Bay Leaf wants customers to know that they offer something different to every other curry house in town. Their peg? The food is neither too greasy nor too spicy. This is a risky tactic. Curry lovers can cling to a well-heated saag floating in oil. On the other hand, perhaps this is the best way to lure in curryphobes, who often cite grease and spice as their major turn-offs. Personally, I adore Indian food. For me, spice itself isn’t enough; the draw is the little dance the ingredients do together. A good curry (or kebab, for that matter) is like fine choreography practised on the tongue. Flavours whip about so quickly you can’t always place them. That the technique alludes only confirms that you are in the presence of greatness.
OK, that may be a little grand, but the point is, I care about flavour, I don’t care about heat. And Bay Leaf had an opportunity to focus on just that. The menu read enticingly. Lamb flavoured with chilli and whole coconut flakes sounded like an intoxicating mixture. My date was drawn in by the coconut milk-based coastal prawn curry. When we dived into these dishes, however, they were distinctly and rather disappointingly single note.
I couldn’t detect an ounce of coconut in either dish. The lamb was inundated with pickling spice (it tasted brined and salty), while the prawns simply tasted indistinct – mildly tangy but otherwise characterless. While this didn’t appeal to me, my date – who traditionally doesn’t like Indian food – felt differently. The curries may not have been typical, and may not have demonstrated any real complexity, but as far as my companion was concerned, this was actually all to the meal’s benefit.
She was less enamoured with our starters. We opted to split the chef’s platter – a sort of ‘best of’ from the starter menu. The item that most irked her was the murg nisha: deep fried chicken fillets coated in sesame-seasoned gram flour. Her complaint was that the dish was too oily, and not in keeping with the restaurant’s philosophy. I personally wasn’t bothered by this so much as by the burnt sesame seeds that dotted each strip of meat.
Bay Leaf, it seems, has succeeded in its aim of appealing to the diner who doesn’t like Indian food, but perhaps wants to. The restaurant could be training wheels for the vindaloo novice. Unfortunately, that leaves those of us already doing wheelies around the tandoor out in the cold.
The bill (for two)
1x Large water Dhs6
1x Chef’s platter Dhs36
1x Lamb coconut chilli fry Dhs36
1x Coastal prawn curry Dhs36
1x Naan Dhs8
1x Gulab jamun Dhs14