Shanghai is now, without question, a great place to eat Indian food. While our fair city is choked with average Italian eateries, pseudo-French bistros and localized Thais, Indian restaurants here seem to place a greater emphasis on quality and authenticity. Bukhara, along with the likes of Vedas and Masala Art, is one such restaurant. The chefs are Indian, the spices are imported, and the staff waited their first tables in Delhi. Our proximity to the Subcontinent is paying off.
The Bukhara Grill is the biggest and most ambitious of Shanghai’s new breed of Indians. It’s hard to miss; Bukhara’s three storeys rise prominently on the corner of Hongmei Lu and Yan’an. They have the obligatory lounge on the first floor, showing sports and serving Erdinger on tap, and a large dining room with a bright open kitchen, where light shimmers off the hammered copper walls. Chefs spear chunks of marinated chicken on long skewers and pluck fluffy breads from the tandoor, while diners sit in famished anticipation wearing silly aprons with the restaurant’s logo. It’s all about the food.
And most of it was superb. Their sinfully creamy daal bukhara, made with black lentils, was complex with just the right level of spice. The baingan barta, a mash of spicy eggplants, was rich and smoky, and the only mildly disappointing dish was the bukhara kebab; chicken marinated in yogurt and spices that emerged from the tandoor just a shade too dry. But the mutton saag more than made up for it – a nuanced spinach curry with smoke, chili and spice and tender lamb which still held its flavor amidst all these ingredients. It’s a dish we’ll return for.