Queens of India is a follow-on to the very successful Queens Tandoor in Seminyak, by the same management and an extension of the Queens of India brand first opened at the front gate entrance to the Dynasty Hotel in Tuban, then at Tandjung Benoa, now the 3rd outlet is in Ubud, beside the Royal palace.
It heralds the steady upgrading of available dining locations in Ubud but it is, surprisingly, Ubud's 6th Indian restaurant, though definitely the most up-market. Upstairs is a private air-conditioned room for small dinner/meetings and that special dinner with a group of friends,
The restaurant features an immaculate stainless steel kitchen with full sized observation windows, unusual for an Indian restaurant, as many prefer to keep their kitchens unobserved. Nothing to hide here!
Whilst many standard items, in fact all of the old favourites, are found on this menu, it is a radical new 'fusion' style that catches the most applause! Called, just simply, Sizzlers, the meats have been half processed in the tandoor after suitable marination in yoghurt and spices, then sliced and into the wok with mushrooms and other vegetables. Served on a sizzling platter the result is an Indian/Chinese fusion that really works. You can have the chicken, mutton, fish, prawns, paneer or just assorted vegetables on their own. The result satisfies both the Chinese lover and the Tandoori freak. The Chicken Sizzler was quite sensational, one of those simple yet classic dishes that you cannot stop eating. Do not be put off by the 3 chilli rating for some dishes as compared to normal Indonesian or Thai there is nothing to be scared of, as Indian chili hot is vastly different.
The only things missing were the chopsticks!
Queens of India also has many menu items that could be called entrees, or one of those mid-afternoon anytime snacks. The infamous Samosa [copied by many non-Indian restaurants but never tasting the same] leads the way, packed full of a vegetable mix, coated in that crisp pastry with curry dipping sauce [pictured]. Kalmi Chicken is more unusual; chicken legs marinated in egg, cream and a thick paste of ginger and garlic, then grilled over charcoal. The quaintly names Frankies are wonderful, although they are pictured someone forget to actually include them on the menu, but they are available and tasty! Thin pastry wrapped around cottage cheese combined with tomato, onion and salsa. Same shape as a Frankfurt but could not be more different!
Most people have their own yardsticks for comparing restaurants of like cuisine. For Indian restaurants many compare the silky smooth Butter Chicken, for others the ambrosial Rogan Josh. But my measuring stick has always been that treat from Goa, the Vindaloo. Some go the macho route and make it ridiculously hot, whereas in fact it should just be richly piquant. At Queens of India the Mutton Vindaloo is as close to perfect as you can get. It has big soft chunks of meat [not soggy lumps of fat as in some other Indian restaurants], a classic. It should not come as a surprise that the Rogan Josh and Butter Chicken are also excellent, although the Chicken Tikka Makhanwala [a more complex butter chicken with a long overnight preparation] is sensational and one of the greatest dishes I have ever tasted.
From the Tandoor [watch them prepare it through the kitchen glass windows] are many seafood dishes. Chicken Kalimirch [wrapped with ground black peppercorns], Jaffran [wrapped in saffron], Harra [marinated in mint] and Kastoori [with the distinctive flavour of fenugreek] are all uniquely different. Prawns from the Tandoor are almost as good as chicken. Ambi Prawns [flavoured with raw mango] are the most different.
Other standards include Keema Mutter [minced lamb with green peas], Muntani Chicken Kofta [minced chicken wrapped in an egg coating] and the Prawn Hydrabadi [cooked with spinach, cashew nuts, and unusual spices].
No cuisine has the range of rice dishes as they do in India, the Kashmiri Pulao [studded with dried fruits] has always been my 1st choice. Here there are many including the pure rice dish, Biryani. Rotis, many of which are cooked in the tandoor, include Nan, Paratha, Roomali, Phulka and Kulcha. A new one for me was the Afgani Nan; stuffed with cheese and coated with egg, the end product slightly rubbery so firm to hold and perfect for dunking in that wonderful vindaloo, in true Indian style! As is always the case with quality Indian restaurants the vegetarian options include the full range of tastes from the various regions and cooking styles of India. Whether a simple Samosa or Kashmiri Kebab [a capsicum stuffed with potato, cheese, dried fruits and spices of course], the wonderful Harra Paneer Tikka [cottage cheese marinated in a mint masala then char grilled], old favourite Malai Kofta [vegetable croquettes in a creamy curry] or my new favourite taste sensation, Queens Paneer Corn Bhurjee. Their homemade cottage cheese is grated and combined with corn kernels and spices in the wok, the finished product looking almost like scrambled eggs, the taste unreal! And there is always the grand daddy of cholesterol fixes; Indian Dhal, magic lentils, yellow, black or red, although in their tastiest form they are cooked with butter and cream! Oh well, you can not win them all!
Whilst the other Indian restaurants in the Ubud area present many standard items, Queens of India extends the options by also including many that take major preparation time. The Queens Group present Indian cuisine as it is in India, importing many ingredients as well as chefs to ensure consistent quality.