes in a light cream sauce. It tasted mild and the sauce is thick.
It seems like this is more Prawn Butter without the Masala (spices). The servings in Akbar’s Own is much smaller than other places. Just take a look at the proportion of the size of the spoon compared with the serving dish. Small serving right?
You know, I do think that Akbar’s Own does water down their authenticity to meet the taste buds of their customer base. Personally to me, at these day and age, restaurants should never need to do that anymore. Increasingly customers are getting more and more sophisticated and adventurous and do judge restaurants by their authenticity. That … is my two cents.
With a name like the Maharaja’s Choice Chicken ($11), you can’t go wrong can you?
It is chicken tikka cooked in a tomato sauce flavoured with cumin seeds and a touch of light cream. Or that’s what the menu said. It looked and tasted a lot like the Prawn Butter Masala with just some minute differences in ingredients. Oh well!
Talking about Chicken Tikka, I want to bring this thing up again. For long time readers you must have heard me say this like for a dozen times already! Did you know that the true national dish of Britain is Chicken Tikka Masala (as proclaimed by none other than the British Foreign Minister) and that this dish is invented in Glasgow and not India? I think some of you are skeptical but really, do your research and you will find that it is true.
Believe it or not, Indian food and curries accounts for 2/3 of eating out in England.
One other thing about Indian cuisine … Indian cuisine is dominated with its extensive use of spices. Even at this day and age, 86% of all spices in the world is produced in India. It is the use of spices that the Indian cuisine had such great influence to a lot of cuisines around the world.
The richness of the gravy just need to be eaten with rice or naan. So, we ordered rice and naan to go with the curries. Of particular interest is the Sweet Naan which has dried fruit and tasted lightly sour. Their naan is done well and so is their fluffy rice.
We got some healthy option too, Okra ($10). It is chopped lady fingers sauteed with tomatoes and onions.
All in all the food at Akbar’s Own is quite decent but it did not wow us to tell the truth. But we did have a great time. ET and Christina are such great dinner companions. We talked (a lot!) mostly about our vacations and our gastronomic discoveries. We were there early (like 6PM) and were the last to leave.
Which reminds me, I gotta to finish off my Spain series. Suanne had been hounding me to finish writing this or else I will never get down to doing it (just like my Chicago series two summers ago!). LOL!