Monday, March 16, 2009

Vacation: Kuti's Noorani

Kuti's Noorani
465 The Square
Fair Oak, Eastleigh
Telephone: 023 8060 1901

Serving authentic Indian cuisine in the Bangladeshi style, Kuti's is a highly regarded, award winning small restaurant chain with locations in Southampton, Portswood, Wickham and Fair Oak. That the restaurant would open in the latter location is surprising, because Fair Oak is a small community, albeit with an attractive village centre. It is here that Kuti's has opened its stunning, cosmopolitan eatery.

Posh exterior

All decked out in the evening

Even first-time diners are greeted as old friends here, and as we sat on the sofa by the swish, LED-lit bar waiting for our friends to join us, we found an array of newspapers, magazines and complimentary bowls of Bombay Mix on the low tables to enjoy while we waited. I also noted that Kuti's logo - a woman holding a lotus flower - was woven into the lavender wool carpeting throughout the restaurant.

Elegant dining awaits

Service is impeccable and fastidious; on our first visit I was surprised when the waiter unfolded our linen napkins and covered our laps, however this didn't happen on a second visit, which coincided with a casual buffet night. It is difficult to forget that you are dining at Kuti's because there are constant reminders everywhere you look: spice shakers, plates, tablecloths, after-dinner chocolates, and of course the aformentioned carpet all sport the Kuti's name and logo.

The Kuti's logo is everywhere, even on the plates

The menu lists 11 vegetarian entrees and 14 sides, and these numbers don't take into account breads, rice dishes or desserts. Even more impressive is that Kuti's correctly categorizes their sides, which are often considered entrees in the states. Items like aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower) and palak chana (chick peas and spinach) are put in their rightful place.

There are some savory-sounding vegetarian entrees on the menu: Dum Aloo Kashmiri is small potatoes scooped out and stuffed with potato, herbs and spices and cooked in a cashew nut paste; Vegetable Dansak is lentils and vegetables in a sweet-sour hot sauce; and Karai Sabzi is listed as fresh vegetables, highly spices and cooked in the karai (similar to a wok) with fresh ginger, garlic, tomatoes, onion and capsicum.

A selection of starters. After this photo, I was so busy enjoying myself that I forgot to take photos!

The experience at Kuti's is top-notch, and even at £15 per person their buffet is far superior to any Indian buffet I've encountered in the states. The spread included six starters, three of which were vegetarian, and approximately half of the 12 entrees were vegetarian-friendly. I could have eaten nothing but the rice at Kuti's and been happy; delicately spiced with cardamom, it was so much tastier than the bog-standard basmati rice with green peas that one normally finds at Indian buffets. There were also an interesting and delicious array of desserts, including a gorgeous semolina pudding that I am going to try recreate at home.

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