Review: Poppadums

In a city mostly bereft of specialised restaurants, Poppadum’s entry into the scene generates excitement.

The place is small with a seating capacity of 38, laid out in an ‘L’ shape. Despite the size of the place it doesn’t feel cramped at all, a credit to the restaurant.

It’s lunch time and there are only a handful of people, eating away with gusto, most with their hands. A washbasin discreetly located at the end of the restaurant behind a partition gives the option to patrons.

The menu is a typically Indian, with a collection of Tandoori items, curries, varieties of Indian naans and rice.

To start the meal we settle for the a merger of the classic and the new: a mango flavoured lassi.

A cold mango lassi on a hot day is a delight on the senses. Unfortunately the lassi we are served had been made with sour mangoes and was a bit disappointing on the palate, but forgivable at the onset of mango season when finding sweet ripe mangos are hard to find.

The meal arrives next; plain naan, chicken biriyani, dhal fry, chicken masala and plain raita.

Biriyani, dhal and naan at Poppadums
Biriyani, daal and naan at Poppadums

The naan is neatly cut into pieces and served on a silver plate, while the rest of the dishes come in an assortment of silver dishes, all looking very appetizing.

We start off with the naan, but one bite and we have the sneaky suspicion that it had been made the previous day or week, and re-cooked a second time. It’s overly crisp on the inside and out, and resembles a poppadum. The one thing you expect from an Indian restaurant is a naan cooked to perfection, a chewy crisp texture on the outside and soft on the inside. The sudden emission of intense heat from the Tandoor oven fluffs the naan into beautiful bread; alas here the beauty was incomplete.

The biriyani is the next dish to go under our fork. The first mouthful is fiery to say the least; an extremely liberal use of chilli smothered the rest of the flavours of this famous dish. It’s a poor presentation of blended flavours, almost as if everything had been cooked separately, vegetable rice and chicken curry mulched together onto a plate.

Even the praiseworthy raita – diced tomato mixed with fresh herbs bound in natural yogurt – is not enough to cut the spice.

A mango lassi
A mango lassi

The biriyani is way below average; a slow simmering is supposed to infuse the flavours together in this dish; however we can taste nothing of the sort. Halfway through we are obliged to stop eating, gasping for air, with our taste buds on fire from an overdose of chilli.

The highlight is the dhal and chicken masala, which do justice to the flavours you expect from an Indian dish.

The correct consistency, delectable flavours and well blended herbs and spices cooked just enough to release those unique Indian flavours. Had the naan been cooked to precision, these two dishes would’ve saved the day and done justice to one of the most versatile cuisines in the world.

Indian food is a short flight away, but when one gets the craving in Male’, Poppadums is among the few places one can go to indulge that craving which gives the restaurant a responsibility to do justice to the dishes.

More people come in as we are leaving. We will go back another day, and hopefully be able to indulge in a better Indian food experience.

Poppadums Restaurant

Food 4/10
Atmosphere 6/10
Value 5/10
Service 6/10
Total 5 /10

Mango lassi 30 Rf
Chicken biriyani 50 Rf
Plain naan 12 Rf
Dhal fry 25 Rf
Chicken masala 45 Rf
Raita 35 Rf

Poppadums Restaurant is located at Ameeru Ahmed Magu. It is open from 12pm to 3pm
and from 6pm to midnight.

Naby Mariyam is a Le Cordon Bleu chef graduate, and works as a cookery trainer in Sydney, Australia.