Indi Kitch, 2/451 Melbounre Road, Newport. Phone: 8383 4296
Vanitha Naidu is quite something of a numinous, unheralded hero of western suburbs food.
Unheralded thus far, that is.
CTS digs her, her food and her restaurant so much we’re very happy to give things a nudge in the right direction.
It’s rare for CTS and its pals to meet someone so firmly and deeply into their food and cooking, nor so happy to discuss them.
Just about everything at Indi Kitch is created from the ground up.
There’s a lot of spice roasting and grinding going on here.
And show me someone else who takes the time to hand stuff okra!!!
She’s lived in Australia for 40 years, yet describes herself as second-generation Indian via Malaysia – with a nifty side serve of Goan god aunts!
Vanitha has been running Indi Kitch since the beginning of the year and is having to be patient.
That means she has continued to foster the tradie/commuter morning and lunch coffee trade that comes as a legacy of the previous tenants in this cozy Newport space.
And it means, too, that inevitably it is taking time to get the word out to the thousands of nearby residents about the fine food available here.
This is not an area that conjures up mental images of spicy, delicious Indian and/or Malaysian food, but Vanitha tells me those local residents who have found the place are very happy indeed.
Finally, Indi Kitch is – no surprise – beset by the staffing problems that are near universal in the restaurant/cafe game at the moment.
So, in the short term at least, Vanitha is unable to open the couple of nights a week for dinner that are a cherished ambition.
Take-home meals are available, but if you’re regular working/schooling person unable to mid-week lunch it and want to eat in, you can have your pick of a Saturday or Sunday lunch!
It’s a Sunday for us – Nat, Bennie and myself – and we’re very happy to be here.
We can choose from the regular lunch menu of laksas, rotis or nasi lemak (see below).
But given the chance to go banana leaf style, we do so.
The basic vego banana leaf set-up here costs $18.90.
That’s a few bucks more than we’re accustomed to elsewhere, so we all decide to keep it simple and go without any of the meaty side curries available.
That’s not just a matter of penny pinching, I suspect, but also largely about we three wanting something relatively light for our Sunday lunches.
We have no regrets about these tactics.
Our banana leaf spreads are excellent, delicious and unlike any we have previously tried.
For starters, these are real-deal healthy – there’s a noticeable lack of the oiliness and saltiness that we might normally expect.
And that in turn means that the food must deliver it’s flavour bombs through deft cooking and seasoning.
And deliver it does.
Silverbeet cooked with both red lentils and toor dal.
A tangy chutney made of coconut, yoghurt and mustard seeds.
Okra stuffed with coconut, chilli and other spices.
A powerfully fragrant lime pickle.
Mildly spiced potatoes, semi-mashed in a way that recalls the textures of American southern-style potato salad.
And, naturally, dal and rice. And a papadum!
All good, all delicious.
Earlier, our keen interest in the food and its preparation had been rewarded by a freebie serve of tuna samosas (normally $3 each).
They are superb!
Tuna and chilli encased in brilliant, crunchy flaky pastry cocoons, all with a whiff of empanada about them.
We depart feeling extremely well fed and very happy.
But foolishly, I forget to take pics of the restaurant’s exterior, giving me the perfect excuse to return the next day for a solo lunch.
Oh, yummy, yummy – Goan-style green curry with rice and more of that coconut/yoghurt chutney ($14).
Under that tangy sauce is a chubby, meaty, bone-in thigh of wonderful chook.
What makes it so green?
All the green stuff – spring onions, mint, coriander, curry leaves.