198 Nicholson St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 2233
We warmly recommend Vanakkam India.
However, we also recommend judicious parsing of the menu and consulting the staff.
Vanakkam India is a low-key Indian cafe, neat and tidy and smartly priced, along the same lines as Kitchen Samrat and Indi Hots.
The biryanis – including quite a often a goat number – are popular with the joint’s Indian customers.
But we find them a bit too spicy for us.
Likewise, some of the many curries we’ve tried – mostly just below or just over $10 – have been too highly spiced for us.
We’ve tried a couple of the Indo-Chinese dishes – chicken noodles and chicken fried rice – but found them dull. Maybe the Indo-Chinese appetisers – such as chilli gobi, ginger gobi or chilli baby corn – are where it’s at with that aspect of the menu.
What we do love is the onion baji ($4.95).
To describe this dish as deep-fried onion rings simply does it a grave disservice.
Onion rings are dipped in a besan flour batter, fried, lightly seasoned with finely ground pepper and served with a lemon wedge.
They are pure magic, light and surprisingly grease-free.
Next time, I suspect, when Bennie and I hit this place together, two serves of onion baji will avoid unseemly haste and arguments over the last fragments and crumbs.
This is food to inhale with gusto!
Having come a cropper on some other dishes at Vanakkam India, this place has become our preferred dosa destination.
Usually we opt for the masala dosa ($7.95), or sometimes the chicken tika masala dosa ($8.95), which is the same potato-stuffed pancake laced with chopped pieces of tandoori chook.
The dosas and the side dishes are as good as any in the area, and the service and ambience better than some who do the dosa boogie. So we love Vanakkam India for that alone.
For this Saturday lunch, though, and flying solo, I get a bit more adventurous.
I order the nimmak’aya pappu, which is described as “Spicy tangy lentil finished with lemon juice”.
Besides consisting of yellow split peas, it’s beaut and does have a lemony tang, but the serve seems a little on the modest side for the $8.95 price tag.
I also order the roti masala ($4.95) – “Roti stuffed with curry mashed potato”.
This is a disappointment – mainly because the bread itself is of the same variety as the ones we get from our local IGA, and is thus a bit lifeless and greasy. Maybe at these prices, it’s a bit, ahem, rich to expect everything to made in-house. And, indeed, I have no philosophical objection to the use of store-bought or pre-made products being served in the kinds of eateries we frequent.
But if I’d known, I’d have stuck with out dosa routine!
The potato stuffing is the same mix that does the honours in the dosas – turmeric, curry leaves, mustard seeds, perfect.
So, yes, Vanakkam India has been a bit hit-and-miss for us.
But the menu is long and there’s more to explore – such as the Indian pizzas, which include yara uthappam (“uthappam spread with cooked prawns and special spice mix”) and kaju uthappam (“uthappam topped with special spice mix an cashew nuts”), both $11.95. Or egg masala (“whole boiled eggs combined with rich onion”) for $7.95.
In the meantime the dosas – there are 28 varieties on the menu – are consistently the go.
And the onion baji is among our most very cherished western suburbs dishes.