The word Malabar is synonymous with South Indian food. The Southern tip of India has inspired a great many dishes, and has influences in Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines. The use of coconut, the dosai, even the word curry (derived from the word "Kari" meaning sauce) is from the region.
Mums birthday was coming up, I've tried a great many times to tempt her palate with western dishes, only to end in disappointment, and failure. Her reactions are non existent, and her words harsh, she bemoans the idea of spending great sums of money on food, her idea of a frivolous waste.
Except when it comes to Sub-continental restaurants. She has a soft spot for curry dishes, having eaten it for the majority of her life, her tongue seems impervious to flavours but that of curry. Dad assigned me the task of finding the perfect place for her birthday dinner, after a bit of research I drilled down the possibilities. A fair few Indian restaurants happen to be in the inner west, living here for the past 7 years we've managed to tick of the bulk of them.
Finally though I found Malabar, having two locations, Darlinghurst and Crows Nest, we chose the later due to the ease of parking in the area. Malabar happens to be one of few Indian restaurants featured in the telegraph's Good Food Guide year after year, and also has glowing reviews from diners across the locations.
|Rich wallpaper decorates the walls|
The inside was richly decorated and very presentable, I felt a sense of relief at that point, knowing that I'd made the right choice. We were briefly shown to our table, ordered drinks and settled into the menu.
|Left: Lemon, Lime Bitters $4|
Right: Mango Lassi $5
We had ordered the standard soft drinks as well as a sub continental speciality. Mango Lassi is a cold drink originating in the Punjab region, it is made with mango pulp, yoghurt, cream or ice cream. I have a sweet tooth and prefer additional sugar to be added to mine, but some prefer the natural taste. My other qualm with this was the size of the straw width, despite two (straws) being available, it still didn't facilitate drinking it without considerable effort, which really isn't what you want. We also ordered a lemon lime and bitters, which was well made.
After fifteen minutes we had finally decided what to order that night, having five people debate the pros and cons of dishes takes considerable time, but we finally managed to choose our set, and after a quick ten minutes our entrees had arrived.
|Mini Plain Dosai $8|
|Mini Masala Dosai, filled with spiced potatoes $9.50|
|Spinach Chaat, crushed batter fried spinach leaves, with cubes of potatoes, chick peas, topped with a yoghurt, tamarind and tomato sauce, served cold $12|
The Dosai has been mentioned in writing going back to 1 A.D. This ancient dish has many variations, but the basic elements are the same. It is made with ground rice and lentils which are left to ferment over night. It is then thinly spread over a hot griddle with Ghee (clarified butter).
We had ordered the Plain Dosai and the Masala Dosai, the later is filled with spiced potatoes. It is served with a side of lentils and also chutney. The addition of the potatoes adds a different dimension to the Dosai, they melt in your mouth and add layers of flavour. I would love to come back and try the other four variations.
The other entree was the Spinach Chaat. This is a dish made of batter fried spinach leaves, potatoes, chick peas, topped with yoghurt, tamarind and tomato sauce. This was the first time I had tried this, and I loved it, its like a crunchy potato salad with a great sauce on top, fantastic, it's something I will look forward to trying more often.
We devoured our entrees and eagerly awaited our mains, and after a short twenty minute intermission they had arrived.
|Palak Paneer, cubes of cottage cheese with pureed spinach and green herbs $17|
|Chicken Tikka Masala, dices of chicken, pan fried with green pepper, onions and tomatoes $18|
|Butter Chicken, oven cooked fillets of chicken finished in a creamy tomato sauce $19|
|Konkan Prawn Curry, king prawns simmered in a coconut gravy with tamarind and spices $22|
|Malabar Paratha $4|
|Garlic Naan $3.50|
We had decided on four mains, four Garlic Naans and four Parathas. Indian restaurants commonly serve a small quantity of meat in each dish, so we thought we'd circumvent any chances of disruption to our meal.
A common dish present in all Indian restaurants is Butter Chicken. It's a great yardstick in judging an Indian restaurant to its peers and something I seek out. Despite it simple name, it's a rigorous and tedious process to make a good butter chicken from scratch, and a restaurants ability to make it well is a precursor to the rest of the meal.
The Butter Chicken where was great, not the best I've had but definitely up there. The Prawn was another favourite on the table and both quickly finished, we eventually ordering seconds of the two dishes.
The other two dishes the Chicken Tikka Masala was well cooked, the chicken was tender but lacked flavour, what makes a good Tikka Masala is the spices and chili, Malabars seemed watered down and tamed. The Palak Paneer (Spinach and Cheese) is a particular favorite of mine. Paneer is a Sub-Continental cheese, unaged and non-melting, it's made by cuddling heated milk with lemon juice. It's been a favourite since childhood and I don't mind having it by itself charred on the stove or even raw. But the dish here was quite disappointing, the spinach was ok, but the cheese tasted more like tofu then cheese, it lacked flavour and ruined the dish.
The only word to describe the feeling after eating all the above is stuffed. Mrs Foodblogger and younger brother had though insisted on dessert due to the lacking of a cake to cut (which was expressly denied by Mum). So we ordered and caused further bloatation of our stomach.
|Mango Kulfi $7|
|Pistachio Kulfi $7|
Kulfi is the Indian equivalent of ice cream. It's very similar to ice cream in taste and appearance but is much denser and creamier. They come in various flavours, we had ordered two differing ones. The Mango was the clear winner that night, the pistachio was ok, but there were too many nuts in the Kulfi, you couldn't enjoy the creaminess as the nuts kept getting in the way.
We ended the night with full stomachs and a smile across our faces. The food was good, the price was reasonable, and my Mum was happy, which was always the real test. So all in all a good night out and mission accomplished.
S & S
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