The queue at lunchtime at Curry Craze snakes out the door. To me, it is a good sign and means the naans and curries have a high turnover. Longtime favourites dished up here include tomatoey Chicken Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken, Lamb Rogan Josh and Beef Vindaloo that has some kick, but isn't blow-your-head-off.
The meat curries include Butter Chicken, Mum's Chicken Curry and everyone's favourite, Chicken Tikka Masala aka CTM. Photo credit: Nicole James.
Mum's Chicken Curry is made with high-quality meat and for pescetarians, there is Goan Fish Curry. The lunchtime special is a Thali for $15 and includes your choice of three curries, rice, plain naan and a gulab jaman. After 4pm, the Thali costs slightly more at $17.50.
The buffet changes regularly and includes Spicy Lamb Chilli, Goan Fish Curry, Goat Curry and Lamb Korma. Photo credit: Nicole James.
Vegetarians are also well-catered for with Yellow Lentil Daal, Channa Masala (chickpeas), Spicy Mixed Vegetables and Saag Paneer (spinach and Indian cheese, which is like cottage cheese but with less salt).
Vegetarian section of the buffet changes each day. This time there was Curried Chickpeas, Saag Paneer, Yellow Lentil Dhal and Spicy Mixed Veg. Photo credit: Nicole James.
The Matar Paneer is thick and saucy and comes with a healthy dose of cheesy lumps. My absolute favourite curry that was truly spectacular was the Aloo Baigan (potato and aubergine spiced with fennel seeds). It won dish of the day in my mind as the tastiest of all.
Left: The naans are cripsy, yet light and fluff and always hot or at least warm. Right from top: Aloo Baigan and thick and creamy Tadka Dhal. Photo credit: Nicole James.
The naan is one of the best I've eaten. It is crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. For an extra 20 cents, you can upgrade to a super garlicky naan. The garlic is pungent and the naan is perfect to eat on its own or used as a spoon to scoop up curry sauce. There are usually plain naans in a basket on the side, but because turnover is high they are usually not too bad. When I order a garlic naan, they are always freshly made and the short wait is definitely worth it.
Matar Paneer and Curried Chickpeas at Curry Craze, Mascot. Photo credit: Nicole James.
The only letdown was the lamb and potato samosas. They were crispy on the outside and piping hot on the inside, which was good, but overly salty and the inside filling was too mushy. The yoghurt raita accompaniment was nice.
The only dessert is a big bowl of perfectly-formed gulab jaman. This dessert has no English name, although everyone has probably eaten one in their lives. In case not, gulab jaman is a ball of curdled milk solid that has been fried, then soaked in sugary saffron, rose and green cardamom water mixture. The best ones I've ever eaten were in Delhi and served slightly warm with a pistachio inside, served with a generous dollop of vanilla ice-cream. The ones at Curry Craze don't have a nut on the inside, but they are heavenly balls of goodness and round off the meal nicely. They come as part of the Thali. If you aren't super hungry, there are small options like one or two curries and a naan or rice.
Two curries and a naan or rice is $11.90. For those looking to practice ultimate portion control, one curry and naan or rice is $9.90. Photo credit: Nicole James.
The clientele includes local families with kids, groups of office workers, professional couples on their way home from work, tourists and tradies in high vis jackets. I've dined at Curry Craze five times so I am not quite a regular, but I see the waiters wave to people who are.
Top photo: Beef Vindaloo, Matar Paneer (green peas and Indian cheese), Aubergine and Potato Curry. Bottom photo: Vegetarian Thali with Dhal, Chana Masala (chickpea curry) and Saag Paneer (spinach and Indian cheese) with a Gulab Jaman for dessert. Photo credit: Nicole James.
Curry Craze is my favourite Indian restaurant in Sydney, especially since Daawat Indian Feast Restaurant in Westmead closed down permanently. There is a replacement restaurant called Mix Masala Restaurant, on the same site in Westmead, but sadly the curries don't have quite the same wow factor, that the original restaurant had. Apparently, there are fabulous curries to be had in Harris Park, but that suburb is a little far from where I live.
The location of Curry Craze couldn't be more convenient. If you forget your umbrella you won't get wet as it is a hop and a skip away (20 meters) from Mascot Train Station and the path from station to the restaurant is undercover. There are tables inside and out for al fresco dining when the weather is nice. They also have portable gas heaters for chilly days and nights.
At lunchtime, the queue can go out the door, but it moves fast. Before 12.30pm or after 1.30pm or before 6.30pm and after 8.30pm you are pretty much guaranteed to get a seat. The outside seating area is covered. Photo credit: Nicole James.
The staff are uber friendly. The first time I went there was a gale and some dirt had blown on to the tables. The waiter noticed and changed my plate without me asking. It is the small details that count! The second time I went, I asked if I could bring my fur baby. The answer was yes, but she has to sit at the outside tables (fair enough). I once had a bunch of dog flyers with me and one of the waiters asked about that. They all seem like genuinely friendly people who like their jobs. They are present to help with anything required without giving off the feeling of being watched. Service is efficient and unfussy.
This isn't fine dining, there are no tablecloths or napkins, there are wooden tables and serviettes. Some places ration their serviettes, but there are plenty at the counter and on the tables and water is free (as I've found is the case at every cafe and restaurant in Sydney, which is great). There is ample room at the table and also between tables. Large groups of ten (or even a few more) could easily be accommodated.
Buffet and Counter where all the curry action happens. There is a semi-open kitchen just behind the blackboard where nice smells waft out of. Photo credit: Nicole James.
My overall experience was a decent curry, a post-food baby tummy and pleasant service leaving me feeling like I wanted to return.
Daily lunch special and view of Bourke Street from inside the restaurant. Mascot train station is just to the left of the photo. From Mascot to Central is only 8 minutes and to Circular Quay is 16 minutes. Photo credit: Nicole James.
Next door there is an organic wine bar if you want to continue the degustation, on the way to the train station. There is also a bus stop if you carry on past the train station to the junction with Coward Street, that goes to Bondi Junction (same side as the restaurant) or the airport, Kogarah and Rockdale (cross the street at the lights).
So what are you waiting for? A spectacular winter warming curry experience awaits you.