A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published October 11th 2018
Elichi offers so much more than rice and pappadams
Mani Waraich, owner of Babu Ji and Piquancy restaurants, which have been changing Melbournians' perceptions of Indian food for the past few years, now has a third restaurant in the stable - Elichi Restaurant in Black Rock. 'Elichi' (pronounced 'Eh-lychee') means cardamom in Punjabi, which is appropriate as cardamom is a staple ingredient in Indian cooking. Like Piquancy, the name Elichi is not intended to automatically make the potential diner think of Indian cuisine. This is because the cuisine is a modern take on Indian dishes. Think bright and vibrant, fresh and colourful, not bowls of curry that all look the same.
Elichi Restaurant has recently opened in Black Rock. (Image supplied.)
Something that is difficult to achieve with multiple restaurants is a consistency across them; so we were keen to try Elichi and see if it matches up to its sibling restaurants.
There was a consistency in decor style, with Elichi displaying clean, modern lines, off white walls, and an overall elegant feel. Elichi has a separate lounge area, complete with fireplace, at the back of the main room - a homely little space that would be perfect for a quick drink or snack.
The interior of Elichi - clean, modern lines
A scan of the menu showed some old favourites - like Dal Makhani and butter chicken - along with some less familiar dishes, such as ox tail masala paan with betel leaf, pickled cabbage and coconut raita, and pork Vindaloo - pork shoulder cooked with sugarcane vinegar and red masala.
We started with the Pani-Puri (crispy semolina puff, sprouts, finger lime and mint water) ($3.50 each). These look a little like sea urchin shells on the plate. The mint water is served in a jug on the side, so the diner can help themselves. Pour a little of the flavoursome liquid into the puff, pop it into your mouth, and poof, there is an explosion of sensations as the tasty package melts as you bite into it.
Pani-Puri - explosion of sensations as they hit your mouth
From the 'street tour' section of the menu, we tried Jhinga kolavari (tandoori prawn, pumpkin, cumquat achar) ($20), Mushroom ke Kebab (with coriander relish, goat cheese feta and parmesan crisp ($20), and Tabak Maaz (Kashmiri lamb ribs, cucumber, saltbush) ($24).
Mushroom ke Kebab
Of these three, while the mushrooms probably looked prettiest on the plate, it was the lamb ribs that won the 'dish of the night' - the one we'd definitely return to have again. The meat was so beautifully tender, the spices so perfectly balanced. I watched as my partner Dave stripped every last bit of meat off the bones!
Kashmiri lamb ribs - dish of the night
From the 'traditional' section of the menu, we tried the butter chicken (free range chicken, truss tomato, cardamom, fenugreek) ($23), and the Meen Moilee "Market Fish" (Kerala fish curry with turmeric and coconut milk) ($24). These were subtly spiced, beautifully moist curries, perfect for mopping up with the ample rice that accompanied the dishes. Elichi also has an interesting range of naan bread, including garlic and chives, and basil and onion seed ($6 each or $15 for three) that would work equally well with these dishes.
Traditional dishes - fish curry (left) and butter chicken
Finally, we tried the Kulfi pop ($8). This appears looking a little like a folded umbrella on a stick. Pull off the cover, and you have the sweet treat underneath. It's a soft, sweet, subtly rose flavoured treat, that is the perfect way to round out the meal.
Elichi also offers a good range of wines by the glass or bottle at reasonable prices. It also has the 'help yourself' beer fridge - why wait to be served on a hot night? Just go to the fridge, scan the selection, and take the beer that appeals to you.
Overall, a great night, and a memorable meal. I feel the dishes are well priced for their quality, and the classy ambience of the venue. There's a great range of dishes on the menu, and it's clear from what we tasted that they're prepared with love.
Elichi is located at 6 Bluff Road, Black Rock. It is open seven days for dinner, from 5.30pm until late. Click here to make an online reservation, or call Elichi on (03) 9589 3241.
If you are gluten intolerant, Elichi is a great choice, as the vast majority of their dishes are gluten-free. They even offer a gluten-free naan, which I tried at Piquancy, and it was fantastic.
Except where indicated, the images in this article were taken by the writer.