Here in Sydney Indian* food is apparently going to be the next food trend - hopefully that's a solid prediction as Indian food in Sydney is pretty patchy.
I went along to the newly opened Subcontinental in a fairly cynical frame of mind as the previous "trendy" place which served Bangladeshi street food seemed in my opinion less about the food and more about the cocktails and soundtrack (and my faith in Terry Durack has been dented by his positive review of that one).
Subcontinetal sits under the long established Thai restaurant Longrain and it has a similar no reservation policy for tables of less than four people. A really welcoming bartender (who ends up being our server) tells us its 30 mins wait for a table but the same menu is available in the bar - we opt for the bar.
The drinks menu is strong on gin with a really good range and so I go for a G&T (Four Pillars Navy Strength), its a really good start with the drink living up to the description from the barman.
The menu is pretty short but no less interesting than more extensive ones. The pricing seems slightly random with some dishes seeming really expensive like pappadum's and others well priced. I am slightly fearful its going to be a succession of measly portioned plates at extreme prices but still its difficult to choose as every dish sounds great.
So we stay slightly traditional in an attempt to benchmark against other Indian places. Veg Samosa ($5 each) is big enough to share, freshly made and cooked and nicely spiced. The Bhaji ($7 for two) is again freshly fried, but still a little run of the mill. The Cheese Pakora ($7 for three) is again really fresh and benefits from some delicate spicing in the cheese with just a little kick and an interesting tamarind, chilli and garlic sauce.
For mains: a duck and cashew curry ($24) is really fine, good spicing, lovely coconut richness and melting duck; the Okra curry ($18) is cooked so the vegetables stay fresh with a slight bite, again really good spicing with a subtle heat. The daal of the day ($9) has been cooked so the pulses retain their texture and it adds an earthy contrast to the sweet duck. We accompany it with two Chapatis ($6 each) which are probably the biggest weakness - they are a bit doughy - I love Indian breads and these felt a little too laboured and earnest.
The bill was $107 which includes a glass of Chardonnay and a G&T. We thought it pretty good value for what we had and especially good value for the quality of the food. Its probably close to my best Indian meal in Australia and pretty much mu best for a couple of years. Hopefully they can improve the breads as they hit their stride, until then we will stick to rice when we return (hopefully frequently). Fantastic food, great service, decent soundtracks, a well thought through drinks menu and even a decent sound track - whats not to like.
I started a cynic but if other new wave Sydney Indians turn out to be this good I am going to be a very happy man. Fantastic food, great service, decent soundtracks, a well thought through drinks menu and even a decent sound track - whats not to like.
* shorthand for all the great foods of the sub-continent including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.