New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published December 28th 2016
From food truck to popular Curtin restaurant
Daana is an Indian restaurant located in a residential area of Curtin, 10 minutes south of the city. This family business began by selling street food from their "Daana" food truck at Westside Acton Village in September 2015. Our family personally enjoyed visiting their food truck for its array of South Indian flavours - and smells - which had our mouths watering on every visit. On one occasion when we were standing out the front looking at the menu, the friendly chef and owner, Sanjay, came out to introduce himself and recommend what to order according to our tastes. While we were waiting for our order, he also came out with a small bread roll for our daughter to try (which she loved) and after we finished our meal, he came over to see if we had enjoyed his recommendations and have a chat. He turned a takeaway food truck exchange into a memorable and personal dining experience.
We were then pleased to hear, that only a year after opening, that Daana were saying goodbye to their food truck and opening up their own restaurant in Curtin, in September 2016. A few months later we booked in for dinner and it was fair to say, we were eager to see how they had settled in.
On the night of our visit, the owner we had met previously wasn't there, however our host was equally as friendly and helpful throughout the course of the evening. We were given a menu, which was extensive to say the least, with several flip up pages for small bites, appetisers, lunch, dinner and a page for kids' meals and desserts. We were thankful to have such a patient host, to give us some explanations and recommendations of what to order. As tables started to fill around us, other diners had clearly been there before as the menu was often just given a mere glance before ordering. It was good to see that Daana had already established some happy regulars who had their favourite dishes to order.
For entrée we chose Pao Bhaji ($12), which are soft and flavoursome white rolls (the type our daughter was given to try at the food truck), toasted on one edge, which are ripped up and dipped into the dip of mashed vegetables with a dollop of butter, chopped red onions and a lemon wedge. This is a popular street food in India and it is easy to see why - we were all fighting over the last piece. Another popular entrée that the regulars had on their tables was the Koliwada Maachi ($18) - a speciality of Koli people of Bombay.
For mains, we picked a variety of meals from mild to spicy so we could taste a range of flavours. If you enjoy South Indian food then you may know what to expect, however for us, the anticipation was great as we waited for our plates to arrive. The kitchen was cooking up a storm by this time, with mouth-watering smells lingering and meandering our way.
Out of the three tasty dishes we tried, we all agreed that the chicken Kori Gassi was a delicious choice with meat falling off the bone, a depth of tomato based flavours with a mild heat and beautiful, "more-ish" flavour. Roti was the ideal choice to dip into the sauce and with two of them on the plate, it was extremely filling.
Kori Gassi - traditional chicken curry from Mangalore, made using fresh ground spices and coconut ($22)
Malabar Chicken Curry (above), was another dish with a flavoursome sauce, however it was the Keerai Molagootal and Thakkali Thayir Pachadi vegetarian dish (below) that got the table talking. When my friend asked how it should be eaten, the friendly waitress said it can be eaten as a soup, or mixed with rice, depending on preference. Although it may not have looked the most attractive dish, it "packed some heat the more you ate it", according to our friend who enjoyed it. Unfortunately the side yoghurt wasn't to her taste (or ours), however if you enjoy South Indian flavours then this accompaniment would balance the meal.
Keerai Molagootal and Thakkali Thayir Pachadi - a mildy spiced dish made with a combination of spinach, lentils and coconut from Kerala. Served with a tangy blend of of tomato and yoghurt flavoured with mustard and coconut ($18)
Danna have an ethos of giving back to the community and the more you give, the more you get back. The word "Dana" in Sanskrit means "generosity" or "giving" and Daana embodies this in name and spirit. They have Karma nights in their restaurant, where Daana ask their diners to choose how much they want to pay for their meal, then all proceeds of the night goes towards charity. They had a Karma night on their opening night which raised over $1000 for Communities at Work and the second one in November 2016 raised the same amount for nearby Curtin Primary School.
It seems that Daana has gained a strong following in the Curtin community, with plenty of staff preparing for a busy Friday night and setting up long tables for family and friends get-togethers. Daana is a party for your tastebuds and also an enjoyable night for any party. Why don't you give it a try this weekend?
A quiet early dinner, before the Friday night rush