Peter Morrell and his wife find their own culinary heaven on earth at this restaurant with its the relaxing atmosphere, attentive service and excellent Pan-Asian food
My wife and I have often been to events at the Montcalm Hotel in Upper Berkeley Street and have been impressed with both the décor and the service. So we were interested to hear that the hotel has recently opened Nirvana Kitchen, a new Pan-Asian restaurant and we just had to try it.
Nirvana Kitchen has a separate entrance to the main hotel and the first impression is one of a calm and relaxing atmosphere. The dining space is decorated with muted colours, the seating a mix of chairs and banquettes upholstered in tasteful light tan leather and the subdued lighting giving the space a romantic feel.
We were soon settled in, sipping a glass of floral fresh prosecco as we took a look at the food on offer. The menu is categorised into small dishes, charcoal dishes, pots and add ons and as they all looked appealing the choice of what to order was difficult.
Good advice about the ingredients and portion sizes from our very knowledgeable waiter was a great help. We would choose four small plates to share, a charcoal and a pot main and two sides, basmati rice with lime leaf and a roti canai, a Malay paratha.
We were tempted by the thinly sliced venison tataki with yuzu soy sauce and the scallop ceviche but in the end we decided to split our choice of small dishes into two courses, we started with duck and watermelon salad. It was evident from the first mouthful that Head Chef Ani Arora understands that subtle interaction between tastes, flavours and textures that creates truly outstanding dishes.
We savoured the richness of the slow cooked duck against the sweet and sour background of watermelon, mandarin and pomegranate. An extra, crunchy dimension was provided by cashew nuts and the flavours of hoisin sauce and fresh coriander finished this most harmonious combination.
After savouring the duck we continued with a trio of seafood dishes. Our softshell crab tempura had a feather light coating, it was delicious and came with two inventive dips, truffle ponzu and sour mango which both worked well. Our crispy salted squid was equally as satisfying, the pillowy batter hid a tender interior and the cucumber, lemongrass and ginger sauce gave it an uplifting, aromatic quality. The fourth for the starters was the prawn kushiyaki. marinated in soy, chilli and sesame, the peeled crustaceans were served with shiso salsa, grilled lemon and chopped chives. This was a smoky, taste bud tingling treat and a showcase for the many elements of Asian food represented in the food.
For our mains the Korean inspired beef bulgogi from the charcoal section looked attractive as did the Chilean seabass with a tamarind glaze but we finally selected the spicy lamb chops. Wanting a contrast to the chops we reluctantly passed on the lamb massaman in the pots section in favour of the Nyonya chicken curry, Nyonya by the way is a cooking style blending Chinese and Malay flavours.
The lamb chops highlighted the quality of the ingredients, the meat was packed with flavour, complemented by an intriguing wasabi and roast garlic sauce and an edamame truffle puree. The curry was equally as good, the chicken had been stewed in a spiced coconut sauce with potato and a poached egg. The basmati rice side gave us a contrasting bland foundation while the roti canai paratha was rich and flaky ideal to mop up the pungent sauce.
The wine list has been well curated offering reds and white from reputable vineyards in both the old and new worlds. Our wine match for the evening was the Spy Valley sauvignon blanc 2015. This wine from the Marlborough region of New Zealand is produced by one of the few family owned wineries in the area. It was an ideal pairing with its delicate character not overpowering the food. If had fresh floral and citrus aromas in the bouquet which were joined by distinct peach and gooseberry tones on the palate. The finish was fruity and persistent.
Despite there being indulgent desserts to choose from we concluded by sharing three balls of ice cream and even here the chef’s fusion talent was in evidence. Humble chocolate chip was partnered with more exotic fig and honey, and strawberry and cumin, the perfect finale.
This had been a enjoyable and unique dining experience with the combination of the décor, the atmosphere, the highly imaginative food and the attentive service. I can thoroughly recommend it for either eating à deux or as a party in the stylish private dining space.