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Tepid curries and small desserts disappoint at Bukhara Restaurant.

IN search of a hotbed of Indian cuisine, I booked a table for Saturday lunch at Bukhara Restaurant, located in the Big B shopping mall in Ridgeview. The restaurant being named after an ancient city in Uzbekistan frequented by travellers along the Silk Road, my fellow foodies and I anticipated a feast of rich curries fragrant with spices, flavoursome shashlik (grilled meat) and aromatic tandoori chicken.

Tandoori chicken at Bukhara Restaurant

To visit Bukhara in the former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan, fly from Dubai to Tashkent, and then take a high speed train to your destination. To visit Bukhara restaurant in Harare, traverse West Road until it merges with Bishop Gaul Avenue. Continue on past the Showgrounds, veer around the bend and continue in the direction of the the suburb of Ridgeview, until you see Big B Mall on the left. Take time to explore a fabric shop, hairdresser, butchery and Choppies Supermarket at Big B, before ascending the staircase to Bukhara Restaurant.

Although it was Saturday, and a favourite day for eating out, the restaurant was poorly patronised, and I needn’t have bothered to book. We sat on the verandah, and were each given an iPad to scan the menu. No alcohol is served, so we ordered a selection of sodas and mineral waters.While the restaurant decor was uninspiring, the view of multi family Ridgeview homes across the road, with well-tended lawns, flourishing palm trees and multiple solar panels, held our interest.

Mutton karahi, a dish originating in the Punjab, and a favourite at Eid celebrations, is packed with flavourful spices such as dhania, jiru, elachi, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, chillis, and garlic and ginger. The Bukhara version resembled a tasteless, gloopy stew. Moreover, it was luke warm and needed to be sent back to the kitchen to be re-heated. A rumali roti on the side, however, was light and well-cooked.

One of my companions said that while the beef curry had a good flavour, there was an excess of potato and not much in the way of beef. Another companion, also with a discerning palate, said that his goat bones handi was tough and sinewy, and ‘no better than something one gets from the street corner in Graniteside.’ Moreover, there was no flavour of spice or chilli heat. My third guest, however, struck it lucky with her order of a delicious-looking platter of tandoori chicken, which everyone eyed enviously. Generously, she consented to share it with all of us. George, who occasionally favours mild over ‘knock your socks off’ curries, was happy with a rather bland bowl of paneer butter masala (cubed Indian cheese in a curry sauce).

Bukhara Restaurant in Ridgeview

When a meal disappoints, I usually order a dessert to see if anything can be salvaged and something favourable said about the experience. So we ordered a carrot halwa (grated carrot simmered in full fat milk and ghee, flavoured with sugar and cardamom powder and garnished with nuts) and a serving of gulab jamun (deep fried dumplings dipped in a rose water and cardamom syrup), and five teaspoons. We planned to share the two desserts, but the miniature dishes that arrived might have satisfied only a six inch tall Lilliputian encountered by Gulliver on his travels. Together the two desserts couldn’t provide a sugar rush for even one of us.

We called time on lunch, and filed out of the deserted dining area, cheerful staff smiling and thanking us for our custom as we left. The hotbed of Indian cuisine having failed to materialise, I’m unlikely to visit Bukhara Restaurant again.  A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff

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