Another day, another private kitchen… But what really made our ears prick up about the recently launched Dining At Home is that it specialises in authentic Indian food – something of a rarity here in Hong Kong, unless you’re happy to hit up Chungking Mansions for a less-than-glamorous night out!
Created by Puja Rajwani, whose passion for food was sparked by her mum’s traditional recipes (and the fact her friends kept on placing orders for her curries!), the venue’s concept is simple: a space to share Indian home cooking with friends in a relaxed and informal environment. The current space in Sai Ying Pun is cosy and comfortable, with a maximum of six seats available right now, although Puja plans to expand to a larger venue later this year.
Food-wise, Puja aims to combine familiar dishes from her childhood with new and innovative flavours, with Sindhi (North Indian) food being a particular specialty. And if a bad experience with a fiery vindaloo has rather put you off Indian cuisine, Puja is keen to stress that her food is all about flavour, rather than heat, meaning that there’s something for everyone here regardless of your spice tolerance!
Our evening kicked off with a very welcome glass of bubbly in the lounge area, along with some traditional nibbles to whet our appetites for the feast to follow. Moving to the table, we were served some delectably crisp, cumin-infused potato and pea samosas. In Hong Kong, these can often be doughy and heavy but these were light, crunchy and all too addictive! However, the real standout was the accompanying sauce, Puja’s “ultimate” mint, coriander and tamarind chutney. A perfect blend of exciting flavours, this totally lived up to its bold claim and was rapidly devoured by the whole gang, with orders immediately placed for take-away jars – it was that good!
Next up was a traditional vegetarian Sindhi curry – Sindhi Besan Ka – accompanied by fluffy basmati rice. Again, this was a huge hit, with almost everyone devouring seconds (or thirds!) of this slightly sour dish.
The main course, served family-style, was a selection of popular North Indian faves. The 24-hour marinated chicken curry was as tender as you’d expect – literally falling off the bone – despite being cooked without a single drop of oil, whilst the mildly spiced sauce was a perfect dip for the accompanying freshly baked rotis.
The chole (chickpea) masala was also cooked to perfection, with the chickpeas remaining pleasingly firm, and the soya curry with bay leaf, cardamom and coriander was fragrant, pairing neatly with the accompanying yellow rice.
Despite being full to bursting, we gamely continued onto dessert with interest. Indian desserts are typically known to be very sweet, so Puja has tailored her recipes to suit a wider range of palates – with delicious results.
The homemade kulfi (Indian ice-cream) is created by churning coconut and almond milk, then adding saffron and pistachio nuts to create a mild, heat-zapping dessert that both of us loved – although some around the table found this a little too grainy in texture. However, we unanimously agreed that the carrot halva (made by cooking shredded carrots over a low heat in sugar, saffron, cardamom and almond milk) was incredibly moreish and not a scrap of the stuff remained at our meal’s end!
Need further proof that Dining At Home is the real deal? Well Sassy’s resident Sindhi, Simran, confirmed that Puja’s dishes were all totally authentic and every bit as good as her own family recipes!
For this veritable Indian feast, the current charge is an amazingly good value at $390 per head (including one welcome drink, water and tea or coffee; you can BYOB here too). These days, many Hong Kong private kitchens are nearly as fancy as Michelin-starred joints, so it’s great to find one that stands true to the ethos of wonderful home cooking served in a relaxed, cosy environment – best enjoyed with a group of your besties, a few bottles of vino and a good old catch-up session. We could taste the obvious love and passion Puja has for cooking in each and every bite!
So whether you’re looking for a fantastic private kitchen for a night out with friends, or are just really craving an authentic curry, Dining at Home should definitely be in your little black book. Just don’t forget to order that chutney well in advance!
For more information or to book a table at Dining At Home, email [email protected] or call 9700 4474
Special thanks to Kate F and Rach!