For someone who cooks as much as I do, let me be the first one to also admit that there are days when I don’t feel like cooking. Some days it gets a bit too much, and I look forward to eating out. Since I usually make Indian food at home, I am not very keen on eating Indian food outside. But having eaten some good Indian food lately in Sydney, I am hopeful when I step in a desi restaurant now. We went to Manjit’s Balmain this time, which is the oldest Indian restaurants in Australia.
We had visited the new Manjit’s at the Wharf a few weeks ago, and we were blown away with the food and the presentation. So when Jason from Spooningaust who arranged for me to visit the restaurant told me that the food in this restaurant was more homely, something that a mother would cook for her children and boy he was right.
Located in the beautiful suburb of Balmain, this iconic Indian restaurant sits quietly in a lane bustling with a lot of different and modern restaurants. The restaurant was managed by the warm and lovely Kanwal Gujral who took us under her wing and ensured that we ate to our heart’s content. The menu was extensive covering all of the Indian favorites.
Masala Prawns Bite – Prawns coated in a chickpea batter deep fried till crispy served with a Salad and a tempering of Curry leaves and Mustard seeds. The Prawns was hot and crunchy and went perfectly with the chilled beer that the husband was having.
Fish Malai Tikka – Tender pieces of fish coated in various spices, gently grilled to perfection. The fish was soft and melted on touch. Served with a dip it was delicious. While the fish was delicately spiced it was still flavoursome and balanced.
Tandoori Paneer Tikka – The most famous protein source for vegetarians from North India, Paneer or Cottage cheese is a one of the most renowned Cheeses from India. Marinated with chilies, fresh Ginger/Garlic paste, and a few other species, the Paneer is grilled to perfection till the smokiness of the Tandoor (clay oven) takes over the gentle flavor of the cheese. This dish was beautifully presented and served to us with a flourish. Since I am now a vegetarian, this is the first dish I tasted, and it was excellent.
Mains: For the mains, we decided to stick to just vegetarian food.
Kaju Ki Sabzi – A surprising addition to the menu and something that I have never eaten, raw cashews are cooked with Zucchini, Onion and a plethora of spices to make a dish that is very different. The preparation of this dish is very dry and someone it doesn’t work with a Naan that needs a bit of gravy, but it worked beautifully with the flavorsome Rice.
Malai Kofta – Oh my god this was my favorite. Mashed potato and Ricotta fried together into crispy dumplings and then cooked in a rich, creamy cashew gravy were just spot on. Perfect with the crispy naans that were served, the softness of the sauce creating a perfect harmony of flavors.
Palak Paneer – Cottage cheese cooked with Spinach, hands down the best Palak paneer I have eaten in a very long time. The sauce was velvety and smooth and had a smokiness to it. Paired with the naan, it was a match made in heaven. After the Malai Kofta, this was hands-down the best dish vegetarian dish on the menu.
Sambhar Dal – Ok, so if you are Indian reading this, don’t ask me why I ordered Sambhar with this meal. Sambhar is a type of Lentil cooked with vegetables and a peculiar spice mix that gives it a very distinctive tangy flavor. This is a very popular Dal in the southern part of India, with every state giving it their own twist. I was pleasantly surprised to see it on the menu of a North Indian restaurant and got a bit excited and ended up ordering it and let me tell you it was not bad at all.
One thing to point out here is the quality of the Rice that was served with the meal. Whatever brand of rice the restaurant used was clearly a high-quality grain as it was long and extremely fragrant. I was so taken aback with the texture of the Rice that I had to call the waiter and actually ask the name of rice brand.
For desserts we had Mango & Pistachio Kulfi – The iconic Indian ice cream that is made with full-fat milk and then chilled to perfection offered a much needed respite after the heavy meal and the humid weather.
Rasmalai – Soft Cheese dumplings cooked in thickened milk can be a bit of a hit and miss if not made well. I have previously had many disasters where the dumpling is either overcooked or undercooked. Thankfully the restaurant did a good job, and they were perfect.
The food was exactly how I was told it would be, homely and unpretentious. We really enjoyed our time at the restaurant and left with our bellies and hearts full.