The White Elephant On Barkly, 561 Barkly Street, West Foostcray. Phone: 0423 515 728
The White Elephant brings a real point of difference to Indian-dominated West Footscray, and is doing so with style.
Whether its efforts will be sufficient to prosper in what is a fiercely competitive environment, only time will tell.
We certainly hope so after a three-member CTS team enjoys a fine evening meal there.
The former home of the cafe Jellybread has been fitted out in bright and breezy fashion.
We found the service very attentive and the wait times perfectly appropriate for the food at hand.
Our first glances at the menu (see below) are quite bracing, based on our long enjoyment of extremely affordable Sri Lankan food at a variety of places.
At the White Elephant, meat and seafood curries cost either side of $20.
But closer perusal of the food list reveals some outright gems.
Three rotis, one veg curry and one meat curry for $12, for instance.
Or a rice-and-curry combo of two veg curries and one meat curry for $15.
That latter deal will do us – or two of us anyway!
Justin is extremely happy with his curry combo deal.
Unlike many other Indian and Sri lankan eateries, here the curry deals can be customised according to customer wishes – rather than being a mix of whatever the staff choose back out in the kitchen.
The mild beef curry is some way short of tender, but not tough, either – perfectly normal and acceptable for this kind of food.
The eggplant moju disappears at pace.
But it is the potato curry that is the star – so simple and tasty!
It is a vegetable selection that shines brightest in Bennie’s line-up, as well.
The okra dish is as good as we’ve enjoyed.
The vegetable holds its vibrant greenness, is not in the least cooked down and shows not the slightest sign of sliminess.
We’re all taken with the cashew curry, which is way more creamy and moist than the above photograph suggests.
It’s nice, with the nuts just on the tender side of al dente.
But, as Bennie later opines, there is a strong element of same-same about it that suggests it would be more enjoyed as a smaller side.
One of the main things Bennie enjoys about Sri Lankan food is the ability to order pork.
His pork curry here is similar to those he’s enjoyed elsewhere – dry, charry, enjoyable.
But beware – this is very, very fatty.
The $15 meal deals my companions enjoy involve excellent food and represent superb value.
My lampraise ($17) is something entirely different.
I’ve enjoyed other versions of this very traditional Sri Lankan meal – cooked in a banana leaf – but never quite this hearty or rustic.
The cooked-in-stock rice is a fine foundation.
The stars are a couple of fat charred, juicy and supremely delicious prawns.
There’s an orb of tuna cutlet and a heap of chicken and the same pork, very fatty, as in Bennie’s curry.
The chicken is overcooked by Western, charcoal grill standards, but that is – I strongly suspect – entirely normal for this dish.
My meal is so meaty, so macho that the phrase “meat lovers” comes to mind – something more usually associated with dodgy pizzas.
As well, the fried egg – very good – lends the dish something of the aspect of an old-school English fry-up.
So … not everyone’s cup of tea.
But, no doubt, just precisely the ticket for some!
At the top of the meal, we’d started out with a serve of spicy chicken ribs ($8).
Our handful were fine – not so spicy and quite oily, but lip-smackingly juicy and tender.
The White Elephant is doing breakfasts!
The menu ranges from western-style dishes such as eggs, toast and pancakes through to string hoppers and roti with curry.
Meanwhile, we wish the White Elephant crew well – and, on the basis of those awesome spud and okra dishes, we’ll be back for more veg.