Shompen (Invited)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 Sharon Halim 0 Comments

Shompen is located very near to the Carlton Gardens. It is named after a group of Indigenous people on Nicovar Island off  mainland India that was previously colonised by Europe, before being a part of India. 

We entered the restaurant in the dark of Rathdowne Street and was greeted warmly by our host who told us all about the concept behind the restaurant. The chef, Vikhar, aims to change the public perception of Indian cuisine that is characterised by thick, heavy curries. And he certainly succeeds in this goal, especially in appearance.

Samosa with pickled shallot and mint chutney. This was a take on traditional Indian samosa using French technique, in particular, the use of finely layered of potato and spices reminiscent of a millefeuille. Despite these techniques, it just tasted like a large version of a traditional of samosa. The spices were a bit too spicy for my liking, and I actually preferred the mashed paste, original version of a samosa. The texture from the layered potatoes, although not damaging the integrity of the dish, didn't exactly do anything for it. The star of the dish was definitely the pickled shallot! Marinated in beetroot, it was unlike everything I've had before. It was so concentrated in flavour and tasted so wonderfully rich - definitely something I didn't expect from a measly, small purple shallot! I was very much grateful that my dinner partner did not polish it off before I did!

Smoked silk chicken with spiced yoghurt. The chicken was rolled with an interesting blend of spices and was accompanied with creamy spiced yoghurt. The literal smoke for the dish was contained under a cloche and was unveiled in a spectacular display before us. The chicken roll was well cooked - based on my previous experience watching masterchef, this was a challenge well done. The spiced yoghurt that came with the chicken is creamy and complemented the chicken well. It was presented very well, but the tastes didn't really have a wow factor for me. 

Calamari and rockling seasoned with different masala with finger lime. Cucumber with coriander powder and curry mayonnaise. This dish, wow, was presented so very beautifully. It was plated like an abstract painting - definitely did not expect this presentation when I ordered the calamari! The rockling was cooked well, and the finger lime added a nice contrast to the masala spices in both rockling and calamari. The calamari was a little tough and the cucumber, although refreshing, did not really mesh well with the whole dish in my opinion. It felt like bits and pieces of decent dishes plated in one. Nothing too spectacular but I guess what they lacked in cohesiveness, they made up in appearance.

Textures of paneer with masala. Once again, the presentation of this dish was beautiful. Almost like a secret, exotic garden of sorts. The paneer, or cheeses, tasted pretty much the same in my opinion - they just tasted of masala mix. The most unique part of the dish was definitely the crunchy bits of paneer that was tinted with beetroot. It tasted very meaty and savoury which was surprising - the texture is almost like popcorn chicken which I found, over time of scooping the two other mashy paneers, to be a pleasant change in crunch. 

Saffron infused yoghurt ice cream with pistachio soil. This dessert tasted very confronting to me at first as I'm not a big fan of overly spice-laden desserts. The punches of saffron reminded me of paella too much. The cardamom was way too savoury-like for me.  But after a while, the tastes really grew on me. The creaminess of the yoghurt, thank goodness, offset the savoriness stemming from the cardamom and saffron. Bite after bite, every single component of the desert complemented one another, and the pistachio soil on top added a lovely, nutty crunch to the desert. 

Arlette of silk melon with pastry and candied ginger. This dish was definitely not what I expected. I had expected refreshing bits of orange or melon to end a very spice-laden meal. The brown melon filling or paste is layered in between pastries and is accompanied with candied ginger that looks like like barks. Interestingly, these barks were made from picked ginger (the ones you can find on sushi trains!). The dessert wasn't bad per say, but the flavour and texture combinations of ginger and melon didn't really gel well in my opinion.

Overall, this restaurant provided for an interesting dining experience. It definitely has potential to be fantastic if the presentation of the dishes were complimented with a more refined flavour and texture cohesiveness. The chef was certainly ambitious and he did well in introducing modern and interesting textures into traditional Indian cuisine.

Shompen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
401 Rathdowne St
Carlton, VIC 3053