Kasim’s Indian Cafe, 44 Mason St, Newport. Phone, 9399 483
Sirens, Beach Pavilion Esplanade, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 7811
It takes some cajoling to get Bennie off the sofa and away from the TV and PlayStation this Friday night.
In the end, we experience a role reversal – with Bennie energised by the magic combination of beach + boy and his dad wanting to head for home.
To get things rolling, though, I make a concession – instead of heading for the wilds of Deer Park or Taylors Lakes, we stick closer to home, intent on checking out a typical suburban Indian eatery, the windows of which we’ve peered through a number of times but never previously entered.
We’re interested in exploring the theory that by mostly limiting ourselves to the cheaper end of the Indian spectrum – at, say, Consider The Sauce favourites such as Classic Curry in Sunshine – we are depriving ourselves of an occasional repast that is richer, sexier and more celebratory.
So it is with metaphorically loosened wallets that we hit the Willy road.
Our straightahead Indian meal is indeed more expensive than our usual – but not by a lot.
We’re hungry and waste no time in ordering lamb bhuna gosht ($13), aloo gobi ($11.50), plain nan ($2.90) and rice ($4), and “kuchumber salad spicy” ($4).
We suspect Kasim’s, with its plain but nice enough dining room, does most of its trade in takeaway. We’re the only customers, but as we are paying and leaving a young couple saunters in followed by a Muslim family comprising mum, dad, two daughters with iPads and son with PSP/DS.
We hope they have a better time of it than we do.
Our meal is edible.
We eat it.
But – oh dear – it’s truly spectacular in its mediocrity.
The salad – a mix of finely diced tomato, lettuce, cucumber and carrot – is not in the least bit spicy.
The aloo gobi seems like leftovers.
The bhuna gosht meat is tender, has textural variety courtesy of green capsicum and onion, and is the best thing going in our meal.
The nan is very average for the price.
The final bill of just a touch over $40 is fine for two mains, three side dishes and two cans of soft drink, but our wallet-loosening experiment is a failure.
Did we order the wrong dishes? Any Kasim’s regulars out there?
It’s still early in the night and Bennie is happy enough to humour his father’s interest in sweeties and coffee/hot chocolate.
The esplanade/beach precinct of Williamstown used to play a major role in our outings, one that has faded.
Mind you, we’ve never taken the plunge by getting on the fang at Siren’s, daunted by the high prices and the fear its fare will tainted by the same fodder indifference that infects nearby Nelson Parade.
It’s all very well to say that as food bloggers we should keep open minds and chance our arms on occasion, but as full-fare payers we are tugged, too, in the other direction, towards caution and conservatism.
Tonight, the place is close to packed and very busy. But still, we fear that has more to do with the superb beachside location than anything coming out of the kitchen.
What we have done many, many pleasant times is hit Sirens for coffee and Greek-style biscotti – and that’s just what we do tonight.
It turns out to be a thrilling half-hour or so.
The proximity of beach and sand brings Bennie alive.
There’s a classic Willy sunset on hand, thunder clouds and lightning in the other direction, and a rainbow between them.
The floor manager is bemused by our insistence on doing coffee imbibing out on the deck because everything is sopping wet.
That’s cool, mate, we’ll stand.
The choc-dipped bikkie is less impressive than we recall from previous visits; the shortbread number much better; our hot drinks are very good.
As dad calls stumps on the outing, Bennie shouts from water’s edge: “I want to stay here!”