It’s not easy for a new Indian restaurant to make a name for itself in Birmingham, but renowned chef Mandeep Bajwa is managing to do just that with ‘Umami’ in Harborne. The name in question means ‘fifth taste’, and there is no denying that there is something special about the dishes served at this little curry house in the suburbs. Having already heard great things, I was invited down to make my own mind up, so if you’re wondering what could possibly set an Indian restaurant apart from the multitude in Brum, read on to find out!
Located just off Harborne High Street, Umami Indian Kitchen is a narrow restaurant with atmospheric lighting and elegant table settings. Though more classy than your average curry house, elements of the decor such as the wall art slightly cheapen the look and spoil the otherwise minimalist style. The service was impeccable throughout the evening, with warm but unobtrusive staff who talked us through the food and made us feel very well looked after.
The cocktail menu was extensive and helpfully divided by the main components, even if a few names did catch our eye such as the ‘porn martini’ and ‘chewing gum’ shooter (chewing gum and bubble gum evoke very different connotations!) – in the end we played it safe, with Jack ordering a ginger mojito and myself an amaretto sour. The mojito was as fresh and zingy as you could hope a mojito to be, and the subtle aftertaste of ginger was not overpowering. My amaretto sour was more sweet than sour, but went down a treat all the same.
As well as the a la carte menu, Umami offers a choice of 3 set menus, ranging in price between £14.95 and £29.95. We opted for 3 courses of the ‘Monarch’ Vegetarian menu, which would cost £19.95 – a very reasonable price as we were about to find out! Despite knowing that Umami had received some great reviews, when the starter arrived I don’t think we were quite expecting the standard of food that was put before us. Everything on the sharing plate was absolutely beautiful. The presentation was vibrant and sophisticated, and every mouthful was a treat. The vegetable samosas and potato patties were served with chickpeas, chutney and pomegranate seeds, and along with the three homemade dipping sauces every combination possible worked perfectly. The chilli paneer was like no other paneer we had tried (and now no other will compare!), as it was crispy and had a real kick.
The main course was a selection of vegetarian curries, served with homemade raitha, pilau rice, naan bread and a side salad. The spread was plenty for two people, and the staff are happy to re-fill your dishes. The selection was a combination of veggie favourites, including a delicious saag paneer (even better than Lasans!), and some less common dishes such as the dal makhani. I was unsure at first about the soya chicken makhani as I usually think meat substitutes at restaurants are a cop-out, but the creamy sauce was such a rich, yet well balanced accompaniment that I was well and truly won over. Each dish really was a cut above your average curry, and we only wished we had room for more.
The servers then gave us just enough amount of time for our main course to go down, then our chosen desserts were brought out. We don’t usually order dessert at Indian restaurants as they are commonly bought in or simply not up to much, so we were nicely surprised when our homemade treats were put before us. Jack opted for trio of khulfi, in pistachio, coconut and mango flavours. The delicate pistachio flavour stole the show and the brandy-snap basket added the perfect crunch. For my final course I chose the traditional Indian sweets Gulab Jamun, which were two chewy treats in syrup served with vanilla ice-cream. This was the perfect end to a meal that really blew us away.
Overall Umami Indian Kitchen couldn’t have impressed us more. The food can rival any other top Indian restaurants in Birmingham, yet the price makes it an affordable option for a a normal date-night or family meal out. The surroundings of the decor didn’t match up to the standard of the menu, but this no longer matters as soon as you take your first bite. Amongst the vast selection of curry houses in Birmingham, I couldn’t recommend Umami more for quality, service and value for money. Thanks to Umami for having us, we will definitely be back!
*Our meal was complimentary for review purposes. This does not affect my honest opinion.