Zaiqa Indian restaurant  in Phu My Hung offers rare and classic dishes from the sub-continent. By Ruben Luong. Photos by Linh Phanroy.

Inside Zaiqa, a reverent flourish of Arabic script emblazoned in vibrant yellow instantly beckons you to dine below its grandeur. There, modern lavish seating adorned with plush red pillows conjures comfort. Upstairs in the mezzanine, low tables surrounded by burgundy carpet and royal tapestries reside for a more traditional escape.

Zaiqa, or “the taste” in Urdu, lives up to its name. Its menu features a myriad of sub-continental dishes that marry the savoury flavors of Pakistani food with the wholesome cooking of Indian cuisine. Prices range from VND 62,000 to VND 130,000 for tandoori, mutton and biryani dishes. Special platters cost VND 80,000 to VND 240,000. The restaurant is also a heaven for vegetarians, with more than 30 sans-meat options priced from VND 62,000 to VND 90,000. Although best visited during the evening ambiance, we feasted during lunch on a leisurely weekend.

We began with a hot plate of Taka Tak (VND 100,000). Nowhere else in the city can boast this specialty dish, which originates from the streets of Lahore, Pakistan. The sumptuous blend of rhythmically minced chicken and spices elevates the palate to nirvana. Piquant and zesty, each bite of the minced meat is tender and packed with succulent juices clearly nourished by the chef’s meticulous dicing on a melodic, custom-made counter.

Next up was a generous serving of chicken dum biryani (VND 90,000). Nestled between layers of fragrant, long-grained basmati rice, the lightly spiced and yoghurt-marinated chicken offers a subtle yet delightfully sweet aftertaste. A dash of star anise, although inedible, sprinkled on the colourful bed of vessel-steamed rice gives an aromatic boost that whets the appetite.

We then made room for modest bowls of chicken tikka masala (VND 85,000) and palak paneer (VND 75,000) served with a side of toasty garlic naan (VND 34,000). The tikka masala’s buttery, slow-simmered chicken and rich tomato cream sauce harvests a distinct tang that reinvigorates the popular dish. The palak paneer’s thick spinach and cottage cheese gravy was a worthy sister dish to the tikka masala, balancing it with a velvety freshness that wasn’t too overwhelming.

Zaiqa’s best treats are its drinks. We topped off our meal with mango and strawberry lassis (VND 48,000), each one whipped to sublime perfection. Presented in a tall glass, the lassi wasn’t excessively fruity or creamy, but a light and airy ambrosia embellished with a single rose petal. It left us satisfied, and with plenty of leftovers to enjoy later.

Zaiqa Indian Restaurant
009 My Hoang, Nguyen Van Linh Street, Phu My Hung, D7
08 54 12 44 50
11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-
10.30pm, seven days