The Rajput in Ballyhackamore, not to be confused with the Raj on the Lisburn Rd, has been my go to Indian restaurant since the Bokhara closed its doors in Holywood a few years back. I have been going to Indian restaurants with my parents for as long as I can remember and their restaurant of choice never seemed to vary to much. My first memory was the Ganges in Newtownards where I was introduced to curry, Lamb Dopiaza if my memory serves me right. After the Ganges closed it was the Bokhara which we frequented on the occasions when my mother got her way. I definitely got my love of spicy food from my mother and can vividly remember tasting her Vindaloo as a child and facing instant regret. Today much like my parents I am very much guilty of not trying other Indian restaurants throughout the city for fear of disappointment, which isn't exactly conducive to a varied food blog, must try better.
I feel like I start each review or recipe by proclaiming my love for the particular cuisine in question. But Indian IS my favourite type of food for numerous reasons. The complexity and depth of flavour produced by fragrant herbs and spices are unparalleled, the tandoor oven is probably my favourite thing in all of cooking. Add to that food that is high on the Scoville scale and Indian cuisine gives everything I search for in a meal.
My go to starters at the Rajput are usually chicken tikka chat and the classic onion bhaji. However, not feeling overly hungry in this instance I stuck with the poppadoms and the various range of accompaniments. I adore poppadoms and my wife would tell you it's probably my favourite part of the meal which on occasion my be true. The Rajput ticks all the boxes with their offering a spicy, fresh tomato and onion based chill sauce, slightly pickled onions with coriander, a refreshing mint and yoghurt dip rounded off with a sweet mango chutney, nom nom.
So on to the main event. I find it impossible to go to an Indian and not order something from the tandoor. This time round Lamb Tikka got the nod over the king prawns. Rather than the standard vegetable curry that normally accompanies tandoor dishes I got my chill fix with a vindaloo sauce.
My tandoor obsession continued with my favourite bread, peshwari nann. Cooked to order, spongy, light and with a slight hint of sweet coconut made this a perfect side to the smokey lamb and hot vindaloo sauce.
The lamb tikka was made with large chunks of leg meat which were perfectly cooked. The tandoor provides the perfect environment for cooking chunks of meat. The extremely high temperature within the oven means the meat cooks in minutes with the protective yoghurt based marinade charring on the outside leaving an excellently succulent and smoky tasting skewer of meat. The vindaloo sauce was quite punchy but not regrettably so. The only negative I could give is a slight lack of the depth in the sauce.
The atmosphere of the restaurant is standard 'curry house' which is by no means a bad thing. This Rajput is obviously a very popular spot in the thriving Ballyhackamore area of East Belfast which quickly becomes apparent when you witness how quickly the restaurant fills from 5.30 onwards. Also worth mentioning are the staff who are probably the politest in the City and without exaggeration.