Our quest is for bling: invited to an upcoming Indian wedding Bilby needed plenty of bespangled items to accessorise her special outfit. And where is the best place to get things Indian in Melbourne? “Little India” of course – a small strip of Indian-themed clothing and grocery shops just beside the Dandenong train station.
Shops are explored and purchases completed. But shopping is hungry work, and recommendations for lunch are sought and obtained from a helpful saleslady of Fijian Indian extraction. “Do you like curry?” she enquires, with a nearby favourite clearly in mind.
Even though it is only lunchtime, the standout value is the Thali meal. You can choose two curries, to be served with rice, salad, raita and naan bread. The standard Thali is $15 for vegetarian; $16 if you include at least one non-vegetarian selection. Individual curries are priced from $7.50 to $12, depending on the main ingredients, and for the standard Thali price you can choose any that are less than $9.50. If you really want to include a more expensive curry, the Thali will cost a dollar or two more.
Chicken Kashmiri and Goat Masala
There are a wide range of choices, including all of the standards. I choose Chicken Kashmiri and Goat Masala; Bilby chooses Chicken Saag and Lamb Rogan Josh. We are offered the choice of mild, medium or spicy. Although we like hot and spicy food, after a rather fiery experience a few weeks ago at another establishment, we decide to play it safe with the mild option.
Two enormous metal serving platters arrive – the ones with different sized indentations for individual dishes. The servings of curry are large, and more importantly, delicious. The flavours are wonderfully complex with a modest amount of heat from the spices. The goat is so tender that it is easy to suck the meat and tendon from the bones. The Kashmiri chicken is similarly tender.
Bilby’s Chicken Saag is not the prettiest dish you will ever see (it is difficult to make a saag visually attractive), but she pronounces it as very good. The Rogan Josh was just as tasty. We eagerly mop up all the sauces with our naan and rice. The rice is basmati livened with turmeric, nicely cooked. The naan is large and fresh from the griddle.
The salad is lettuce, tomato and onion with no dressing. Nothing special, but the iceberg lettuce is crisp and fresh, and the tomato is ripe.
Bikaner is two adjoining shops – dining tables in one; an Indian sweets counter in the other. We are far too full to indulge in sweets but they look good and well worth sampling.