36 Leeds St, Footscray. Phone: 9689 9776
If you live anywhere near Footscray, you’ll be at the least subliminally aware of Kitchen Samrat, so enthusiastic are they about letterboxing their takeaway and delivery menus.
Must work for them, I guess.
Like a number of Indian eateries in the neighbourhood, it provides cheap and cheerful food, catering to the student set through thalis and snacks while also offering a substantial a la carte menu in a casual cafe-style ambience.
Prices for full curries are a little cheaper than some of the fancier joints hereabouts – chicken tika masala or lamb rogan josh at $9, for instance.
But as ever, I go looking for the unusual and the harder to find.
In that regard, Kitchen Samrat has a couple of aces up its sleeves.
First up is the jal zeera, a little glass of which is presented to each customer as a complementary non-alcoholic aperitif. It translates as “cumin water”; looks likes dirty drain water; is also made with tamarind, sugar, salt, pepper, mint, coriander, puffed chick peas and just a trace of chilli; and tastes bloody great!
The other highlight on the regular Kitchen Samrat menu are a couple of light meal/snack-type dishes that are purebred Indian and somewhat analogous of dosas, yet very different.
I have seen cholle bhatrua at other Melbourne Indian places, but not with any consistency.
On a thali plate, you get a nice serve of chick pea curry, some pickle and raw onion slivers and a couple of deep-fried naans that are like a heavier version of puris ($9).
The Amritsari kulcha ($0) is the same deal, except the breads are baked and stuffed with potato.
I order the latter and chat to the manager while waiting for my Sunday lunch. He tells me students make up a big part of his clientele, that there are always tradeoffs between service levels and prices in such operations and that his Indian customers order quite differently from those of the paleface persuasion. The latter usually order from a small and predictable list of dishes such as butter chicken, while the former like the Punjabi chicken, in which the meat is served on the bone. One for next time!
It’s been a while since I’ve been here, and my Amritsari kulcha is even better than I recall from previous visits.
The hot breads come with a knob of butter atop and already melting; the potato/spice/coriander filling is wonderful without being too heavy.
The chick peas, too, are superior, resting in a rich brown gravy just right for mopping up with the bread.
Between the pulses and the carbs, there’s enough of spice kick for me to leave the mango pickle untouched, although I mix in a few of the onion slices to add crunch as I devour the lot using a mixture of Indian-style hands-only and cutlery methods.
It’s a great lunch and a fine bargain.