Brougham Street, Edinburgh
This is really a composite review of my absolute favourite South East Asian Restaurant. The Mezbaan specialises in South Indian cooking and is very good indeed.
I nearly always start with a starter-sized masala dosa which is always perfect--a light, crispy rice pancake with a soft, well flavoured potato stuffing, served with a sambar and a coconut chutney. I always find this dish quite miraculous—just simple ingredients but with flavours and textures perfectly combined. The chutney is especially good and manages to be soothing and to give the dish a kick at the same time.
I particularly like the vegetable dishes here. The daal is quite complex, there’s a cream bagary baingan that really brings out the flavour of the aubergine, and my favourite—a bean and carrot thoran with whole spices that again makes you wonder how such apparently plain flavours can be so interesting. The meat dishes are excellent too though—a lamb nilgiri is perfectly tender and absolutely sings with the flavours of ginger and coconut. The green curries are very good— Haryali Shaam brings together spinach and green herbs in a rich but light sauce. A number of dishes are clearly marinated for a decent time, so that the flavours really permeate the meat (the lamb Kottayam, cooked with yoghurt and lentils is especially good). The breads are also perfect—light and fresh. I often order too much, but they will box it up for you.
The Mezbaan chefs really seem to be interested in cooking you interesting food with care and enthusiasm. The menu lists the ingredients in every dish and you can taste them all. The staff are great—friendly and helpful and the service (which has been a little erratic in the past) is now fluent. There’s a good short wine list, or kingfisher.
In short, the Mezbaan is a significant step above its competition and a really enjoyable place to eat some complex, fresh-tasting Indian food. Thinking about it makes me want to go again.