Sydney Morning Herald. Aug 2 2008
Eat your way around the world with our guide to the best foreign fare.
Sydney Morning Herald. Feb 14 2006
There is plenty to talk about when the subcontinent meets the Peninsula.
"Our friends walk in and we immediately look guilty. We have unthinkingly scoffed their share of the pappadums, using them to scoop up most of the delicious minted yoghurt that arrived at the table soon after we did. We point at each other. "He/she ate them!" Four more pappadums quickly arrive, averting a nasty scene, and we settle into the business at hand - a Friday night catch-up meal.
The venue is a great favourite of theirs. As Avalon residents, they regularly wind down the Bilgola bends for a good, cheap feed here. And they have signed an indemnity form saying they won't sue if they can't get in after this review appears.
The decor gives few hints that this is a South Indian restaurant, a deliberate decision by owners Ivan and Mini Francis, both originally from that region. The most striking elements downstairs (there is more seating upstairs) are an orange feature wall, a modern painting and mirrors with carved wooden frames.
We are here to eat and chat rather than gaze at the surroundings. Over entrees, the talk begins with a discussion about grey hair (one of us has just had a dye job, and it's not one of the females) and celebrity plastic surgery.
We pause to approve heartily of the prawn pondi, juicy marinated prawns reclining on a bed of capsicum and onion served on a sizzling hotplate.
Another welcome interruption: a mini masala dosa, the classic South Indian tube of lentil-rice pancake that somehow is soft yet crunchy, with a delicious spiced potato filling, even better smothered in coconut and tomato chutneys.
Talk moves on to the World Cup, cruel baby names and the connection between the baby bonus and rising sales of widescreen televisions (one of us - female this time - is pregnant).
The conversation is only improved by the main dishes - lamb keerai with garlic, ginger, cumin and chopped spinach; baingan aloo, oven-baked eggplant with spiced potato, sultanas and cashews; and Jayara fish curry, a southern Indian speciality of ling fillets with the "chef's special spices". The subtle, creamy sauce is perfect for dipping khasta, flat semolina bread with honey.
It's a good selection. In each dish, different flavours, ingredients and spices combine without overwhelming each other. The noise level at our table rises as we dissect the politics of bathroom renovation, the greatest hits of Spandau Ballet versus Simple Minds, and some slanderous gossip that sadly cannot be repeated here or I would have to kill you.
Out on the footpath, bathed in the glow of the restaurant's illuminated orange sign, we are still talking, partly about how we understand why this place is a favourite.
As the friends head off back up the bends, I double-check their signatures on the indemnity form."