Atithi Indian Restaurant, 730 Mt Alexander Rd, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9326 0482
Atithi is an Indian vegetarian restaurant that takes its name from the Sanskrit phrase “Atithi Devo Bhavah”, which means “Guest are God”.
We like that approach!
It resides in a stretch of Mt Alexander Rd near Puckle St in Moonee Ponds that often seems ripe for foodie adventures, but along which we find most places closed when we’re in the vicinity, Dr Strangeloves aside.
Earlier in the week, when passing by, we’d parked and gone for a look-see.
Our response to the restaurant’s motto, part of the outdoor signage, was damn near pavlovian.
“For Who Know Value of Taste.”
So eloquent, so adorable – this place went right to the top of our to-do list, and we’re back for real in just a few days.
On entering, we appreciate the whirring fans and AC on the job.
Both the walls and floor are tiled, while tables are dressed with cloth tablecloths and paper. It’s quite a nice , tranquil vibe.
Initially, we’re a little taken aback by the stern words placed at the bottom of each page of the menu warning us to be prepared for a half-hour 45-minute wait for a our meal.
We cover that base by ordering bhel puri from the Indian Street Food Menu – “Round puri, puffed rice and fine chickpeas noodles mix in onion, tomato, Fresh apple, beetroot, and potato served with chutney” for $7.
We know that in India such like as bhel puri are not ordered as part of a meal, but we often find ourselves ordering them as we are normally not in a position to adhere to afternoon snack tradition.
This is less crunchy and crackly than I expect, but still a tangy way to get our dinner rolling. Bennie finds the raw white/brown onion quotient overpowering.
Mix veg sizzler – “mix vegies and pettish cooked in special tomato sauce serve in leafs bowl” ($15) – is a voyage into the unknown for us.
It’s super rich, gloopy and tasty.
Mixed under the cheese and tomato sauce is a jumble of a whole roasted green capsicum, corn kernels, peas, diced potato and carrot and more cheese.
It’s a huge serve – more appropriate for sharing among four people with a mix of other dishes.
This is much more than a tomato sauce, I subsequently discover when chatting to chef Mitesh Patel.
It’s actually a bechamel sauce made of, yes, tomato but also ghee, flour, milk, sugar, salt and pepper.
No wonder it seems so rich!
This sort of dish is not really Indian or Indo-Chinese – it’s more an Indian fusion sort of thing generated by Indian chefs working in Europe and returning home full of ideas and inspirations.
The mix veg sizzler comes from the continental section of menu, which also includes Pineapple/Veg Macaroni ($14) and Paneer Stick Sizzler ($17), which I presume must be even richer again.
From the Indo-Chinese dishes we’ve ordered hakka noodles – “Noodles cooked with special sauces and fresh vegetable” ($12).
This is OK, but seems a little on the pricey side. Bennie finds it too spicy, even though we’d said medium when asked.
The version enjoyed at the old Pandu’s benefitted from the having little bowls of vinegar and sauces soy and tomato on the side.
If there is an uneveness in our meal we’re happy to attribute it to a clumsy attempt to get to grips with a strange menu. More advanced navigation skills may have allowed us to choose more complementary dishes.
I’d originally envisioned basing our meal around one of the dosa selections, but the dosas are not yet available.
Perhaps we’d have been better off by gravitating towards the standard curry menu, which includes two kinds of dal, peneer and kofta dishes, and entrees such as pakoras.
You can check out the Aitithi menu options at the restaurant’s website.
Nevertheless, we welcome the addition of a dedicated vegetarian eatery to our neighbourhood when often it seems Indian restaurants relegate vegetable dishes to after-thought status.