Tandoori Flames, 15 Vernon St, South Kingsville. Phone: 9078 2769
“So very disappointing, the place seemed to be full of family.”
This line from a recent diner’s comment about a new Yarraville eatery springs immediately to mind while we are enjoying our dinner at Tandoori Flames in South Kingsville.
Look, I know there’s horses for courses when it comes to restaurants, and that some folks like a quiet time.
Others are looking for a romantic vibe.
Others, too, don’t dig kids cluttering up cafes … and others again think flat-screen TVs have no place in any kind of eating establishment at all.
I’m sure it’s possible to have a quiet time at Tandoori Flames and even a romantic dinner, if that’s to your liking.
But based on this Father’s Day evening, you’d probably aim for a night earlier in the week.
By the time we’re halfway through our meal, the place is packed and the staff are very busy.
Even better, a passel of kids – half of them in-house variety, half of them customer offspring – are cavorting merrily all over the place and even playing tag between the tables.
No one minds.
No one cares.
No food is spilt.
Everyone is happy – including us!
And I see just a single admonishment issued to the young man who is the senior member of the group – something along the lines of, “Keep it down a little, eh?”, I presume.
I had earlier asked this character, who was polishing cutlery with his sister, how much he was getting paid.
His reply was instantaneous and emphatic:
“I don’t get paid – this is my restaurant!”
This would be Harnoor, son of Tandoori Flames proprietor Jimmy – and we’ll let them settle the ownership details.
We’re here as Jimmy’s guests (full disclosure below).
We were always going to make it to Tandoori Flames at some point, but his email spurred us into action – yes, we’d love to join the throng for Father’s Day dinner.
Jimmy tells me he and his crew have been at these premises for five years and that previous to that the building housed, variously, a Yugoslav social establishment, a sports club and a gay/lesbian hangout called My Sisters Lounge.
The interior is quite different from what I am expecting.
An irregularly-shaped room, plain brick walls, exposed beams, chandeliers, dancefloor and even a disco ball.
It’s funky and welcoming and we feel right at home.
As we enter, the band is cranking out – much to my surprise – a rowdy version of Cannonball Adderley’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.
After that, they throttle back for wide-ranging mix of soul and pop covers that sit right well with the crowd – by the time we leave, the dancefloor is doing good business.
In his email, Jimmy had stated: “I would love to serve you with our speciality items …”
So we take the bold option of leaving our meal in his hands, just mentioning that we’d like to try some stuff from the tandoor oven and a little seafood.
This proves a mistake – but not because the food we are provided is bad or even unenjoyable.
I just wish I’d kept my wits about me and said: “Please, Jimmy, no butter chicken!”
Being only a moderate fan of paneer, chilly paneer lazeez ($14.90) – “cottage cheese cubes battered fried then wok fried with shallots, bell pepper soya sauce and red chilli sauce” – finds only moderate favour with me. I actually prefer the accompanying vegetables more.
But, to my surprise, Bennie really likes the paneer, happily stabbing successive cubes until our next platter arrives.
Tandoori mixed grill ($19.90) is the goods and one of two outright food highlights of our night.
“Seek kebab”, like shish kkofta and nicely chewy but maybe a little on the dry side.
Two succulent lamb cutlets.
And, best of all, chicken tikka and tandoori chicken.
The various bits of chook are outstanding and juicy.
Maybe a little less of the lurid orange of typical tandoori chicken, and a whole lot more herbs and spices and a big flavour whack of lemon.
And all the meats go even better with the onions into which the cooking juices have soaked.
We scarf the lot, no problem.
Butter chicken ($15.50)? This is probably a good version, but it’s simply not my thing – or even of much appeal to Bennie.
Tender chicken, but it’s so rich and so sweet!
(Any ideas why this is THE dish most people order in Indian restaurants?)
Dal makhani ($12.50) is creamily rich, too, but the blend of black lentils is silky and smooth.
After all that richness, prawn malabar ($17.90) comes as a relief and is our other big thumbs-up for the night.
There’s a lot of prawns, every one of which have that “bursty” thing going on that fine prawns always do.
The gravy is just right – coconut-based and laced with mustard seeds and flavoured, too, with curry leaves.
Our meal is completed by one apiece of good garlic ($3) and mint ($3.50) naans.
We’re full and then some – but, naturally, Bennie has no problem finding room for his tall glass of jelly, ice cream and fruit that goes by the title of Tutti Frutti.
Aside from getting a couple of dishes we wouldn’t normally choose – no one’s fault, that, except mine – we’ve had a ball at Tandoori Falmes and really adore the happy family vibes.
There’s Indian music of a more restrained variety on Friday nights and belly dancing on Saturday nights.
And, yes, the place has a couple of wall-mounted flat-screen TVs!
Check out the Tandoori Flames website, including menu, here.
Our meal at Tandoori Flames was provided free of charge by the owner in return for a story on Consider The Sauce. The food we enjoyed was chosen by the management. Tandoori Flames had no editorial control of this post.