Fri, Nov 10, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Restaurant: Sarena

Address: 48-1 Taishun St, Taipei (台北市泰順街48-1號)
Telephone: (02) 2364-6701
Open: Daily, from 11am to 9:30pm
Average meal: NT$600 for two
Details: Menu in English, Japanese and Chinese; cash only

By Noah Buchan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sarena may not be aesthetically exciting, but the restaurant's tandoori dishes get patrons ready for winter.

PHOTO: NOAH BUCHAN, TAIPEI TIMES

A little over two years ago, Sarena opened its doors to customers wanting northern Indian and Pakistani food. With all their chefs hailing from the region, the food served up is authentic and the wait staff knowledgeable about the intricacies of tandoori and biryani fare, with strict attention being given to the diets from the religions of the area.

Tandoori and biryani are traditional Muslim dishes that emphasize white meat and use little oil. This being said, the chefs at Serena have slightly altered the dishes to cater to local tastes though the dishes retain much of their authentic flavor. If much time has been spent perfecting the food, it has been at the expense of the furnishings. Though clean, the interior is somewhat characterless, though the chairs are large and comfortable.

A lack of aesthetic sense should not dissuade patrons as the food more than makes up for the lack of trendy furnishings.

The appetizer list is short but covers the region. Spiced lentil papadums (NT$70) are always a favorite with Indian restaurants, though the version Sarena serves up is somewhat mild. The vegetable somosas (NT$120) are a bargain with three triangular patties stuffed with vegetables and served with a light yogurt sauce. The vegetable (NT$120), chicken (NT$120) fish (NT$150) and prawn pakora (NT$180) are fried fritters served with a zesty, hot sauce and yogurt dip. The outside is crispy and the chefs take care to avoid the pastry being soggy with oil.

The tandoori section of the menu has all the usual suspects, starting with chicken (NT$250). The tandoori mixed grill (NT$420) is an assortment of prawns, fish, chicken and lamb kababs served on a sizzling plate. For crustacean lovers, the prawn tandoori (NT$600) is a delicate spread of jumbo shrimps marinated in yogurt and cooked in a clay oven. The chicken tikka (NT$220) includes delicious chunks of chicken marinated in yogurt and spices. For those willing to splurge on the tandoori experience, Sarena has a full chicken tandoori dish (NT$650) and tandoori raan (NT$1,400), a whole leg of lamb marinated in spices and yogurt and cooked in an Indian clay oven. As the former takes one full day to prepare and the latter three, advanced ordering is required.

The biryani menu is standard but delicious. In addition to chicken biryani (NT$230), there is the moderately priced vegetable biryani (NT$200) and mutton biryani (NT$250) — tender lamb cubes blended with basmati rice and spices. As with curry, biryani should be eaten with chapattis (NT$30), oven-baked butter naan (NT$60) or garlic naan (NT$70).

In addition to the tandoori and biryani dishes, there are a variety of curries on offer.

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