There is nothing more fun than heading out to a new restaurant for the first time, so we had been savouring the moment when we could visit Pani, the new Indian restaurant at Camana Bay. As Brits we know a thing or two about curries, and our expectations were high.
Located in ‘restaurant row’ in Camana Bay, nestled nicely next to The Waterfront and Mizu, Pani has a lovely outdoors area for al fresco dining, but which was already full by the time we arrived. Happily seated indoors in our own little booth, we could marvel at the interior décor, with its brightly coloured swathes of material decorating the ceiling, Indian art on the walls and an open kitchen, which always makes the diner feel a step closer to the chefs and therefore part of the occasion. Staff were friendly and welcoming and attentive to our needs. So far so good!
The appetiser menu contained just the right amount of Indian goodies to whet the appetite, including old favourites such as onion bhaji (deep fried onion fritters with garlic mint raita) and vegetable samosa (crispy fried dumplings stuffed with potato, peas, ginger, tamarind chutney) and some new dishes (new to us, anyway), such as amritsari macchi, which is spiced snapper in chickpea batter and then deep fried, and jhinga kali mirch - marinated prawn with curry leaves, black pepper and cilantro.
There’s also a tasty-sounding ‘from the Tandoor’ menu list, which could be an appetiser or part of a sampling of dishes for you and your dining companions to dig into. Gosht seekh kebab (skewered minced lamb roasted with onion, cumin and chillies, tandoori jhinga (tiger prawns marinated in chilli yoghurt and spices) and tandoori lobster all sounded absolutely delightful, but we ploughed straight into a selection of mains for us all to enjoy.
I was tempted by the selection of biryanis, actually one of my favourite dishes on earth. Here they promised ‘an aromatic delicacy of vegetables, meats and basmati rice infused with Indian spices all served with vegetable raita and green salad’. You could choose from vegetable, chicken, lamb or shrimp, but in the end, the chicken tandoori was a lovely menu choice, a half chicken unfused with Indian spices and then charred in a tandoor oven, along with an old favourite, Rogan Josh, which was a braised lamb shank in cardamom, clove, bay leaf and Kashmiri red chillies. Being dished a curry with hardly any heat to the spices is about as disappointing as running a bath with no hot water, so we were hopeful that these dishes had the heat level well dialed up. We were not disappointed as they both delivered a fragrant spicy punch, as did our veggie options of Khumb matar masala (actually the star of the show, in my opinion) – mushrooms and peas in a cashew and onion gravy – absolutely delicious. Our veggie sides complimented the mains perfectly - a korma of fresh vegetables in a creamy coconut sauce and aloo gobi, which consisted of cauliflower florets and potatoes stir fried with cumin.
On the side we were delivered a bowl of poppadoms to munch on, served with tangy mango chutney and fiery lime pickle and we ordered a really tasty butter naan and also a filling pashawari naan, stuffed with raisins, nuts and coconut, for good measure. Mains also came with their own bowl of rice, so we easily had enough leftovers for the next day’s lunch or dinner.
Now that we have made the effort to visit Pani, we will certainly be back soon. And just as an aside, ‘pani’ can translate to ‘water’ or ‘bread’ depending on the language. Quite appropriate, I thought, given the location and the excellent naan.