Two amazing iso meals

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House of Mandi, 326 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9077 3963
Latin Foods & Wines, 809 Ballarat Road, Deer Park. Phone: 8358 5503

A substantial desire for Somalian food is upon us.

But instead of recourse to an icky app, I’m happy to head out on a Friday night to Flemington.

Discovering as I do so, and as I’m sure many others are, that driving logistics and stress is much lessened in current circumstances.

House of Mandi looks like just about every other eating places these days – the place is in a state of friendly disarray, with tables pushed back to the walls.

But it’s open!

I order, get our food and am back in Yarraville in what seems like no time.

Just what sort of meal we’re getting remains a mystery until we open the polystyrene boxes on the kitchen counter.

 

 

Gosh – it’s all brilliant.

And then some.

There’s no soup involved, which is not unexpected as this takeaway.

The rest is sublime.

Rice – studded with cardamom and cloves.

But this has depth of smoky flavour that we have never before encountered in countless Somalian meals.

Bennie has no qualms about calling it: “This is the best rice I’ve ever had!”

Spiced yogurt and green chilli sauce – plenty of both.

Our lamb shanks are tender, tasty and perfect in every way.

We’ve paid $15 for this amazing meal.

 

 

The next day is as bleak a Saturday as can be imagined.

Because of the rain and chill, I have something of a plan that involves grabbing empanadas and other supplies at Latin Foods & Wines and then whizzing home on the ring road to enjoy our lunch in warmth and comfort.

But Bennie has other ideas – he definitely wants to wrap his choppers around our fave Latin Foods & Wines sandwich, the chacarero.

So far as I can recall, we’ve never eaten a meal while sitting in our car; the idea has no appeal.

But I reluctantly let him have his way – and it turns out to be a most excellent call.

We get what I strongly suspect is an iso deal – so my advice would be get it while you can.

Chacarero, top-notch chips that are hot and crisp and a can of soft drink – all for $10.

Our sandwiches?

Wonderful, with their squeaky green beans and sliced beef that is of such high quality that it defies the gnawing aspect that usually leads to regular steak sandwiches disintegrating.

We enjoy our lunches yet never spill a drop of food juice on ourselves or the car.

Maybe I should re-adjust my attitudes to this kind of eat-in meal?

Reliable, excellent Malaysian

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Chef Lagenda, Shop 9-10/835A Ballarat Road, Deer park. Phone:8358 5389

Consider The Sauce is facing a very busy – but happy – few Saturday hours.

Kung fu class in Carlton from 11am to noon.

A 2pm appointment in Toolern Vale for a frolic at the Dingo Discovery Sanctuary and Research Centre with some dingo pups.

Do we have time for a quick bite of lunch in between?

Of course!

Though, mindful that there’s a bit of driving to do in a somewhat hicuppy car, I make sure we get a long way to our rural destination before parking at Deer Park.

There we pass by – for once – our regular Deer Park favourite and head for Chef Lagenda.

CTS reviewed this place way back in 2012 soon after it had opened.

These days there are four in the Chef Lagenda family – the most famous in Flemington, as well as Deer Park, Hawthorn and Richmond.

At the time it opened in Deer Park, there was a good deal of excitement in that neighbourhood.

Since then, the Deer Park strip has bloomed considerably in terms of food – is Chef Lagenda holding its own?

The answer is emphatic: “Yes!”

All we’re after is a quick, simple, affordable and tasty feed – and we succeed admirably.

The place is obviously a popular local stalwart, as it’s doing very brisk trade at 12.30pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Nothing much appears to have changed since our earlier visit – the bicycle is still on the wall and the service (cash only) is fine.

Chef Lagenda may be ostensibly Malaysian of food, but it roasts, Chinese-style, its own meats.

But we pass by those options and pragmatically opt for some straightahead Malaysian favourites.

 

 

Achar ($5.80) could do with a bit more spice and vinegary tang, but is fine nonetheless.

We pretty much automatically give a hearty thumbs up to any dish that involves cauliflower.

 

 

Bennie’s koay teow ($11.50) is a superb rendition – significantly less oily than some we’ve had and fully redolent of wok hai.

 

 

My regular curry laksa ($9.80) is, well, regulation.

But it’s also very, very good.

There’s a good handful of tasty, plump prawns in there.

The plentiful chicken meat is way superior to the scraggly chook that sometimes manifests itself in laksa outings.

Best of all is the eggplant.

I always eagerly look forward to the eggplant portion of a curry laksa.

But sometimes it can be bitter and not very attractive to eat at all.

This Chef Lagenda laksa has just a  single piece – to the left of the bowl.

But it’s long, meltingly tender and 100 per cent delicious.

In recent weeks, Bennie and I have discussed how prices have risen since CTS started.

Outside of a couple of banh mi, the days of a meal that covers us both for $20 seem long gone.

Yet, here in Deer Park, we’ve had a grand cheap feast when we weren’t even looking for a blog-worthy meal.

The total bill – including two mains, a side dish and two cans of soda pop – is $34.10.

And we reckon that’s excellent.

 

Latin Foods & Wines – now in Deer Park

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Latin Foods & Wines, 809 Ballarat Road, Deer Park. Phone: 8358 5503

Visiting Latin Foods & Wines – or La Morenita as we’ve mostly called it – in the shabby industrial wilds of Berkshire Road in Sunshine North has been one of the greatest pleasures in Consider The Sauce’s existence.

Those days are over – but that’s no cause for sadness.

Because Marco and Maria are still very much in business – in fact, they’re in business bigger and better than before.

 

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They have moved into the very roomy premises that was formerly occupied by Blu Cow Deli on the commercial strip on Ballarat Road in Deer Park.

 

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And in a grand sign that some things will never change, the gorgeous blackboard from Berkshire has been replicated in Deer Park in whiteboard style but using the same handwritten style.

 

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Yes!

That means all our fave sandwiches and empandadas and churros and the like are still very much on the menu.

They reckon siting themselves in Deer Park puts them even more at the centre of widely dispersed Latin/South American community in the west.

 

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But going bigger also means getting broader, so there’s now also a touch of Italian and Maltese about some of the bakery, grocery and deli lines, while the booze range has been widely expanded.

 

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Their arrival in Deer Park means that strip is looking more and more like a cool foodie destination, with Latin Food & Wines and a recent Ethiopian arrival joining two Turkish joints, three Vietnamese and a Malaysian.

There are plans for breakfasts and proper, sit-down South American-style dinners at Latin Food & Wines but in the meantime the hours are  8am-8pm daily.

Ethiopian salmon

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Betty’s Ethiopian Restaurant & Cafe, 819 Ballarat Road, Deer Park. Phone: 9363 0857

Consider The Sauce is not used to seeing fish on the menu’s of Ethiopian eateries.

And certainly, spying salmon kitfo ($17) on the menu at betty’s in Deer Park is a first.

It’s a beguiling dish.

The flavour of the chopped salmon is subtle but very present.

The fish dances atop of bed of near-creamed spinach and a base of ricotta and yogurt.

And there’s quite a high level heat provided by, according to the menu (see below), green chilli.

It’s beaut and, naturally, one of the more unusual dishes on the Betty menu.

 

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On a visit earlier than my mid-week fishy lunch, Bennie and I tried the beyaynetu vegetarian combo ($15 per person).

It’s very good.

It has lentils three ways, the familiar mix of spud and beetroot, and cabbage/carrotconcoctions that display a bit more crunch and texture than is often the cooked-down case in the other Ethiopian places.

The beyaynetu is accompanied by a typically high-quality simple salad full of zing and crunch.

Betty’s is unusual in that it one of the very few Melbourne Ethiopian restaurants that makes its own injera – in this case with a mix of barley flour and Australian-grown teff.

 

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Before opening their new cafe/eatery, Betty Diemsse and her husband, Beruk, ran a grocery store at the same premises alongside a small business importing Ethiopian spices and the like.

The Derrimut couple tell me that since opening recently they’ve welcomed into their restaurant all sorts of locals – Sudanese, Somalian, Eritrean; Aussies of many kinds, in truth.

Betty’s joins good Turkish and Vietnamese places, and the popular Chef Lagenda, on the the Deer Park commercial/eats strip.

With the looming arrival of Latin Food & Wines, which is moving from its long-time base at Berkshire Road in Sunshine, it could be said things are looking up food-wise in Deer Park.

Latin Food & Wines will be taking over the big premises that formerly housed Blue Cow Deli.

Their sensational sandwiches and empanadas will be joined by a range of more substantial South American dishes, an expanded line of groceries and a bottle shop.

Excitement!

 

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Deer Park eats goss

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Western Pho in Deer Park is on the move.

The humble yet excellent Vietnamese eatery on Burnside Street – written about and given a new and glowing thumbs up from CTS regular Juz here – will move around the corner to the service road shopping strip on Ballarat Road in three months or so.

Proprietor Phi tells me there will be more food, more staff and more seating – the new joint will have a seating capacity of at least 60.

I caught up with Phi and his builder, “Junior” Espinosa of GE Builder, at the old premises as they were discussing the floor plan for the new place.

“Junior” tells me has worked on such CTS faves as Hyderabad Inn, Dosa Hut and Pandu’s – that’s a nice pedigree!

 

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The new place still bears the signage of the previous tenant.

 

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And just a few doors away preparations are underway for an Indian eatery and …

 

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… another Vietnamese place!

This phases Phi not at all – competition being good and helping to build a happy neighbourhood eats destination, he reckons.

 

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Meanwhile, in even more good news for locals, the current Western Pho premises on Burnside Street, will be renamed Western Roll and feature banh mi, rice paper rolls and the like, including sauces from Phi’s hometown near Cam Ranh Bay – and coffee.

It’s all happening in Deer Park!

 

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What a find in Deer Park!

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Western Pho, 2B Burnside St, Deer Park. Phone: 9363 0022

Think western suburbs and Vietnamese food and almost all of us will automatically think Footscray, followed by Sunshine and St Albans.

But Deer Park sports a Vietnamese gem.

Western Pho is a gorgeous little family run business situated just off the main Deer Park shopping strip.

It’s a first restaurant adventure for Phi and his wife, Ha, who does most of the cooking.

They’ve been up and running since taking over the premises from the previous operators about five months ago, and some time before that the place was a (mostly takeaway) Chinese establishment.

That heritage shows in the comfy old-school decor, which is these days adorned by a plethora of food photos.

The service is super friendly and caring.

And judging by the number of familiar locals coming and going, it seem Western Pho is playing something of community hub role as well.

Based on my most enjoyable lunch, I reckon just about everything on the menu would be worth trying.

It’s a long document, listing more than 100 items and boasting prices at the lower end of what you’d find in Footscray.

They’re all there – well most of “them”: Pho and other soup noodles, vermicelli, fried noodles, Chinese-derived dishes, one-person rice plates, rice paper and spring rolls, satay skewers and much more.

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I really dig it when Vietnamese restaurants provide small-serve portions of soup – it enables one to get a soup hit without dedicating a whole meal to it.

Western Pho has six of them, all but one of them priced at a very groovy $4.

The broth of my wonton soup is a little too sweet for my taste, but is still fine and hot.

The three tender-yet-pleasingly-chewy dumplings are joined by a couple of good pork slices and various bits of greenery.

Sometimes soggy, soup-laden lettuce leaves are just the ticket!

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Western Pho’s coleslaw, Phi tells me, is normally served “unspicy” but he’s happy to add some chilli slices to my order of the prawn and vegetable rendition ($11).

They’re the cream on what is a very good version of Vietnamese coleslaw.

The vegetables are so fresh and crunchy that I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover my salad had been made from scratch in the kitchen.

There’s a lot of medium-sized prawn tails that have been split in two length-wise. They, too, are very fresh and quite delicate. But their flavour is so very, very mild that I rather wish I’d opted for the chicken or pork versions.

Joining the red chilli slices are plenty of roasted peanuts and fried shallots, with the whole dish basking in a pleasant but not particularly tangy dressing.

Deer Park punters are lucky to have such a cracking Vietnamese eatery in their ‘hood.

They do home delivery, too!

 

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Deniz Kebab House

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Deniz Kebab House, 829 Ballarat Rd, Deer Park. Phone: 9363 1188

Here’s a Turkish eats place that sells a lot of the sandwiches otherwise known as kebabs, but which deserves to be considered so much more than a kebab shack.

With its homely formica tables, tiled floor, very friendly service and extensive menu, Deniz Kebab House is very much a family-style full-on Turkish restaurant.

Talking with owners Tuncel and Inci is very cool, as it always when the people concerned are so full of enthusiasm and passion for what they are doing.

Everything is made in-house, they proudly tell me.

And that “everything” is a lot – not just the various meats, dips and salads but also all the sweets, bread, pides, boreks, pizzas and more.

My single dolma is good, with tomatoey rice that is so al dente it’s almost crunchy. I like it that way when it comes my way!

There’s three meat genres going around and around on spits – lamb doner, chicken and one called “slice lamb kebab”.

Seizing with glee on a point of difference, I order the latter.

It’s unlike any kebab meat dish I’ve ever experienced – nicely, gently chewy with a distinctive flavour that makes me almost think there’s some kind of cheese been used in its preparation.

I subsequently discover from Tuncel that the lamb is softened with milk and onion and cooked with salt, pepper, chilli, oregano and paprika. 

I’ve requested some of the house chilli dip so get that and none at all of the customary yogurt-based accompaniments for such a meal, but I’m cool with that and up for some heat.

The chilli dip is fiery hot and piquant, and goes great with not just the meat but also the bread, which arrives at my table so hot and fresh it’s steaming.

Dolma, meat plate with dip and salad, can of soft drink and a pide stuffed with lamb and herbs for the next day’s work lunch – and I’ve still got change from $20.

Tuncel tells me the opening of Chef Lagenda a few doors up a few months back is good for business in terms of helping the Deer Park strip foster a reputation for foodiness.

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Roxy Kebab Cafe

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Roxy Kebab Cafe, 801C Ballarat Rd, Deer Park. Phone: 8390 1007

Roxy Kebabs – doesn’t sound too flash, does it?

But as with so much else about western suburbs eating, looks are deceptive.

This Turkish establishment was noted down for close-to-immediate investigations after being spied while perusing the Deer Park shopping strip as part of Consider The Sauce’s visit to the new Chef Lagenda.

Seeing a bunch of fellows slurping up lamb shank soup has that sort of effect upon us.

School is out early for the start of the holiday break, so up the road we head, having a strong hunch the place will rise above its daggy name and humble exterior.

That it does.

Roxy Kebab Cafe is a small operation but all the expected goodies seem present and they’re doing wildfire trade on this Friday lunchtime.

Looks are deceptive, too, with the lamb shank soup, one of three – there’s also lentil and tripe varieties available.

The small serve ($6), with fresh Turkish bread, would do nicely as a light meal.

The opaque surface hides heaps of marvellously tender globs of shank meat and the broth flavour is strong.

Our soup is also rather fatty, so a hefty squeeze of the lemon segment provided is definitely required.

To make up the rest of our $20 lunch we go with the small meal of the day ($13), with both lamb and chicken from the spit, chilli and hummus dips and salad.

There’s no rice but it’s a goodly sized serve nevertheless.

In order of impressiveness …

The salad is beaut – a crispy, fresh concoction of lettuce, green, onions, cabbage, carrot, parsley and – quite probably – more.

It may seem odd to rate salady bits as prime in a visit to a kebab joint, but for us these sorts of places are as much about the trimmings and condiments as they are about the carnivorous aspects.

The chilli dip is tangy and crunchy and fab – and it’s of only mild disposition, meaning we can (just about) slather it on the bread like a normal dip.

The lamb is tasty and tender. The chicken is a bit bland for me, but then I generally find it’s always so.

The hummus is fresh, creamy and smooth but seems almost shockingly devoid of flavour.

Still, all up this has been a most satisfactory kebab shop lunch.

Stepping outside, we step right next door for a fun visit to Hollywood Costumes.

Even though it’s clear we’re not in there as paying customers, the staff could not be more friendly and welcoming.

Bennie checks out the long rank of Superhero Costumes with an expert eye, though we also note with approval the presence of Ghostbusters and Spongebob garb.

We make a diversion on the way back to the car for a stupendously generous $2.90 cup of berry gelati and a cafe latte and hot chocolate at Pane e Latte, just behind the shopping strip, thus rounding out a most excellent Deer Park adventure.

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Chef Lagenda

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Chef Lagenda, Shop 9/10, 835A Ballarat Rd, Deer Park. Phone: 8358 5389

Why on earth order a vegetarian laksa?

Well, I can think of a couple of really good reasons, actually.

For one thing, to get more than just the single piece of eggplant that customarily accompanies laksa soup/noodles of the chicken or seafood varieties.

For another, sometimes – and just like most carnivores of various kinds I know – I just feel like vegetables.

My Chef Lagenda vegetarian laksa ($8.90) scores highly in both regards.

My TWO pieces of eggplant are magnificent – larger than is usually the case, slippery, tender, tasty and with a luscious smokiness.

The laksa broth is very creamy and of only mild spiciness, but has fine depth of house-made flavour.

There’s vegetable galore – bok choy, broccoli, bean sprouts, along with plenty of chewy leather-skinned cubes of tofu sopping with gravy juices.

This Chef Lagenda is, of course, a sister restaurant for the establishment of the same name in Flemington, the one that often seems as famous for its symbiotic and/or competitive relationship with its neighbour, Laksa King, as it is for its food.

The Deer Park joint’s menu is mostly the same as the one in Flemo, but there seems to be a whole lot more room here – perhaps because it’s a single room, as opposed to the Crooked House dynamics in Flemington.

When I visit for lunch it’s only the second day of operation.

The manager, Francis, tells me that while this lunchtime is slow, on opening night they were 70 per cent full without any advertising at all.

Meanwhile, whatever tricks I’d played on my mind – if not my digestive system – by ordering a non-meat dish are soon brought undone. 

For by this time, unsurprisingly, Francis and her enthusiastic staff have twigged that I am writer, reviewer, blogger or some other sort of busybody.

So I am presented with a complementary sampler plate of the house-made roast meats.

Now, I may be able to summon a sufficiently straight to face to claim that had I been asked if I wanted this freebie, I would’ve replied in the negative.

But when the goodies are already right in front of me?

No way, Jose!

And I’m ever so glad.

Roast duck, roast pork, crackling pork – all really good, smoky, salty, tender. Better, in fact, than most places that specialise in such meaty goodies.

I gobble it all up yet am unable to finish my huge serve of laksa.

And FWIW, I doubt very much that anything I am served is in any way different from what is served to any other customer.

I see no reason that Chef Lagenda shouldn’t be riotously successful.

For starters, as far as I’m aware it’s the only Malaysian restaurant for 10km in any direction – maybe even 20km.

For another, and based on what I have for lunch, the place comes with the already well-established Chef Lagenda reputation for consistency and quality.

Locals are no doubt wildly happy about this opening.

As for the rest of us, it’s worth the trip.

For the time being, and very much so when compared to Flemington, the car parking is a breeze.

Before hunkering down for lunch, I’d strolled the entire Deer Park strip and was gratified by the potential riches I had noted – including a couple of classy kebab joints, one with a killer-looking lamb shank soup and chilli dip; an interesting and cheap Viet/Chinese  off the main strip; and a fine-looking deli. 

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Yummy India

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Yummy India, 21 Westwood Drive, Deer Park. Phone: 8337 0760

Yummy India in Deer Park has long been on our radar and finally the day has arrived.

We just didn’t think that in a million years the day would arrive on a Good Friday.

We’d already made Good Friday plans that involved the eating of Lebanese food in Coburg, but then the Yummy India folk posted on their Facebook page the day before that, yes, they’d be open over Easter – including for Good Friday lunch.

Really?

A pre-drive phone call ascertains that all is good and as advertised, so off we go.

The allure of Yummy India has for us is certainly to do with the pursuit of a good feed.

But it must be confessed the appeal is also undoubtedly to do with the restaurant’s location – on a Deer Park industrial estate and surrounded by fencing and swimming pool companies.

Of course, on this Good Friday there’s not a lot of traffic or any other kind of business going.

Like us, our mate Tony is transfixed and delighted by the sheer perversity, magicality and uniqueness of such a setting for such a restaurant.

Unsurprisingly, we are the only Good Friday lunch customers, although the service we receive is of the highest order and very friendly.

Our genial waiter tells they expect some takeaway orders and more trade by dinner time.

He certainly does the right thing by us right from the start be preventing us from over-ordering in a spectacular fashion.

The sort of rich and hearty food available here is quite a ways removed from the dosas, snack food and cut-rate thalis that are our normal Indian fare.

Nevertheless we’re out with a good friend and prepared to spend some money in order to get a fulsome, well-rounded lunch.

Three entrees, three mains and all the bits and pieces?

No, no, we are told – that’s too much.

And so it proves to be.

When asked about spice levels, I say – over Bennie’s protests – that medium will be fine.

Our entrees – which are at the upper end of our spice capacities – prove Bennie correct, and luckily we are in time to have the rest of our meal adjusted towards the mild end of the spectrum.

We are still learning our way with Indo-Chinese food, but that learning is involving increasing levels of enjoyment.

Apart from spice levels a tad too high for us, chilli and garlic mushrooms ($11.95) and chicken 65 ($12.95) have the high levels of oil we are coming to expect from this kind of food.

Moreover, despite the different names the flavours of both seem very similar, and the chook and mushie protagonists chewy where elsewhere I’ve enjoyed a more explosive crispness.

Not to be too picky, though – we enjoy both.

These are, of course, rather pricey for what are listed as entrees, but the serves are very big.

That trend continues with our main course curries and even the super large serve of raita ($3.50).

Indeed, I’m pretty sure the metal pots in which our curries arrive are bigger than those used in many other Indian restaurants of this type.

Nawabi chicken ($13.95) is, I’m told, based on a cashew nut gravy with your standard Indian spices and some tomato paste.

There’s some whole cashews, too, and what seems to be largish chunks of chicken breast are tender.

It’s  good, rich chicken curry.

The lamb lajawab ($12.95) is our meal’s highlight.

It, too, is based on a cashew nut gravy.

But this one is heavily laced with honey, giving it an aromatic flavour that is unlike that of any curry any of us have previously tried.

It’s delicious!

The lamb pieces are on the small side, and there’s not that many of them, but the meat is tender and lovely.

Apart from the advertised nuts and spices, I suspect both our curries also likely have a cream quotient on board, but if we were going to get squeamish about such things we would never have come.

Our garlic naan ($3.50) is oddly unbuttered and even quite crispy but still fine.

The aloo paratha ($3.50) has an obvious and oily sheen, but is quite good, too.

Despite a few mis-steps, Yummy India has restored our faith in the value of more formal, “special occasion”, expensive and rich Indian food.

The prices seem very typical, but the serves are large. Our lunch fare ends up costing us about $22 each, which is very good value indeed.

Where else would you get such a fine Indian meal on a Good Friday lunch-time?

And certainly, parking is never going to be a problem here, no matter the time or day.

(For those seeking lighter food, Yummy India also does idli, vada and dosas.)

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