Last week we found ourselves at Odd Bar helping to ring in a new decade as they celebrated the big 1 – 0 (wow that makes me feel old!). A brass band, hula dancers and a face painter – plus the small matter of a free bar – is usually enough to get anyone out on the town but for for me it was all just a precursor to checking out another mainstay of the Manchester food and drink scene.
With it’s intimate venue on Oldham Street, Malaysian restaurant Ning is almost part of the Northern Quarter wallpaper these days. In fact they’ll be toasting their 10th next year too. Chef Norman Musa must be doing something right. So we washed off that tiger face paint, put down the hula hoop and swung on by to find out what was getting served up.
Still in the birthday party mood we kept things warm with a couple of chilli mojitos to start off proceedings, then moved straight onto a trio of starters. Soft shell crabs are new to the menu and were nicely crunchy, perhaps a little over done for my liking but a punchy chilli sambal dipping sauce gave them an edge. Chicken murtabak were a sort of street food style bite of chicken, onion, potato, egg, herbs & spices. Best of the lot for me though was the roti canai, a paratha style flatbread that came with a lovely creamy coconut curry sauce with a aniseed flavour reminiscent to me of Sri Lankan cooking.
If the culinary origins of our starters felt varied I went for a certified classic Malay dish for mains and the beef rendang. A dry curry of coconut and fragrant spices it was deliciously moreish and the meat was really tender as well. It was definitely the best thing I tried all evening and confirmation that, as is generally the case, the most traditional dishes are the ones to go for. My companion chose from the Summer specials and opted for ayam masak merah, two really moist seasoned chicken breasts on a bed of spinach with a tangy tomato sauce.
For dessert we had Ning’s banana fritters, it’s hard to go wrong with deep-fried bananas but these were good ones. I was also impressed with my handmade chocolate and cashew nut brownie, both were served with a sweet and tasty lychee ice cream, there were a few other flavour options as well and all are made in house.
Anyone can see how Ning has garnered its loyal following, there is plenty to tempt on the South East Asian styled menu, and with two courses for £15.50 running through the week, not to mention the option of takeaway, there’s no reason not to give them a try. We found it was best to stick as close to home as possible with the recommended Malaysian classics and if you do that you won’t go far wrong.