Shop 3/70 Watton St, Werribee. Phone: 8742 6450
Well within my lifetime Werribee will be folded quietly into metropolitan Melbourne.
On a sunny Friday afternoon, though, it has the feel of a bustling country town.
Except for the traffic congestion – that’s of big-smoke class already.
And the eateries – there’s far more cheap eats destinations than you’ll find in a similar-sized burg up-country, up-state.
It’s apparent Werribee hosts significant Indian population. There’s groceries and eat shops, and a few restaurants that seem to be of the flash variety.
Happily, I snag a park right opposite my destination – Bikanos.
This is my first visit, but I’ve already set my mind on ordering a vegetarian thali, should there be one.
It costs $15,
What? I’ve seen thali prices of that order and more before, but only in the swankiest of operations. The $15 is about $4-5 more than I’m currently paying in and around Footscray.
A quick Plan B is required. Having noticed a number of photo display non-menu dishes in the front window, I inquire about the pricing of the chole bhature.
It’s $7.50, I am informed.
That’s more like it.
For variety’s sake, I also order a serve of onion bhaji ($5).
These aren’t quite as good as those we inhale at Vanakkam India, but get real close.
It’s a big serve; the batter is mostly ungreasy; and the onions are cooked through but maintain a nice degree of crunch beneath the batter. A gooey tamarind syrup accompanies.
Whatever wariness I harbour about the price of the thali is banished by the brilliance of my chick peas and fried bread.
This is the best, most awesome example I’ve had in these parts of this tremendous snack/breakfast dish.
It makes me very, very happy.
The creamy yogurt is spiced with flavours that I can’t identify but that are nevertheless tantalisingly familiar.
Bikanos boss man Ashok Bal subsequently tells me it’s a mix of garam masala, black salt and roast cumin. Yum!
My two bhatoora – a slightly heavier version of puris – are so fresh they are filled with air and look like tanned bladders. They are light and delicious.
The chick peas, too, are perfect – nicely al dente and residing in a gravy that is slightly salty and with a mild chilli kick.
Ashok tells me the seasoning is a matter of cinnamon, cloves, black cardamom, cumin, bay leaf, garlic ginger.
So fine is the magic of these three components that I completely ignore the raw onions shards and pickle. Maybe next time.
As I’ve enjoyed my late lunch, a succession of Indian locals have come and gone – this a popular haunt.
The shop has a display of fine and fancy looking Indian sweets. Appealing, but I inevitably find them too rich for mine.
I do wish I’d grabbed, before departing for Geelong, a small bag of the spiced cashews arrayed with other savoury snacks.
Maybe next time.