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Sydney Indian/Pakistani Restaurants

PhilD Oct 25, 2009 01:25 AM

In response to Terry Durrack’s comments that there are no good Indian curry houses in Sydney I thought it was time to embark on some intensive research.

First off “Curry at the Rocks” which is quite close to “The Lord Nelson” pub at the end of Kent Street in the upper Rocks area, and what could be better than a few pints of “Three Sheets” followed by a Friday night curry.

It is a fairly basic restaurant in a small row of shops, and it has a fairly short menu. On our first visit it was empty which was an ominous sign, on the next visit it was packed. The difference: torrential rain on the first visit keeping most sensible people at home. Both meals were good, the breads were fresh and the flavours of each of the curries stood out, especially in the milder dishes.
Service is friendly rather than slick and there can be a few gaps. But for a local curry house it is perfectly good.

If I had had this standard of Indian food at my City when I lived in the UK I would have bee very happy: a good start to my research.

Where else is good?

  1. PhilD Nov 27, 2009 12:36 PM

    After a nice hot and sunny summer day with temperatures hitting 33° what better to kick back with a few beers and a curry.

    The Opera Bar was packed, but it was still a great place to start the evening with a few drinks as we watched the sun set. We then cut across the Botanic Gardens before they locked the gates at 8:00 to grab a table at Aki's on the finger wharf in Woolloomooloo. The finger wharf is home to lots of hip restaurants, and has some of Sydney's most fashionable al-fresco dining, and some of the food isn't bad as well. All were packed with a happy crowd, and tables of ESP's (eastern suburbs princesses) were out in force.

    We managed to grab the last table inside the restaurant, and it is a fine looking space, well decorated, with a bustling open kitchen. This is "posh" Indian with double linen table clothes, waiters in uniforms etc etc. It felt good straight away. The menu has lots of interesting dishes, we skipped the starters and went straight for main courses. We decided two meat dishes and two veggies would be best, especially as the portion size in trendy Indians isn't usually large (we were wrong and struggled to eat it all). The flavours in every dish were good, with great contrast between each one, and a subtlety that lets you taste the underlying flavours. Dishes we chose were: Mirpakai Kodi ($25), chicken with lots of fresh ginger and chilli, hot but full of flavour; Patiala Goat Curry ($27), wonderfully rich and deeply flavoured as goat should be; Vendakai Sundial ($21), fried okra, garlic and chillies, which tasted good; and Baingan Ka Bhurta ($19), a wonderful smoky aubergine dish. We also received a "free" amuse of cauliflower pakora which was a nice surprise.

    All the food was good, with fine subtle flavours, but there were a few issues. Our Naans were cold, and so I sent them back, it then took a very long time to get replacements; as I am a bread rather than rice person this isn't good. We also found the Okra tasted as though it had been hanging around after frying, flavours were OK but it had that soggy/cool old fried food texture, we should have sent that back but didn't (embarrassed to complain to much).

    I think we hit peak service and it looked like the kitchen struggled a little. The sign of a good restaurant isn't that they don't make mistakes but how they deal with them. Aki's is superb; we were not billed for the Naans, and we received complimentary desserts plus very genuine apologise. Would we return? Definitely, the food when it was good was superb, the mistakes whilst irritating were more than compensated by the staffs efforts to ensure we left happy.

    I see Terry Durack is eating his words, or rather his negative comments about Indian food in Sydney; here is his comment about Aki's:

    "The high point was dinner at Aki's in Woolloomooloo, with its layer-upon-layer flavours, big-night-out wine list and intuitive service. Kingfish tikka proved that tandoor cooking can be sensitive rather than crude and a colourful chaat of crisp-battered spinach drizzled with tamarind yoghurt took street food upscale with humour and crunch."

    1. PhilD Nov 16, 2009 06:14 PM

      Interestingly Terry seems to be changing his tune, does he read Chowhound?


      1 Reply
      1. re: PhilD
        fergal76 Nov 23, 2009 06:44 PM

        My wife & I made it to Nilgiri's the other day in St. Leonards.

        I can't remember the last time I had a decent curry and I tend to avoid neighbourhood places like the plague.

        Yet Nilgiris is one of the places to restore your faith in decent Indian food. The service was charming and the curries had excellent spicing with a good range of flavours - far away from the sledge hammer tomato based curries that are prevalent in the UK.

        We arrived just before 7pm, so were able to take advantage of a 'banquet' option for only $26 which included four curries from the main menu. Great value, though the excellent Cobra beer was $9 a bottle, so they make up for it!

        Will definitely go again soon.
        (also be sure to check out bags of super cheap spices - large bag of dried chillies are $2)

        www.foodmiles.wordpress.com (a couple of photos)

      2. PhilD Nov 6, 2009 01:42 PM

        The Malabar: when we lived in Darlinhurst there was always an Indian restaurant on Victoria Street, but I don’t recall it being called Malabar, and it definitely didn’t look as crowded. Friday night and the next installment of our curry quest, another good meal, and again far better than 99% of the curry’s we had in the UK. So far we are finding Sydney does have good Indian food.

        We skipped the Dosai, although every other table seemed to order them, they did look very good. Instead we ploughed straight into the mains. A Goan Fish Curry was great with a good spice level and a creamy sauce, the Goat Mappas was very well flavoured, although I would have preferred more meat and less bone, but the gravy was wonderful, and the Dal was very good, with an almost homemade quality, it was especially good to see one with kidney beans in addition to the lentils. All three dishes had very individual, quite fresh tastes.

        A few quibbles, the Pappadums are $2.50 for four, that is OK, but then each pickle is a further $2.50, this seems excessive, even more so when they arrive and they are obviously stale and had been sitting around pre-cooked for a long time. Maybe they don’t sell many at this price? The Naans are OK, but also far from fresh, with curries of this quality it is a shame that the basic accompaniments are quite poor.

        At $75 all in including a couple of beers we would go back, as we like the buzz of Darlo and it is easy to get to from where we live. But next time I will return naans and pappadums that don’t measure up.

        Hopefully we get transport soon so will check out Faheems's and Surjit's.

        1. debbieann Oct 25, 2009 05:28 PM

          I think I am finally ready to eat Indian food again. After living there I have a much better idea what I like - my favorite is Indian food from Kerala - a lot of fish and coconut and paratha which are like roti. Also love food from Goa and also dosa and filter coffee. A lot of Indian restaurants are North Indian food, which generally is more meat and different spicing. I also miss lime soda sweet.

          1. m
            m3i Oct 25, 2009 03:55 PM

            I love Surjit's in Annandale. It's where the Indian nat'l cricket team goes when they're here, apparently : ) If you try it, make sure to order the seekh rampuri!

            1. m
              mr_gimlet Oct 25, 2009 02:31 AM

              Not really my area of expertise, but there is what appears to be a large paan house near spice i am that usually is quite busy... but I'm stabbing in the dark really. Ask an Indian taxi driver where he goes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mr_gimlet
                Hapydiner Oct 25, 2009 02:58 PM

                Suggest "Faheem Fast Food" 196 Enmore road, Enmore (I think). Pakistani/Indian food.
                Basic canteen-like set up, with little service. $ 9 to $ 12 for most serves. Flavour and taste is pretty close to authentic. Naan and the lamb birayni excellent. Try the butter chicken, it is not what you expect, being hot and tomato/spice laden. Has its own tandoori oven, which churns out naan and chickens by the platefuls.

                Not a place to bring your first date, but if you crave for food like Leicester/Bradford, head there hungry. The taxi drivers head there in droves. Cheers. PS No BYO of alcohol as Halal.

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