SEE MORE RECENT REVIEW – WITH NEW ADDRESS – HERE.
68 Hopkins St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 4626
When I moved to Melbourne – in the late ’80s – Indian eating was restricted to your more formal establishments.
I love that kind of food in those kind of restaurants, I really do.
But as I often eat out with just a book for company, or with Bennie or a pal such as Kurt, they are often impractical.
As well, once you start ordering pappadams, various breads, pickles, chutneys, rice, lassi and so on, the price can very quickly attain fine-dining levels – even when you’re part of a larger group.
Which is why I adore the explosion of cheap eats places of an Indian bent that has occurred in the past decade.
The CBD is festooned with them – and now the west has its fair share, too.
At such cheapies the main avenue for getting a feed is via a thali meal – served on stainless steel platters with sections for a variety of dishes, condiments and rice.
Even at the best of places, though, thali meals can be a hit and miss affairs.
Often the food is barely warm and sometimes there’s a suggestion the “chef’s choice” amounts to getting rid of straggling remnants of that day’s cooking.
But the ease with which it possible to get a well-rounded meal without busting out the credit card means the allure of thalis will endure for me for a long, long time.
But one of the earliest thali joints in the west was and is Indi Hots, which I’ve revisited a couple of times recently.
It’s a very basic eatery, but the staff are friendly and I always feel at home with clientele that usually is made up mostly of taxi drivers, students and young families.
On both recent visits, the highlight was a beaut goat curry – one that seems, based on photographic evidence, quite different from that braved about by Ms Baklover at Footscray Food Blog.
The goat-on-the-bone I had with my thali ($10.50), in a meal shared with Kurt, was very dark, very oily, VERY salty – and delicious!
I find through cooking at home that if I leave out salt altogether from my Indian cooking, the results usually fall into the realm of “vegetarian food” – of which I ate plenty in my youth. No thanks!
So what I usually do is put in a teaspoon of salt where the recipe calls for three or four. You really do need a strong salt quotient for dishes to taste anywhere near authentically Indian, but I try for a compromise.
Eating out, though, all bets are off – so Kurt and I were happy to indulge and enjoy the pronounced saltiness of our goat.
He had his as part of non-thali $7.50 meat-and-rice deal that left him wishing for more curry.
My thali was rounded out with the usual runny but fine raita, a pappadam, a curry of peas and capsicum that had too little of either and too much oil, and a really good mild potato curry of the dry variety.
We’d started our meal with a shared plate of onion bhaji.
They were cold, chewy, had a nice chilli kick and tasted fine with the minty dipping sauce.
Indi Hots has been around long enough to be taken a bit for granted, but I like dropping by reasonably regularly for a reliably enjoyable Indian feed.