Smile! We've ordered!
Our guest for this evening was Ian (no relation). Ian (no relation) and I used to work together and share a surname, although not as far as we know, any genetics. Accordingly, we are (no relation).
Downunder Curry occupies a surprisingly large room which on a Friday night was moderately busy. Ordering took a bit longer than expected, but the manager's party trick of remembering seven or so dishes and a complicated round of drinks without notes was impressive (although it did result in us getting two paneer dishes instead of the one we'd ordered.)
"Do you have this roti?" I asked, pointing to a photograph of some beautiful, layered looking roti on the back of the menu.
"No, that's just a photo on the menu. It's not actually on the menu."
The same applied, less worryingly, to the apparently random photos of kangaroos, kookaburras and trams. Tram was not on the menu, although the manager did say if there was a call for kangaroo, he'd go and buy some. Finally, after the usual ration of us faffing about we got our act together and ordered.
To drink, Ian ordered a raspberry lassi which was made with ice cream syrup, and ordering a second said "surprise me." What came out was nothing if not surprising. With a layer of pink syrup on the bottom, a layer of custard-yellow lassi in the middle and topped with both froth and... wait for it... Milo! Ta-dah! Those glorious, malt-based crunchy granules that never fail to fail to dissolve in milk. The sight was not for the faint hearted, although Ian thought it "merely a trifle". And as the photo suggests, it could have easily passed for a 1970's trifle-parfait extravaganza. I was offered a taste but my teeth were aching just looking at it. Wow.
Entrees were ok but not spectacular by the standards of Melbourne suburban Indian food. The highlight was a perfectly tender lamb cutlet on the tandoor platter, but the sheek kebab was too dry (although gloriously coloured).
Mmmm... yeah, ok.The rogan josh was ok but was a little sweet, which it could have done without. The Nepalese-style goat curry was strong with garlic and resplendent with depth and was far, far and away the most memorable dish of the night. The fish Madras was almost perfect- thickened with coconut with warm and lush spices, but lacking in any real heat.
Saag paneer was an excellent choice - the paneer was fresh and the spinach was rich. The (bonus) palak paneer, on the other hand, was sweet and bland. The naan was good but not particularly inspiring.
It wasn't until after we'd eaten we noticed that on the bottom of the menu was the offer of informing the staff how hot you'd like the dishes. And that's when I realised how mild everything had been. We hadn't been asked, and if we had would have asked for the dishes with a mix of heat - I'm a big fan of spicy fish curries in particular. Maybe a judgement had been made that we were anglos/had children/were religiously opposed to chili. I'm not a fan of other people making those judgements for me, especially when it's my dinner at stake.
Nepalese goat curry - one to order again
This blog is a week away from its first birthday and during the year we've shamelessly whipped out our camera and photographed food, the decor and each other, much to the consternation of the children. This was the first time, however, we'd ever been asked if we wanted a group photo. Although the service was a little slow to start, once they hit their stride they were efficient, charming and accommodating.
We took desserts home as Will was on his last, grumbling legs, and they could have come from any Indian take away or local restaurant.
Downunder Curry is a good, standard-fare Indian restaurant that offers no surprises, and that's ok. It's pretty cheap, the service is good and the food was alright, although with some dishes erring on the sweet and shying away from heat (unless, perhaps, you ask). I might be wrong, but I believe most dishes have a natural level of heat that balances with the rest of the dish, and for me that was lacking. It was certainly better than its nearest rival, Curry Masala, but the subcontinental favourite for us on High Street is still Sigiri.