Chai Naasto has a fairly heartwarming story behind it. It’s set up by three brothers to pay homage to their grandma’s amazing cooking. We always say, ‘nothing beats grandma’s cooking’. It’s sweet how the brothers turned the family recipes into a restaurant concept and continuing grandma’s legacy.
We went to the Hammersmith branch, which is by the Hammersmith Grove. The vibrant exterior (and interior) definitely stands out from the other coffee shops and brasseries along the road. The outside of the restaurant already smelled alluring and we were so excited to try this place out. Inside the restaurant, it’s not very spacious. Tables are packed very closely together and it was super busy as well. If it’s warm enough outside, I would definitely recommend sitting at their outdoors area as it seemed more comfortable and less noise.
Looking at the menu, there’re so many options to look at. If you have trouble making decisions, you’re going to find this a bit of a challenge. The menu has a wide selection of street food dishes, grills and curries to choose from. Everything looked absolutely alluring on paper and it did gave us a hard time, even for a decisive person like me, to finalise our orders.
Mango Lassi £5
To start with, my friends got the mango lassi. The most delightful thing about the mango lassi is that it comes in a light bulb glass! All our faces lit up (no pun intended) when they were served to the table. The presentation was nice and it tasted pleasant as well. Apart from the mango flavour, you can also opt for the Rose & Cardamon Lassi.
Thumbs Up Cola £3
For myself, I opted for the Thumbs Up Cola. It’s just basically coca cola with an Indian touch. I’ve had it at DUM Biryani House before and absolutely loved it. I do want to point out that the cola didn’t come out cold at all. It was quite warm to be honest and I want to point out that serving warm cola probably doesn’t set the greatest impression.
Kekda Koliwada (Soft Shell Crab) £9
I am an absolute sucker for soft shelled crab. As far as I’m aware, I don’t often come across soft shell crab in Indian cuisine. Hence I was extremely curious on Indian’s take for soft shell crab.
The dish did not disappoint at all. As a bite into the crab, the light crispy coating reveals meaty chunks of crab meat. The batter was well season with a nice kick of spice. With a squeeze of lemon, the flavours were elevanted and really popped out. I loved it and this is probably my most favourite dish of the evening.
Nargisi Quail Egg Kofta £8.50
My first reaction when I saw this on the menu was “halal and spiced scotch egg”! In a nutshell, this dish consists spicy lamb mince wrapped around a quail egg – which was then fried and served with a smoked tomato chutney.
The dish turned out okay. The quail egg inside was fully cooked, and we agreed that it would’ve been better if it’s cooked less to attain a softer yolk texture. As for the lamb kofta on the outside, I thought it was slightly dry and I wished it could be juicier.
Pilau Biryani £7
For the biryanis, you get to choose from either chicken, lamb or vegetables. We went for the chicken one. The biryani at Chai Naasto was more pilau style than dum biryani style. Flavour-wise, there’s good amount of spice in it. I personally thought the rice texture could be fluffier.
Kareem’s Lamb Burra Kebab & Aloo Chokha £10
This dish involves lamb cutlets marinated in mustard oil, malt vinegar, red chilli & crushed spices, served with tempered mashed potatoes. The lamb was fairly tender, but the flavours didn’t seem to be properly marinated through. I was expecting some robust flavours to come through but it was more subtle than I would have preferred. It does have a nice chargrilled touch to it though.
Tawa King Scallops £8.50
I absolutely love scallops. When I spotted this on Chai Naasto’s menu, I just had to get it. The dish was plated very nicely. The scallops were neatly lined over a bed of cauliflower puree and drizzled with herb dressing. Though stated as spicy on the menu, the cauliflower puree wasn’t spicy at all. It’s blended very smooth and creates an interesting texture. The scallops were smaller than I anticipated. They’re pan-fried and I felt it was just a tad overcooked.
Nanima’s Chicken Nu Shaak £8.50 | Garlic Naan £2.75
This curry is apparently a family favourite from the owners. It’s basically a boneless chicken curry cooked in house-blended spices & fresh herbs. And with curry, we got some nice fluffy garlic naan to accompany it. The curry was spicy and the chicken pieces were tender to bite into. However, other than the heat, I would say the flavours lacked depth. There wasn’t so much going on to stimulate the palate apart from the spicy heat. I would say among all the dishes we ordered, this one was slightly disappointing. It also felt a bit greasy too.
Kulfi on a stick £3
Last but not least, we finished our dinner at Chai Naasto with some Kulfi Sticks. There are a few flavours to choose from, including Mango, Pistachio, Malai, Honey Rose or Chocolate. All three of us chose the Malai flavour, which is basically cream flavour. You just can’t go wrong with this flavour. It was creamy, velvety, delicate and all that.
All in all, I thought our meal at Chai Naasto has been a fairly decent one. I really enjoyed the tapas style street food but there’s certainly some room for improvements. It’s probably not top notch in London but it’s no doubt a very decent spot. You can find assurance in that at how busy the restaurant gets in the evenings. It’s a cool spot for friends gatherings or catch ups, and I think I would return at some point to try out more dishes on the menu – there’s so many we haven’t tried and I feel I can’t really judge the whole restaurant when we only sampled a small percentage of food on the menu. What other dishes have you tried from Chai Naasto and what are your thoughts?
Tel: 020 8741 1088
Nearest Underground station: Hammersmith