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It's always tough when you arrive in a new town. Especially when you arrive in the late afternoon, knowing full well that where you eat that first night might will set the tone for the rest of the holiday.
A quick dip into the ubiquitous McDonald's chain is not recommended.
So it pays to do a bit of research before you go. Which we did before landing in Darwin.
Hanuman was probably the most reviewed restaurant in town so it seemed worth a try. It was awarded Darwin's best Asian restaurant in 2011. Which is saying something because this Northern town is often described as Australia's gateway to Asia and many of the locals are from an Asian background.
And Hanuman is a restaurant that gets you straight into Darwin's tropical and Asiatic vibe.
Much of the restaurant is open to the balmy outside weather. One of the joys of the tropics can be that absence of containing walls when you eat out.
Although Hanuman also has a core area of virtually inside eating. With only three main walls in the central interior however, I would hate to have their air conditioning bills.
There are also ceiling fans everywhere for airflow and tropical shutters should the weather change.
The scene is lovely at night because of the subtle purple lighting overlaying the darkness. Something you will note about Darwin's restaurants is that they often have delightful neon and fairy lights adding to their ambience.
First choice is from the drinks menu where there is an extensive list of Asian cocktails. Prices are around $16. My daughter has an alcoholic tea, heavily laced with ice and lemon grass. I have a cocktail mixed with coconut cream. Both were tropical/Asian mood setters for the coming meal.
We opt to share an entrée for two -- a house platter with duos and sometimes quadruples of various offerings including tandoori prawns (rubbed with fresh fenugreek leaf, turmeric and ground cumin), Bombay pakoras, mussels on tiny spoons swimming (not literally) in a light aromatic sauce, delicately spiced pork and money bags which is finely diced chicken and prawns with fresh coriander root and black pepper ($36).
Unfortunately not being oyster lovers we have to renege on Hanuman's signature dish, which is oysters infused with lemongrass, sweet basil, ginger, chilli and fresh coriander. But I did ask a nearby party of Chinese tourists if I could take a picture of their oysters. Each oyster had its own dainty little ceramic hat.
(If you are an oyster lover the recipe is at here. )
Asking to take a photo was probably a mistake as one good photo opportunity deserves another. And suddenly a barrage of iphones appeared out of pockets as the group clambered to have their photo taken with their friends at this iconic restaurant.
One can see why Hanuman is so highly regarded. Firstly it is about the aromatic flavours.Coming from Melbourne and being accustomed to cheap Asian restaurants, I found the prices hefty. But the interior setting was delightful, the service exemplary and what you pay for I believe is the incredible attention to the unique and delicate spicing of the food. This aspect was totally enticing. So this place comes highly recommended as a place to dine, especially if you wish to set the tone for the rest of a great holiday.