Mukka

I pay close attention when Steph gets excited about a new restaurant, and she was as excited as all get out when Mukka opened up in her neighbourhood in November. Freshly made dosas are evidently worth getting excited about, especially when the set up is as friendly and delicious as what Mukka are doing down on Brunswick Street.

Unfortunately I’m not going to be expanding beyond the menu items already covered in both Steph’s and Where’s the Beef’s review (how unoriginal and unhelpful of me!). But as Steph gets excited for dosas, I get VERY excited for momos, and discovering that Mukka do a neat plate of six freshly steamed Tibetan momos filled with a spiced cabbage and potato filling, I was frothing to stuff them into my face. They proved to be well worth the enthusiasm, with elasticised skins made of rice flour and excellently favoured fillings, all with a nice little bowl of chilli sauce that was more an edition of savoury warm rather than hot-as-all-get-out, a very enjoyable dish and honestly worth coming for alone if you are as keen on momos as I am.

Given that I came in the company of Steph, and it was her discovery that brought me to Mukka, I totally had to honour her in trying a dosa. We both had The Classic, which is filled with chunks of curried potato mixed with spices, all wrapped in paper thin crispy dosa wrapper, and served with both sambar dal and a coconut chutney that REALLY hits a nutty sweet spot. Delightful!

I’m blown away that not only are these excellent vittles vegan (and there’s a great variety of vegan items on the menu so you don’t have to eat the same thing all the time, although don’t tell Steph that because she’s not letting go of that dosa), but that Mukka is such a friendly, bright, welcoming place in a way that is sometimes lacking in a too-cool-for-school suburb like Fitzroy. Seriously, go there, eat, pay attention – Mukka is something pretty special.

Mukka

356 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Ph: 9917 2224

www.mukka.com.au

Tandoori Den

Given how lackadaisical am I about this here food blog lately (you’d think one post a month wouldn’t be a hard bar to clear, yet here I am every last day of the month madly trying to bash out a post by midnight), I am ENORMOUSLY appreciative of my friends who take initiative and take me to try new-to-me food places. It feels more exciting these days to write about meals and restaurants that I’ve really enjoyed regardless of whether they’re new or top of the trendies must-visit lists; it feels even more spesh when it’s a friend recommendation.

Tandoori Den is somewhat of a Camberwell institution, I’ve discovered, having been around since 1981 and I’ve since heard stories from many of my friends who grew up in the inner-east eagerly enthusing about their fond memories of family dinners there, with their great service, and seriously good renderings of Indian classics. I’m certainly not going to contradict them – Tandoori Den served up one of the best Indian meals I’ve had in a loooooooooong time.

I try to keep it simple when I order Indian – a saucy dish with some kind of bread product to mop it up with keeps me very happy. Palak paneer tends to be my standard when trying out a new place and dang it was a good idea here at Tandoori Den because it was an exemplary version of the dish. The consistency was creamy without being too rich, and the spinach flavour was allowed to stand alongside the spices without being smothered beneath them. The paneer chunks were also clearly freshly made, softly creamy yet they held their shape in the curry goodness.

We ordered a variety of helpful sauce-absorbing breads, including plain and garlic naans, and roti. I sampled the plain, which was hot, slightly charred, and with little pools of butter brushed across the dimples along the bread’s surface and holy CRAP it was good.

There are plenty of vegetarian options to be had across Tandoori Den’s menu (the vegie rogan josh ordered by one of my companions looked particularly good and she said it carried a nice hefty level of heat), although vegans may want to inquire about butter and cream when it involves anything saucy. The wait staff were enormously professional, and the white tableclothes and napkins and slightly rarified decor may strike some as being dated, but for me just highlighted that what we were experiencing was a cut above the average. If you’re out Camberwell way, I can’t recommend a cheeky curry here more.

Tandoori Den

261 Camberwell Road, Camberwell

Ph: 9813 2598

tandooriden.com.au

Blintz On Tour: Curry Up Now, San Francisco

It was time to say goodbye to Canada and head south to the Land of the Free, and specifically the city of bridges and very VERY steep streets. SAN FRANCISCO!

I was in San Francisco to meet up with a group of very fabulous ladies from the Twitter – hello to Liz, Bear, Jinxie, Mia, MLE and especially Sulagna who flew all the way from New York JUST TO MEET ME, I will never be over this for the rest of my life, honestly – so to be blunt while food is always a priority it was not at all my first priority in this particular case. Thankfully though, Jinxie is a foodie too and knew exactly where to take us for a good introduction to the city’s food scene.

After first conveying for a cheese and a cider at Mission Cheese, we headed down Valencia to have dinner proper at Curry Up Now. Starting out as one food truck that eventually grew into a fleet of trucks and bricks and mortar establishments across northern California, Curry Up Now offers an interesting fusion of Indian food presented in ways that you might ordinarily expect from California’s reigning cuisine, Mexican.

Which brings us to the curry burrito.

For you see, you can have CURRY FILLED BURRITOS at Curry Up Now. And thali platters and deconstructed samosas and aloo parantha quesadillex, but most importantly CURRY FILLED BURRITOS. I went with the ‘Hella Vegan’, because California, which was comprised of tofu, rice, garbanzo beans, onions and, get this: TINY CRISPY VEGIE SAMOSAS. There is not enough capslock in the world to truly express my joy with this creation, which was an absolutely enormous thing all wrapped up in a tortilla and properly dwarfed my hands. The curry tofu mixture was spicy enough to provide quite a bit of warming heat (I certainly was glad I’d also ordered a rosewater mango lassi to complement my meal as it was required quite a few times when the heat built up), while the samosas, which somehow retained a sense of crunch rather than going completely soggy, provided textural excitement and little flavour punches that made this quite the extraordinary meal. I was so disappointed that the gargantuan size of the burrito meant I was full before I could finish it – a meal this good shouldn’t of had any bits left behind!

Curry Up Now was a very good introduction to a food scene which appears to be ever inventive, and not at all satisfied with sticking with the status quo. I mean, TINY SAMOSAS in a BURRITO, for god’s sake. If you can’t get excited about that something vital inside of you has died.

Curry Up Now

659 Valencia Street, San Francisco

Ph: +1 415-504-3631

www.curryupnow.com

Namaste

I was on the search for suitable pre-comedy show eats down the Trades Hall end of Lygon Street and was in a bit of a bind, being that I’m generally not all that up on restaurants in Carlton that aren’t within walking distance of the Nova Cinema (priorities). So I threw a question out on the Twitters in order to try and narrow down to a couple of vegie-friendly suggestions, and those good folks at Where’s the Beef kindly put forward three likely candidates: Hotel Lincoln, Ying Thai 2 and Namaste.

Ultimately the dining destination was in the hands of Rob, who was joining me for dinner and comedy times. As it was Passover, or “no bread for Jews time”, Hotel Lincoln was quickly dismissed, and the thought of curry was too much to resist, so to Namaste we went.

We started with a serving of aloo to share (just cauliflower rather than cauli and potatoes, which is interesting). The spices that the cauliflower florets had been fried with turned them eye-searingly pink, they were quite a sight to see! They were also deliciously more-ish, and we probably could have devoured another plate of them quite happily.

For my main I went with a dhal makhani, a black lentil dhal. It was hearty and tasty, with a deceptive spicy kick to it, which built the more of it I ate. I was just able to manage it, but any higher and it would have been the death of me. It wasn’t even a chilli-marked dish! What a spice weenie I am. Rob is an even worse spice weenie than I am, and his lamb biryani was a lot hotter than he was expecting, though he still seemed to enjoy it, being particularly pleased that as a dish it hit quite a few food groups.

Being terrible, I was completely unfeeling to Rob’s bread exile and ordered myself a serving of garlic naan, because if it’s acceptable for me to eat a dish with bread acting as cutlery, there is no power on earth that will stop me doing so. I tend to judge Indian places on the quality of their naan, and the ones I sampled at Namaste were pretty damn good: properly crisped, with a buttery touch in the hot centre, and sprinkled with crushed garlic which proved to be enhancing rather than overpowering.

Namaste is quite simple and unpretentious, and was certainly busy on a Tuesday night, with plenty of students, couples, groups of friends and even a few comedians crowding its tables and chowing down on quick dinners of dosas and lassis. I’ll certainly be keeping it in mind next time I’m feeling hungry in that part of town.

Namaste

104 Lygon Street, Carlton

Ph: 9654 0550

Namaskar India

Despite the fact that Indian is one of the world’s most vegetarian friendly cuisines, I very rarely seem to eat it. I have this thing in my head where if anyone goes to me “What can we eat that’s vegetarian?” I automatically go “Japanese!” Because besides the fact that I have a severe Japanese food addition and will probably need an intervention on that score sometime soon, I just find that vegie Japanese suits my palate more immediately than Indian does, what with its tendency towards knock-you-out curries and complex, rich sauces, it’s kind of the opposite of Japanese. Still, Indian is a gap in my foodie knowledge, and one that I am very keen to fill (goes without saying that if you have Indian foodie reccommendations, fill up the comment section with them, go nuts!).

We were gathering at Namaskar India in order to say farewell to our workmate Ray, who was moving back home to China. Seeing as there was around fifteen of us, I wasn’t able to do a round table “satisfaction survey” like I normally subject my friends to after a meal, so I’ll only be reviewing the dishes that I was able to taste.

Namaskar’s menu encompasses both South and north Indian cuisine, as well as both a Malaysian and Indo-Chinese selection. You are not short of an option here either: the menu lists over 200 dishes. The terminally indecisive diner would probably end up spontaneously combusting out of stress such is the massive variety. It is also extraordinarily cheap. The most expensive dish is $16.95, and the vast bulk of the menu is under $10.

I ended up choosing the palak paneer, a good classic dish suitable for a novice like myself. Also I was in the mood for spinach (iron, oh yeah!). The spinach puree, augmented by cream, was thick and flavoursome, with blobs of cottage cheese bobbing about like boats in a bayou. I ate it all with great fresh hot pieces of garlic naan, they were gorgeous, and I like any dish where it’s acceptable to eat it all with some kind of bread product. Nom.

I also got a taste of someone’s nizami tharkari, which was mixed vegetables in a spicy cashew gravy. It was the cashew element that really interested me, it was such a smooth sauce, yet it possessed body as well. I’d love to know how to replicate it at home.

I’ll end with a warning on heat: the Namaskar menu denotes 1 chilli as being medium hot, with 2 meaning very hot. Some of our party, who considered themselves chilli hard-arses, struggled with 1 chilli dishes, so the heat is by all accounts pretty intense. Not for Ray, though, who ordered a 2 chilli curry, decided it wasn’t hot enough, requested some fresh chopped chillis to mix through, and then happily ate the lot. He’s awesome that way. We’ll miss him.

Namaskar India

20 Glenferrie Road, Malvern

Ph: 9500 9558

http://www.namaskarindia.com.au/