Be one with the Biryani Nation

2 Comments
nation2

 

Biryani Nation, 6 Lohse Street, Lverton. Phone: 8597 3452

The Lohse and Hall Street shops are tucked away, over the train tracks and about a kilometre from Laverton’s main shopping area, around Aviation Road and Cheeky Chewies Cafe.

Very local, very low key.

There was a couple of Indian places here we never visited.

They’re gone – and now there’s just the very brand new Biryani Nation.

With a name like that, you’d want to be pretty darn good at cooking … biryanis.

Certainly, the menu makes a big deal out of this sub-continental rice dish – there are about 30 of them, including vegetarian options, listed (see below).

Apart from the regulation and expected dum biryanis – in which the meat is cooked with the rice – I suspect many of the Biryani Nation dishes could more accurately be labelled as pulaos.

That’s of no matter to me – I’m not about to get into hair-splitting if the food is good and there is a range of flavours and seasoning among the various biryani selections.

There is – I know, because I’ve tried two of them and they were very good.

 

nation7

 

Chicken fry biryani ($13.95) has crunchy fried onions, cashews, curry leaves and plenty of meaty, chewy chicken pieces on the bone.

The accompanying gravy (tastes peanutty but is, I’m told, cashew-based) and raita are served in admirably hefty quantities and are excellent.

 

nation3

 

Gongura mutton biryani ($16.95) is more in the pulao style – but is a knockout.

Gongura, I find out, is a leafy vegetable widely used in India – it’s basically sorrel.

Here, as in saag/spincach dishes, it is used as a puree marinade cooking medium for the mutton, one piece of which crowns my rice pile and many others of which are buried within.

Some of the mutton pieces are bone-free and wonderful.

As many more are on the bone and rather tough – but I like it like that, getting fully into the hands-on swing that very much goes with this sort of territory.

The big thing is the flavour – the gongura produces a zesty, citrus-like tang like I’ve never before experienced in Indian food.

I love it!

So much so, that I use the raita only sparingly, and the gravy not at all, in order to enjoy the leafy puree all the more.

 

nation8

 

For non-biryani fans, there’s plenty of scope for enjoyment elsewhere on the Biryani Nation menu – dosas, Indo-Chinese, thalis.

These onion pakora ($4.95) are beaut with their crunchy batter and curry leaves.

 

nation6

 

The Biryani nation desserts range runs mostly to the familiar likes of kulfi and gulab jamun, but …

I am presented, complementarily, with this amazing double ka meetha on account of it being opening day.

They should put it on the menu!

It’s an Indian take on bread pudding, the white sliced bread all puffed up with milk and perfumed with saffron and cardamom.

And sugar.

Topped with chopped almonds and pistachios, it’s a killer treat.

 

nation1

nation5

nation4

Indian flavor explosion in Footscray

Leave a comment

sankranti1

 

Sankranti Australia, 250 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9041 9899

Sankranti has been open a few weeks, and in that time I’ve enjoyed some nice food south Indian – pooris, a biryani.

But I’ve left it to do a story for the weekend the restaurant is doing a three days of special menus in celebration of the festival after which it is named.

On the plus side, for me that means a beaut – and very photogenic – feed.

On the down side, a one-off vegetarian feast can not be taken as representative of the regular menu.

So let’s look at it this way – my Saturday lunch meal may not be what you’ll get on a regular visit here, but it is representative of the care and love that goes into the Sankranti food.

 

sankranti3

 

The Saturday Sankranti deal costs me $29 (see details below).

Quite a bit for a vegetarian thali, eh?

Well, no.

I’m happy to pay up and eat, such is diversity of tastes and textures, some of them familiar, many of them new to me and even challenging.

Latha talks me through some of the particulars and rituals normally involved with eating this sort of festive food.

 

sankranti5

 

I even give the traditional eating order a go – sweets first, soup and yogurt last.

The sweets don’t look very appetising, do they?

Not so – they make lovely eating, though in quite a different way from more familiar Indian sweets such as kulfi.

But a lifetime of culinary indoctrination of the soup/mains/sweets school is hard to kick.

And the effort of mentally trying to match new and interesting names with specific dishes tumbles into the realm of information overload.

So in the end, I just go with my own flow and enjoy the dazzling array before me.

I especially like the rasam, the deep-fried and battered okra, the spicy coriander rice and the rice and vermicelli pudding that is payasam.

This has been a humbling reminder that for all the Indian food I eat, in terms of regional diversity and a fabulously rich food culture, I am a mere beginner.

 

sankranti2

Indian yum cha, anyone?

Leave a comment

tiwari5

 

Tiwari Tea House, 1/578 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 8529 5960

According to a recent story in one of the papers, the growth of skycscraper canyons in central Melbourne has been a thoroughly unplanned, haphazard process.

I figure much the same can be said for the flowering of Indian food in West Footscray and, to some extent, the surrounding areas.

I doubt that, 10 years or so ago, a bunch of ambitious Indian business people sat down and said: “Righto, we’re going to take over Barkly Street in West Footscray!”

Cities and their neighbourhoods often move in mysterious ways and, equally often, it’s only in hindsight that patterns can be perceived.

Count us among those who see what has developed in West Footscray as quite fabulous – something worth celebrating.

We have our favourite food there and favourite places, depending on our whim of the moment.

 

tiwari8

 

One thing we do look for is a point of difference.

Tiwari Tea House has that in spades.

While other Barkly Street eateries feature chaat – savoury Indian snack-type dishes – this place does nothing but.

The food is all vegetarian.

Four of us get into the menu (see below) and come away happy, and perhaps even feeling refreshed from eating snacky things so devoid of the heavy spicing and meatiness we often enjoy hereabouts.

 

tiwari2

 

As the name makes clear, this place is also much about tea – so we go with that flow, Bennie and I having the masala chai ($9.95 for two), while our pals Julian and Christine have black ginger tea.

This seems rather pricey for a couple of cups of chai.

We find it enjoyable, but wish we had ordered after our food started arriving – or even at the end of our meal – as we are pretty much done with it even before we start eating.

Maybe we’re missing something in terms of Indian chaat-eating and tea-drinking rituals and protocols?

No matter – we enjoy all our food, and love some of it a lot.

Big hits are our vada pavs ($6.95 each, top photograph).

Looking like tall, chubby burgers, these are bread buns stuffed with wonderful potato patties.

The potato is heavily infused with turmeric, but otherwise mildly seasoned.

That’s a lot carbs, right?

Yet the overall effect is much lighter than we may have been expecting and the flavours hit the spot.

 

tiwari4

 

We have two sets of crispy cutlets ($8.95 for two), served with dipping sauces of the tamarind and green chilli variety.

Leastwise, I think that’s what the sauces are – and I could certainly be missing some of the specifics.

The spinach-cheese cutlets are on the dull side.

No such problem with the mixed vegetable varieties – they’re both stuffed with a mix that is colourful and tasty.

 

tiwari6

 

These cute guys are dahi puri ($7.95 for six) – a close relative of the more familiar pani puri.

So closely related, I suspect, that I struggle to tell the difference, apart from the inclusion of yogurt – though there’s no doubt these sev-topped flavour bombs are delicious!

 

tiwari7

 

Aloo tiki chat ($8.95) is another big hit with all of us – we should’ve double ordered!

Yes, more potato.

Here, the spud rissoles appear to be even less seasoned, yet – nice surprise! – have a semblance of chargrill flavour.

They’re topped with a sticky jam/chutney, tomato, raw onion and more sev.

These are very, very nice.

I can see myself dropping into Tiwari Tea House with some regularity – when I feel like Indian flavours, but am not up to confronting a full-on biryani or some such.

 

 

tiwari1

tiwari9

Happy birthday, Mishra’s Kitchen!

2 Comments
mishra34

 

Mishra’s Kitchen, 18 Wembley Ave, Yarraville. Phone: 9314 3336

It’s a most happy thing, this food-blogging caper, or as it’s evolved for us anyway …

Pretty much the only down side is that mostly we don’t have the opportunity to patronise on a more regular basis so many top places and the smiling, welcoming people who run them.

 

mishra37

 

Such a one is Mishra’s Kitchen on Wembley Avenue in Yarraville.

So we are delighted to accept Sanjeev’s invitation to attend his joint’s fifth birthday party.

 

mishra39

 

We bowl up right at the appointed time thinking that, as so often is the case with us, that we’ll among the very first arrivals and that proceedings will only just be getting underway.

Wrong – the part is already in full swing!

 

mishra35

 

We make happy with the laid-out goodies that include a luscious dal makhani and a very toothsome goat curry.

Sanjeev has turned on this spread without charge.

 

mishra36

 

But guests are being encouraged to give the money they would otherwise have spent on food to the Moira Kelly Creating Hope Foundation.

From Sanjeev’s invittation: “Moira Kelly, AO, has supported sick children and their families for decades. She is known for her work in bringing to Australia children with serious health problems that local doctors are unable to treat (such as conjoined Bangladeshi twins Trishna and Krishna). Moira takes on causes that everybody else says are impossible, and she says of her work: ‘There’s no saying No to hope.’ Her aim is to help international and local needy children and families to be as independent as possible and live full lives in the community.”

You can read all about Moira and her kids here.

 

mishra310

 

We have a lovely time chatting with many people.

 

mishra313

 

And we even have the pleasure of running into Mick and Anika, our neighbours from the days we lived in West Footscray!

 

mishra311

mishra31

mishra33

mishra32

mishra38

mishra312

Stepping it up a tad, Indian style

3 Comments
nawab3

 

Nawab Sahab, 2/102-104 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 9749 8852

Luckily for us, the Indian food we most like is frequently produced by eateries at the lower end of the price spectrum.

But for once, we decide to try one of the spiffier places on Watton Street.

Not that Nawab Sahab, once you’re inside, is overwhelmingly grand or anything like that.

And the prices are very reasonable.

Very unusually for a western suburbs Indian eating house these days, there is no inclusion here of South Indian fare such a dosas, idlis, vadas and the like, and only a minimal Indo-Chinese component.

But there are handy points of difference choices under headings such Mumbai Special and Delhi Corner.

 

nawab2

 

Nawab Sahab also has a feature I have never before seen in an Indian restaurant – or a restaurant of any kind: A “selfie station” at which guests are invited to “dress up like a Hyderabdai prince”.

 

nawab1

 

We love it that a serve of papadums – unoily, crisp and with minty and tamarind dipping sauces on the side – is brought to our table without charge, as is a second serve.

For the first of two visits, Bennie and I both enjoy the “gold” thali (top photo) – at $21.50, a little more expensive than most of their kind, but still good.

Nice rice, a tangy chicken curry, a mushy one of the veg kind, rather crunchy chick peas, a way better-than-average raita, onion/pickle and a somewhat doughy gulab jamun – we are happy with what we eat.

 

nawab4

 

One of our thalis is served with a fine naan on the side …

 

nawab5

 

… the other with pooris.

 

nawab8

 

Our second visit, a week later, is uneven.

Bennie’s order of chicken noodles is a mistake.

Much as we like Indo-Chinese food, this dish reinforces for us the folly of ordering noodles in Indian eateries – though we have come across a few exceptions.

At $17.50, this over-priced for a very average noodle outing – though the serve is bigger, and deeper, that it first appears.

Really, either of the cheapie noodle houses a block away would do better for a quick, wok noodle fry-up.

Unfortunately, Bennie completes his dinner before mine arrives – and by now I’m wishing we’d gone elsewhere.

 

nawab9

 

My Amritsari kulcha ($16.50) does, however, redeem our night handily – especially when the second, advertised naan arrives.

The naan have only the very faintest paneer quotient, but are hot, lovely and slathered with ghee.

The chick peas are the same dark and overtly al dente specimens served with our earlier thalis and the raita is, again superb.

Check out the Nawab Sahab website – including menu – here.

 

nawab10

nawab7

nawab6

More dosa room in Tarneit

1 Comment
hut24

 

Dosa Hut, Wyndham Village Shopping Centre, 380 Sayers Road, Tarneit. Phone: 8742 4263

We’re in Tarneit for the opening of Dosa Hut.

Well, not quite – we’ve been here before and this Dosa Hut branch has been open for a while.

But Dosa Hut Tarneit IS having something of an event to celebrate the unveiling of its extended premises.

There’s a buzz about the place, there’s VIPs and music and some speechifying.

Dosas – or, more accurately, dosas and the range of other Indian food that such places offer – are big business in the west these days.

So much so that even those Indian places that have generally long focussed on more regular curry fare have been forced to extend their menus to encompass dosas … and idlis and vadas and Indo-Chinese goodies.

 

hut26

 

Competition is fierce – there’s four Dosa Hut joints across the city now.

And here in Tarneit, Dosa Hut is going head to head with Dosa Corner – just as they do in West Footscray.

But it’s worth remembering that it was Dosa Hut West Footscray that first brought dosas to the west – and it’s on that basis that we’re happy to drop into the Tarneit office on this auspicious evening.

The menu appears to be the same, longish affair – and with quite a number of dishes struck out.

But nevertheless, we have a ball ordering a couple of dishes that offer points of difference and find everything delicious.

 

hut21

 

Beaut idlis are brought to our table soon after we have ordered – and on the house.

They make a nice light start – though at this point we fear way too much food may be coming our way.

 

hut23

 

Pav bhaji ($9.95) is a Mumbai-style snack dish – and utterly simple and wonderful.

The potato-based, mild vegetable curry is tremendous while the buttered rolls belie, I suspect, a lingering influence of English colonial days.

 

hut22

 

After experiencing some overly damp and flaccid Indo-Chinese food in recent times, it’s a joy to lay eyes on and devour this crispy goat ($12.95).

It’s dry, chewy, boneless and fragrant, the jumble of diced veg resembling the sort of trimmings that come with salt-and-pepper dishes in Malaysian and Chinese places.

 

hut25

 

Regular chicken biryani ($11.95) is really fine, as expected, all the bits and pieces in good order.

We depart full and very happy, only to discover a red carpet has been laid out since our arrival.

We give it a strutting, opening-night whirl anyway.

 

hut27

Got the Punjab covered

3 Comments
sada15

 

Sada Bahaar, 308 Ballarat Road, Braybrook.

When Sadia – that’s her on the left – arrived in Australia from Pakistani Punjab about four years ago, she quickly realised she was going to need a driver’s licence for her new life.

In the course of obtaining one, her driving instructor was Ravinder – that’s her on the right – who hails from Indian Punjab.

Out of that experience grew a friendship and now a restaurant.

And along the way, Sadia, too, has become a driving instructor.

Sada Bahaar (it means ever-green) is situated on a stretch of Ballarat Road that is never, ever going to win any beauty contests.

But it is showing signs of increasing foodiness, what with the presence of a long-time Sri Lankan place we have yet to cover, a much newer, cheap ‘n’ cheerful Sri Lankan place, as well as a burger joint. Also nearby, just around the corner really, is the wonderful West of Kin.

 

sada5

 

The origins in friendship of Sada Bahaar imbue this comfy eatery with a vibe that is almost unRestaurant – the same person who takes your order is also going to be among those knocking your food together in the kitchen.

We like that.

We like, too, the chance to explore some different and Pakistani dishes from the usual Indian stuff we devour on a weekly (at least) basis.

To that end, our very good buddy Nat Stockley has already made inquiries along those lines even before Bennie and I rock up.

We enjoy a very tasty meal that blends Indian and Pakistani tucker in fine home-cooked style.

 

sada11

 

Dahi bhalay ($7.50) are deep-fried urad dal dumplings served with spiced yogurt, chick peas and onion bits.

They are also very nice – the blandness of the dumplings (they have, for all of us, a touch of the felafel about them) offset by the tangy toppings.

 

sada10

 

Haleem is not so much a Pakistani dish but more a staple – made of grains, pulses, meat – across the Muslim world that is often associated with Ramadam.

This chicken version ($10) is very soup-like, the chook so finely minced that it all becomes one with the ingredients.

With its cool fried-onion topping, it reminds me of our favourite Iraqi soup.

 

sada16

 

From the tight barbecue section of the menu we get lamb seekh kebab ($10) – two long, skinless snags of minced lamb that is quite crumbly but nevertheless delicious.

 

sada14

 

All too often, the chick peas we get in Indian restaurants seem to be getting a bit tired on it.

By contrast, the Sada Bahaar Lahori cholay ($10) smacks of freshly cooked – but with the gravy and intact pulses nicely integrated.

And as you can see by the many flecks of chilli, this is quite highly spiced food – as are most of our dishes.

 

sada13

 

Sada Bahaar special kahari ($14) is the triumph of the night and our meal.

A rich (and, yes, rather oily) chook curry, it has high-impact flavours that are boosted to another, higher level by the dish being festooned with many ginger strands and discs of fresh, green chilli.

The chicken pieces are quite bony, and some of our party get more meat than others, but this is a beauty.

 

sada9

 

We get one each of the regular and garlic naans ($1 each, both pictured above) – they’re OK but unusual in that they’re more like flat bread than most naan we eat.

I prefer the chapati ($1, not pictured) we also order.

 

sada1

 

On earlier, reconnaissance visit by myself, I enjoyed the very affordable ($9.95) chicken biryani – it’s a rather dry version, but the flavours are all there, the raita joined in this case by a plate of salad veg instead of the more usual gravy.

Sadia tells us that much praise for her cooking was often attended by suggestions she should start a restaurant.

We’re glad she’s spreading some of that love around.

Especially given the low prices and welcoming, low-key ambience.

Thanks to Nat Stockley for help with the pics.

 

sada7

sada6

sada17

sada4

sada12