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Published April 21st 2016
A Spicy and Aromatic Treat
In the small inner west suburb of Harris Park, walking past Station Street lands you in a forest of twinkling lights. The length of Wigram Street, that stretches from Marion and Station Streets roundabout to Kendall Street, comes to life once the sun plunges below the horizon. Strings of light dangling from rooftops of houses-turned-restaurants give the whole area a festive feel. You would be mistaken to think it's some special occasion. It's just the way the whole bunch of food joints catering to all who love Indian food, decorate their exteriors.
The restaurants here are not the fancy, elegant and sophisticated kind. They are rather rustic looking. But one look at the crowds inside, which of course are mostly Indian, it becomes quite clear that these eateries must be churning out authentic Indian cuisines. Amongst the older ones, there is a neonate called Not Just Curries. I had earlier been recommended a few places in the area that offered great food, but on that evening going with the crowd seemed like a wise idea. And truth be spoken, I am glad we did.
Not Just Curries had its porch filled to capacity with seemingly happy customers. The inside appeared equally busy. Pushing our luck we went in. Fortunately, there was a vacant table. The attention we received was instantaneous - an immaculately dressed waiter in black ushered us to the table and menus were served as promptly. Skipping starters, we directly went for the main course and ordered Chicken Chettinad (a south Indian classic), Vegetable Jalfrezi, some Tandoori Rotis and Plain Naans (there are numerous kinds of this flat bread - buttered, stuffed, garlic, etc).
As we waited for our food, I did a quick scan of the restaurant. Things looked neat. The walls, as it appeared, were in the process of decoration or maybe some parts had been intentionally left pictureless. The bar was located at the very entrance and before it stood what I would refer to as the pillar-of-appreciation. Sticky notes carrying encouraging words from happily satiated diners clung proudly to the column. Before my scrutiny could assess the interiors any further, dinner was served. The short waiting time took us by surprise. Indian food as is widely known, and from my previous experiences, takes rather long before it makes its appearance on the table. We definitely had our doubts. Was it pre-cooked food being warmed and served? The merry crowd - Indian as well as Non-Indian - was ascertaining otherwise and was confirmed by the look and aroma of our order.
The presentation was not something overly catchy but the instant appeal was the lack of excess oil. Doubts still lingering in our skeptic brains, we dug into our shares of the curries and breads. Our delighted heads shook in unison at the approval of taste buds. The Chettinad gravy (a mix of roasted spices and coconut) was actually scrumptious and the chicken soft. The vegetables in the Jalfrezi (a blend of vegetables deliciously cooked in onion, ginger and garlic paste with a dash of different aromatic spices) had a defined and fresh crunch to them. Being a huge Naan fan, I loved the softness of the tandoor-baked bread. The question marks seemed to vanish with every bite. The food was delectable. The Rotis though, were a bit disappointing in having been overcooked to the extent of black blotches on them. It appeared as if the Naans stole away the chef's undivided focus. Although the cost was a bit on the pricey side compared to other Indian eateries located in the bylanes of inner west suburbs, the good taste and lightening fast service justified the difference.