Thursday, December 8, 2022

Indian cuisine and Chinese delicates at Ashoka Palace Restaurant

The house numbers here are still in the 200s and other such digits in the area surrounding the mall, suggesting it was one of the first if not the first location in Gaborone. This gives it some sort of antiquated feel. The mall itself is largely rustic material these days, far from its past glory. Either way, this down town part of Gaborone, the African Mall, lies one of the few Indian restaurants we have in here.

‘Welcome to Ashoka’ restaurant are the words that catch your attention as you set foot in this laid back restaurant. Upon entering, you are drawn to the Afro themed decor ranging from paintings, thatched roof and clay pots that get you more confused of the style of cooking offered by this place. The feel of antique meanwhile, is only validated.

The restaurant is adorned in a way that leaves you feeling like you are in a wedding tent. The chairs and the tables are covered with white clothes and the white cloth on the table coupled with a maroon piece of cloth that gives the place a bright look. There is a bar in this place, so you get to pair your food with alcohol if you wish. And for those who prefer fresh air while having their meal, Ashoka has an outdoor seating area. You can choose to have your food in the restaurant or do take-out, and this place also offers outside catering.

The hours may not be exactly convenient for some but make business sense: It opens at 11 in the morning and breaks at 3pm to re-open again at 6pm and closes at 2230hours weekdays, and weekends they open at 11:30am and follow the same route as for weekdays.

Everything about Ashoka is effortless. Their cutlery and plates are those of low eminence but you will not complain as this is a place you can come to and get good food without paying a leg and an arm. The menu is a simple booklet of printed A4 paper slotted in a plastic file but it does the job does it not? Elegance in the mould of your high market end type of restaurants they are not, theirs is a simpler family atmosphere.

Well, the opening hours once again: I got to Ashoka Palace restaurant at 6pm and sat by the patio then moved inside but had to wait for service as the staff were not ready to serve me- most came in late and started changing into their uniforms. While waiting, I had a chat with Ashok Kumar Kathpaul the owner of the restaurant.

Upon arrival, the staff started cleaning, they were even mopping the place while I was seating waiting to be served. In general, the service is not bad but the staff should come early to clean to avoid cleaning when the patrons are in the restaurant. That is just a complete turn off.

From the menu, I ordered a cream cola (p29.95), the simple recipe of mixing cola and fresh cream turn scooping an ice-cream inside. At first it felt and looked creamy but had no real taste to write home about bar some cola aroma. As the ice-cream melted though, it started tasting like vanilla ice-cream. I did not really enjoy it and was surprised as the waitress recommended it as the best from the cocktail list.

The nice thing is that there is a long list of beverages to choose from. You can go for the wines, hot beverages, cocktails, whisky or any other alcoholic drink. My dining companion tried the Irish coffee (p29.95), served in a lager glass and he really enjoyed it and the cream that was covering it to the rim of the glass. From feeling cold, I ordered a cup of Indian coffee (p16.95), it tasted nothing new to me, more like I was having a Nescafe’s Ricoffy.

From the main menu, we tried one of their mutton curries- Rogan Josh. Yes, sounds more like the name of some hunk and a bit exotic so it made sense. It is mutton cooked with lot of garlic and onion (p59.95), you have the choice of getting it hot or mild. We tried it mild and it tasted like there was no garlic inside. It was quite nice and it tasted like it was made from a tomato paste and a mixture of different spices and a touch of curry powder on top of the ‘sheep’ meat.

We decided to share the meal as the dishes were quite filling for one person. We paired Rogan Josh with rice prepared with yoghurt, which tasted nice but a bit sour. We couldn’t mix the curry with the rice as the rice tasted a bit like dessert and was good eaten alone. The good thing is that we ordered this rice with knowledge from the waitress that it was not good eaten with curry. There are many different curries and rice to choose from as you would expect from an Indian Restaurant.

And yes, they have the famous Briyani. Not in the mood for something usual that evening though so, hardy to the briyani enthusiasts. A selection of breads, knowing India to be home to the famous roti, was on offer: for example plain Nan, butter Nan and garlic Nan and they are all breads.

We ordered the garlic bread and ate it with the remaining curry. The bread looks like a little oiled roti and tastes nice paired with curry. This is a definite recommendation from yours truly if you are to check them out.

For dessert, we tried the Ashoka Palace special (p29.95) two Hot Gulab jamun and two scoops of vanilla ice-cream. The Gulab Jamun is a small fat cake made with a lot of powder milk and a little four mixed with fresh milk and dip fried with oily syrup. This I recommend to those with a sweet tooth. It tastes like nestle milk and it’s too sweet.

For those who love their food spiced, the Ashoka Palace is the place for you to be. Some of their foods are hot even when they are said to be mild so you may need to double ask if you are not for the chilli.

A mid to low market end restaurant that serves Indian food and Chinese delicacies in the mid of an old mall, neat enough to allow you to eat your food without complaining, but yet again not the best you can find, and I like that they do not claim to be an elegant and luxurious restaurant. Nice family set up and friendly to the pocket given the harsh economic realities of these days.

Food rating out of 10: 7
Service out of 10: 3


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