Klay, a jaw-droppingly excellent modern Indian Curry...
Klay, a jaw-droppingly excellent modern Indian Curry
On August 14th, 2021, Shanghai's OCC balti-battalion marched down to Beijing Road to feast at Klay, arguably Shanghai's most talked-about new curry restaurant. Full disclosure, this review has been long anticipated, ever since the OCC experienced Hardeep Somal's proto-Klay delights at the EGG private dining experience back in September 2020. It was then already abundantly clear that Hardeep was on to something special; something pretty exciting was brewing.
Klay, a Modern Indian Eatery, opened soon after and has thrived ever since. Klay has reached a broad audience of curry novices and enthusiasts alike and is noticeably enticing a younger, trendier, Insta-friendly and local patronage than is usual for a curry restaurant in Shanghai.
Klay draw's affectionately on Hardeep's upbringing in London's Indian foodie scene without being afraid of a decent-sized dollop of innovation and creativity. There is, of course, a lot that draws on curry traditions, and it's in this balance of authenticity and flair with a staunch commitment to the most natural and high-quality ingredients that make Klay stand out.
Klay is located on Beijing Road, a stone's throw from the bars and restaurants of Wuding Road in one direction and the hubbub of the Nanjing Road shopping street in the other. Usually, the OCC get-togethers are evening meals, but we opted for a weekend lunch event this time. This adventure had a lighter and less formal, more social vibe—an innovative format for an innovative eatery.
When you arrive at Klay, the first thing you notice is that it's not decked out like a typical curry house. Klay is bright, minimal & rustic. There is an open kitchen on the left and a well-stocked bar at the back, with an abundance of technique on display from both. There is something good about an open kitchen. Seeing the chefs work their magic. The aromas, the sounds, the colours, and the chance to steal a glimpse at some tricks of the trade. It adds an honest and transparent vibe to the ambience and gives the place a relaxed bistroesque-style atmosphere.
Here's what you need to know about the menu.
Firstly, it's clear that the general focus is a modern approach to curry while remaining true to classic Indian recipes and techniques. It is real Indian flavour presented in a fresh, unique and staggeringly delicious way. But it's important not to overlook the commitment to good provenance. Hardeep and his team go out of their way to source only the freshest vegetables, seafood and meats, and the most traditional spices from the subcontinent. Many of the ingredients are locally sourced, but when it comes to the Lamb, Hardeep insists on the best (I mean literally the world best). New Zealand's Mana Lamb (Lamb from Heaven) has a unique fat content - not dissimilar to Wagu beef - that doesn't behave like regular lamb during preparation and cooking. It's hard to describe in words how much better this makes these dishes taste; you will just have to try it for yourself. The lamb curry at Klay is not only wholesome; it's bloody delicious.
Enough ramble, let the food Chaat begin....
Bangladeshi fish fry
Crispy on the outside, soft and juicy on the inside. This mouthwatering dish was the perfect way to kick off the meal. A 900 Gram Icelandic Halibut with the skin on. The fish is prepared with a dry rub of masalas and spices, seared, then cooked on a flat top griddle to guarantee the skin is crispy on all sides (not soft and soggy on the bottom). There is no other fish quite like Halibut. The unique deep-sea fat content makes it the perfect fish for this dish. Crispy, juicy, drowning in lemon and served oven hot.
Butter chicken curry
The chef's favourite. The creamy and spicy sauce engulfing the traditional tandoori marinated chicken is a timeless classic and always the first curry on the menu for Hardeep. Klay's simple yet delightful cashew-based Kashmiri chilli sauce with yoghurt, cream, and butter is an absolute belter. If you can only eat one curry for the rest of your life, it should probably be this.
Simple, honest, succulent perfection. The New Zealand Mana Lamb is marinated in a ginger, garlic & chilli paste before braising in its natural juicy goodness for aeons until tender. Meltingly soft, rich, and lush with a glorious chilli kick.
It's all about the freshness of the product, the best quality crab meat. The sweet natural flavour is delicately balanced with, and not overpowered by, the warm and slow-burn spiciness of the complex curry. Served in the shell and perfectly harmonious. This one had many OCCer's going back for more.
Like the traditional french Thermidor, the Lobster's juicy meat pairs with butter and cream like a dream. The steamed Lobster drizzled in the very same creamy cashew sauce used for the butter chicken, only this time to create something utt
erly, butterly different. An absolute delight.
As previously mentioned, perhaps more than once, the Mana Lamb from New Zealand has a fat content that truly lends itself to Hardeep's flavourful cooking style. The fatty characteristics are distinct enough to burst through and dance with the spicy sauces. For the biriyani, a huge lamb joint is caked in spicy gram masala dry rub and slow-cooked for 4 hours until it is melt-in-your-mouth tender, then served over a sauteed onion and wild mushroom saffron rice. The rice is cooked in a stock that is itself extracted from the juice of the slow-cooked lamb. For best results, shred the meat with a fork and mix it together with the rice and veggies. This is indeed a Klay speciality and a must-eat if you see it on the menu. It goes very well with a splash or two of red.
Hardeep made a name for himself on the Shanghai food festival scene with the award-winning Nanwhich, and the fluffy bread at Klay feels like another chapter from the same fluffy book. Klay's traditionally cooked trademark oval-shaped nans (one stuffed with garlic and one loaded with Italian truffle cheese) are the perfect way to mop up the sensational array of curry sauces. As we did, alternating helplessly between chilli-attack and rich creaminess, and back again, until beyond satiated.
In addition to the traditional beers and wines, Klay has a unique range of bespoke herby and spicy cocktail creations from Klay's resident mixologist, Geo Valdivieso. He is known for his work previously at Unico, UP, The Captain and Broken Dagger.
They are inventive and ambitious at Klay, but they know what they are doing, and they do it very, very well.
It's a rare occasion when we examine the votes to see such a spread for favourite dish. For Klay, the votes for best dish resembled a german general election with the Halibut, Biryani and all the curries receiving votes. Each and every dish nominated. Unprecedented consistency.
Overall, Klay received a strongly approved 8.5 total score and leads the pack for 2021 CHOTY (Curry House Of The Year) with one month to go.
Customer care 8.2
Klay (Aug) 8.5
In Elephant (May) 7.8
Masala Art (Feb) 7.5
Khan Baba (June) 6.9
Dakshin (sept) 6.8
Rangoli (July) 6.7
Curry Lounge (October) 6.7
Ganesha (April) 6.6
Promise (March) 6.5
P.s. As delicious as they look, the deceivingly well-presented hand towels are not edible. Proceed with caution.
Wait, there's more. Hardeep and the team behind Klay have launched a new concept called Tiffin that provides lunch and dinner delivery boxes with a similar modern-Indian cuisine inspired menu. Now conveniently delivered to your home or office.