A taste of Maiyango’s new menu
November 25, 2013
I ran into Aatin Anadkat of Maiyango at last week’s Winter Food Festival at Leicester Market. He was buzzing over the prospects for his business – “these last few weeks it’s like I’ve had a shot of adrenaline” he told me.
Aatin launched the restaurant when not long out of University. It was stylish, cosmopolitan and offered something new for Leicester. Over the last decade Aatin and his colleagues showed considerable savvy and skill to not just secure the restaurant and bar, but to develop the City’s smartest boutique hotel, a banqueting operation running out of the St Martin’s House by the Cathedral and a Kitchen Deli on Highcross St.
So when his long-term head chef and friend Phil Sharpe left last month to set up on his own at The White Peacock, it was naturally one of the occasions when you drag out that old (apparently erroneous) notion that the Chinese word for crisis equates to “danger and opportunity”. So, hence the adrenaline.
The opportunity to refresh the operation has seen the appointment of Nick Wilson as head chef. He is a hugely experienced chef but appears to be a great fit for Maiyango. At a tasting session last week he provided a mightily impressive debut for a group of experienced and hard-to-please diners.
Things started off with Maiyango’s typically inventive cocktails (chilli and lemongrass mojito, star anise-flavoured oriental julep) and canapés including an exceptionally gorgeous cod and chorizo samosa. The starter of a smooth sweet potato and chipotle veloute gave a real tingle to the tongue but was brilliantly paired with a cooling mango salsa and crunchy kohlrabi bhaji.
“We’re not doing fusion food.’ said our maître d’. “We say this is modern European food with influences from the East”. Fusion cooking doesn’t have a great name, but with food this good I don’t really mind what you call it.
Next up came distinctly Eastern tandoori paneer and vegetable skewers with carrot pickle, sag aloo salad and a belting cherry tomato jam. Well cooked, with nicely balanced flavours, this was another winner. Then came what I think most people thought was the star dish of the night – perfectly roasted cod with a seared edge, rich and smooth celeriac puree, crunchy aubergine crisps, wilted spinach and fantastic mussels with a lightly curried creamy broth. Great cooking and a very well-conceived dish. To serve at least 30 people more or less at once and get things so right suggests Chef Wilson has very quickly got things right in the kitchen.
The main course of duck was a showstopper but for me had one or two elements too much. The duck breast was great, the hash of duck leg in a sweetish/sourish sauce was really great. Cayenne potatoes could have been a bit spicier and a bit crunchier, and while the bok choi and date puree both worked, another puree (squash?), orange and vanilla syrup and a smear of tapenade seemed to take the focus away from the main event of the dish. Some of the combinations worked in the mouth, others didn’t.
Desert featured a cardamom and white chocolate brulee. Cardamom can be a bit of a beast used in delicate puds, but I thought the balance here was spot on and the result was totally delicious.
Overall then - very good cooking, well-composed dishes, served up by well-trained and charming staff. I spoke to several people afterwards who said they’d always enjoyed Maiyango but had maybe got a little bored of the menu – and they were now eager to come back and try again.
No doubt that will music to Aatin’s ears. For Leicester diners, it seems the shot in the arm provided by a bit of friendly rivalry could have rich dividends.
Update:30/11/13 – …and congratulations to Maiyango for winning both Hotel of the Year and Taste of England Award in Leicestershire’s 2013 Excellence in Tourism Awards